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Curator's Corner, 2/4/2012

Put a bird on it: Jiro Konami for Shu

When I was researching Lisa Kohno for her work with Shu Uemura, I stumbled across the 2010 winner of the Shu Uemura Artist Award, Japanese photographer Jiro Konami. He had the honor of creating an Asia-exclusive, duty-free shop only cleansing oil, along with shooting the ads for the 2011 Tokyo Lash Bar collection.  Naturally I had to get my hands on the precious oil and one popped up on Ebay. 

The box features green bird silhouettes and seagulls against a clear blue sky.




As you open the box, the birds on each flap get gradually smaller.  It's a nice touch that reminds me of nesting dolls.




The bottle has the same design.  As with Kohno's green-haired girl, the green birds on the box are transparent on the bottle, turning green from the oil itself.






Now let's look at the artist's work.   His website has his CV, but I was unable to find any sort of definitive artist's statement.  I did manage to find a brief description at Shu's blog.  "A rising star in Japan’s photography scene, Konami, 24, graduated from Tokyo Polytechnic University's department of photography in 2009. Konami creates infinite emotion in his images of quiet moments and fragility. His lens captures light, color, and structure to evoke sensitivity, while his urban flair composes poetry from everyday life. "  I can definitely see the "urban flair", as evidenced by these city scenes:

Jk city

Jk city 2

And "quiet moments and fragility", I think, is captured in these portraits:

Jk portrait

Jk portrait 2

Additionally, here is the original picture of the seagulls.  I like that on the box and bottle of the oil all of the seagulls, except for the largest one, appear as silhouettes.

Jk birds 1(images from

I'm curious to know who selected this picture - the company or Konami himself.  Since the cleansing oil was meant to be sold only in duty-free shops for travelers, birds in flight is a fitting theme.   It also happens to right on trend, as birds are having quite a moment design-wise.  Or at least, they were - in the past 2 years or so bird motifs had become so ubiquitous in interior design and stationery that they were mocked in a skit by the hilarious IFC show Portlandia (one the few TV shows I watch and where I got the title of this post).   Birds are still going strong though:  the ones from this 2012 letterpress calendar in particular are reminiscent of those that appear on the cleansing oil.

Kring emporium birds(image from

Overall I'm that not into birds design-wise, but I think on this bottle they work for 2 reasons.  One is that they represent travel, which is appropriate for a duty-free exclusive item, and the second is that the birds were taken from an up-and-coming photographer.  Okay, plus I love to collect the limited-edition Shu cleansing oils! 

What do you think?  Are you tired of the bird trend or do you think in this case they were used wisely?  And what do you think of Konami's work outside of this cleansing oil?

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