top コラムExhibition ReportVol.29 Tsutomu Yamagata "My Little Cosmos" 山縣 勉「私の小さな宇宙」

Exhibition Report

Vol.29 Tsutomu Yamagata "My Little Cosmos" 山縣 勉「私の小さな宇宙」

John Sypal

Photographer Tsutomu Yamagata says that, stuck at home in 2020 with scissors and glue and an apartment full of his photos and old magazines, the collages that comprise his new series "My Little Cosmos" came about from a combination of pandemic anxiety mixed with the odd dreams he’s seen since childhood.


The resulting body work, now on display at Zen Foto Gallery in Roppongi, is a fascinating collection of images made from snippets from a myriad of materials- newspapers, vintage magazines, and prints from Yamagata’s archives. “My Little Cosmos” is also a departure from the more “straight” photographic approach his work has previously centered on.


The smaller of the collages are glued to standard sketchbook pages. While some consist of dozens and dozens of tiny elements others get their point across with less than five. Doodle-like ink lines feature in some, and the repeated elements of faces, waves, and fleshy female forms found in all of his creations indicate a subconscious freely at work.  Or, if not work, at play. 

To me they evince those moments of “zen” a collagist can find themselves in as the image they are working on seems to assemble itself. Indeed, most of the pieces possess a visual composition that suggests a creator with a mental state concerned not with the rules of graphic design, but one able to subconsciously echo waveforms and radial spoke and wheel patterns found in nature.  


“Attempting to recreate my dreams, I stared at the fragments of paper scattered around my room, cut them out with scissors and glued them together. This process calmed my anxiety and opened my mind to the outside world.”



As a fellow collagist, I can personally attest to the spirit-calming nature the act of cutting and pasting can have. The creative act is zen-like- and what’s hopefully revealed through these little paper worlds can help an artist- and ideally viewers- better deal with the Big One.


Also-- while the show is up, Yamagata will be working on new collages there in the gallery each Friday and Saturday. 


A book, “My Little Cosmos” has been published to coincide with this exhibition. This spiral-bound softcover collection measures 257 × 370 mm- the size of his original sketchbook.  It’s also his forth with Zen Foto- while in the gallery definitely spend some time with his earlier books. I particularly suggest 2019’s “Surveillance”. For this project Yamagata lent an infrared/night vision trail camera to young women in Tokyo. They- consensually and collaboratively- set the camera in their apartments and went about their lives while it silently took a photo every few seconds. The images for the final work were selected- perhaps you could saw “snipped out and pasted together” by the subjects and Yamagata. (Some of these pictures are re-worked into “My Little Cosmos”.)


Come to think of it, photography in general is one big and ongoing collage of time…





現在、六本木のZen Foto Gallleryで展示されている作品は、彼のこれまでの「ストレート」な写真作品とは一線を画す、巧妙な仕上がりとなっています。これらの新しいコラージュは、新聞、ヴィンテージ雑誌、山縣さんのアーカイブからのプリントなど、無数の素材からの断片を組み合わせた視覚的に興味深いものです。





どの作品を見ても、潜在意識が自由に「働いている」ことを示しているようです。 「働き」というより「遊び」が近いかもしれません。













この展覧会にあわせて、写真集『私の小さな宇宙』が出版されました。257mm×370mmのスパイラル綴じソフトカバーで、彼のオリジナル・スケッチブックと同じサイズです。これは山縣さんがZen Fotoから出版した4冊目の写真集でもあります。










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