Masao Yamamoto’s Careful Bonsaï Images
Photography and florals have a rich history, with early artists depending on florals to communicate symbolism and convey beauty. Masao Yamamoto’s latest series, Bonsai, is singularly focused on the tradition of Japanese “tray planting,” a contemplative practice of maintaining small trees that mimic the shape and scale of full-size trees.
To these photographs of the trees themselves, Yamamoto adds his characteristic surrealist touch by manipulating the backgrounds and perspectives of his compositions — a tree is larger than the moon, a bonsai teeters on a cliff, dwarfing a mountain range. Viewers are drawn in by Yamamoto’s insertion of a cultivated, “indoor” object into a seemingly outdoor setting and then back into the studio. The trick of Yamamoto’s practice is his blurring of these lines. Yamamoto draws on florals surrounding environments to offer cultural signifiers of beauty and calm increasingly invaluable in a tumultuous time.
Masao Yamamoto (b. 1957, Japan) is known for evoking emotional power in the form of small-scale photographs. His early background in painting is apparent in his works’ painterly look, incorporating blurs and experimenting with printing surfaces; with many photographs, Yamamoto manipulates silver gelatin prints through means such as staining the images with tea or actual paint, or tearing them. His subjects vary wildly, ranging from the Japanese countryside to nude female bodies. Many liken Yamamoto’s art to haikus, due to his mastery of brevity and focus on everyday details.