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Artist's Belongings - Luo Yongjin Photography Exhibition
by Ofoto Gallery
Location: Ofoto Gallery
Artist(s): LUO Yong Jin
Date: 23 Oct - 16 Dec 2011

To See the World in an Artist's Studio - Luo Yongjin's Sharp Eyes.

Luo Yongjin and I started twenty years ago to explore artists studios. It was the year 1990, April, and the two of us together met many artists, visited their studios or their houses (rooms, rather). At that time 'contemporary' art was still an extremely small phenomenon and those devoted to it were struggling with many difficulties - first of all, their own understanding of a non-traditional and non-institutional way of making art. Luo Yongjin was then busy shooting a documentary - we wanted to leave a trace of the world of those artists - and taking pictures at the same time made the task very difficult. The frame of mind requested for shooting a video is different from that requested in shooting still pictures, as people familiar with these media know well, but there was no choice.

In that period Luo Yongjin was still under the influence of important western photographers like Carder Bresson, he was somehow 'catching the moment' and focusing on transient expressions, movements, gestures of the subjects. His subjects were mainly human beings. Nearly all of the pictures taken by the photographer at that time were portraits, although they were not perceived in that way by the people portrayed: very soon, Luo Yongjin had developed a very silent, unobserved, hidden way of shooting so that his work would not interfere with the subjects' spontaneity.

I have said that his subjects were human beings - namely, the artists. A more correct expression would be, 'artists in their environment'. Luo Yongjin would quickly catch the personality of the person portrayed not only observing her/him, but also very much through the environment around. The photographer is not a great talker, he does not like to spend much time chatting around. He is rather a great observer; his sharp eye catches even the smallest details of a place, of a landscape, of a person's facial expression. He prefers to be able to move around freely without having to consider entertaining the person whose space he is in. I wonder whether it is a kind of shyness, or a 'professional' decision, the one that made him neglect, with the passing of the years, human beings. I have the feeling that the 'silent space' the photographer enjoys when he is dealing with 'non-human' subjects, in the long run enables personalities like his to reach deeper into 'reality' without being constantly distracted by futile talks and emotive interactions.

Luo Yongjin's photos, starting from the 'New residences' in Luoyang (1997), have no longer had human beings as important subjects. However, everything photographed by Luo Yongjin is man-made. Every picture tells a story of human beings' macrocosms' (the huge Cityscapes or the Government buildings, for instance) or 'microcosms', like the images of this new series: "Artists' belongings".

When Luo Yongjin told me, about two years ago, that he wanted to start a series of pictures on artists studios, I thought it was a good idea but I imagined something very different from what I saw several months later. I was imagining images portraying a whole environment, maybe taken with his 140 degrees rotating lens-camera. When I saw these works, and I realized that he had metaphorically used the magnifying lens to point out little object, shadows, drops, dusts... I was quite surprised and somehow touched.

I know personally most of the artists whose space has been 'examined' by Lao Yongjin's scientific - yet affectionate - eye. I can see where the details chosen deeply reveal the owner's personality. This is my personal way of enjoying these works, though. It is even more intimate when I see the pictures he has taken in my own house - and those are really telling how deeply my friend knows me.

But talking about feelings that can be shared by the common viewers, who know nothing about those people, those artists, I want to reassure them: really they do not miss anything relevant. One can only acknowledge that there are different layers of understanding in these images, like in every good, 'cultivated' work of art. Although every picture carries a reference, i.e. the name of the owner of the space, this name is really not important for the fruition of the image. To know that there are dead flies underneath Song Haidong's flower vase incompletely irrelevant. What really matters is the feeling that comes out of these 'still lives'. What matters is the ability of the photographer to catch poetic, intimate, evocative images that even the occupants of the space are unaware of. He helps them-and the viewers - to trace beauty, emotions, extra-ordinary viewpoints (color dripping like an abstract painting, dust leaving interesting traces, perspectives never considered by the eyes...) in everyday environments.

I think Luo Yongjin is a passionate lover of life in every manifestation, he is able to find things that catch his attention everywhere. Through his eye and the camera he manages to transform them into something that can improve our life. He manages to elevate ordinary objects to another realm, so to inspire us, the viewers, and satisfy our need for some kind of aesthetics, of silence, of peace.

- Monica Dematte, Vigolo Vattaro, September 13th 2010

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