Y. Z. Kami

Y. Z. Kami, Dry Land (installation view), 1999 – 2004. Photograph by Thierry Bal

Y. Z. Kami, Dry Land (installation view), 1999 – 2004. Photograph by Thierry Bal

Educated in Paris – where he studied philosophy – and California, Y. Z. Kami (b.1956, Iran) has worked in a variety of media (including photography, installation and sculpture), although he is mainly regarded as a painter. It was his large-scale portraits that first gained him acclaim from the international art world, leading to invitations to show his work in various important exhibitions and biennials.

His work often combines the personal and the political, alternatively shaping an emotional survey of an entire collective body or dwelling on more intimate and private investigation. The artist is not interested in depicting caricatures, overexposed or exaggerated representations of the Self.

Kami’s tone is calm, avoiding commotion or a ‘pornographic’ exposure of affect and intimacy. Even his deepest investigations retain a certain lightness of touch, an emphatic gentleness that nevertheless bonds the artist to the sitter in a profound and respectful reciprocal tie. According to Kami, in fact, the lengthy process of painting a face is like interiorising it, a form of assimilation.

His paintings are vaporous, almost evanescent, and dissimulate the effort needed to achieve such a casual and natural effect. The mist of light that envelops his imagery is nearly mystical, and creates an aura around his subjects that enables them to escape mundane contingencies in favour of a sort of spiritual elevation.

For Touched, Kami's piece Dry Land (1994-2004) mixed photographs of dilapidated buildings in Detroit with portraits of weary or meditative-looking people. His melancholic – yet lyrical – gaze highlighted the people’s pride and dignity notwithstanding the desperation and desolation of the photographed environment.

Y.Z. Kami at Liverpool Biennial 2010

Dry Land, 1999 – 2004.
Iris-printed photographs with oil painting on paper 
Painting consisting of 56 panels
Exhibited at 52 Renshaw Street