Oh Smile

Joji Nakamura Kaplan Projects
March 2023

It is said that a child smiles around three hundred times throughout the day. As we reach adulthood, the number of smiles we generate decreases. Often, adults need a good excuse to originate what is possibly the most instinctive gesture of the human being, and yet it is very easy. A simple look and a kind gesture are enough to brighten someone else’s day and even change your own appearance.

The project “Oh Smile” presents a series of canvases where the beauty of the human appearance has the leading role. The artist Joji Nakamura (Chiba, Japan, 1974) adopts the technique of the Japanese Gutai group, applying paint in pastel tones with his own fingers. As a result, the canvases that define the exhibition present blurred lines that are close to abstraction. However, tiny eyes placed in the center of the image break the abstraction and give meaning to the forms. Thus, Nakamura creates anonymous portraits that look straight at the viewer, making him or her a participant of the artwork.

The artist is inspired by daily scenes and joyful moments to create his works. The meetings in bars with his friends, where people dance and smile are the contexts in which his admiration for the happiness of the people and the value of smiles are born.

Nakamura intends to facilitate the expansion of the viewer’s image through the active look of his characters. Thus, the person looking at the painting is not only the observer, but someone who is being observed. In this way, the viewer can become aware of himself and decide how to respond to that glance. The way in which we observe others, as well as the way in which we respond to the gazes of others, can condition the entire conception of our environment.

Joji Nakamura’s works look at you and smile at you. The sincerity with which they do it arouses a positive emotion in the one who is being observed by them. The finger-painting technique humanizes his paintings and emphasizes the innocence expressed by the small eyes of his characters.

Now, I invite you to finish this text and simply place yourself in front of one of these paintings. Take a good look, don’t be shy. Someone is watching you… Smile.

Belén Martínez