New Artwork by Kohei Nawa

Japanese artist Kohei Nawa displayed several new works at Hong Kong’s Pace Gallery.

PixCell Fallow Deer: mixed media sculpture by Kohei Nawa, 2019 (Pace Gallery)

Kohei Nawa’s: PixCell Series

The mixed-media sculptures in Kohei Nawa’s PixCell series explore one of the artists common themes—the relationship between nature and artificiality.

PixCell Fallow Deer: mixed media sculpture by Kohei Nawa, 2019 (Pace Gallery)

This sculpture of a deer—PixCell Fallow Deer—was created by covering a real taxidermied deer with transparent glass spheres. Viewed from a distance and brightly lit, the spheres on the surface give off a bright, radiant glow, giving the deer the otherworldly feel of a sci-fi crystalline animal (think of the crystal foxes of the Star Wars universe or a hybrid creature from the movie Annihilation).

PixCell Fallow Deer (detail view)

If you get a little closer to the sculpture, the animal within starts to become visible, but its shape and colors are distorted by multiple spheres of varied sizes.

Up close, the spheres act like magnifying glasses, allowing you to see fine details such as individual strands of hair.

PixCell Fallow Deer (detail view)

To create these sculptures, the artist searches online for taxidermied animals being sold or auctioned off.

PixCell Fallow Deer

The word ‘PixCell’ is a portmanteau created by the artist from the words ‘pixel’ (the smallest unit of a digital image) and ‘cell’ (the smallest unit of a life-form).

The exhibition also included a double-headed deer (mounted on the wall like a bizarre hunting trophy) and a rabbit.

PixCell Rabbit: mixed media sculpture by Kohei Nawa, 2019 (Pace Gallery)
PixCell Rabbit
PixCell Double Deer: mixed media sculpture by Kohei Nawa, 2019 (Pace Gallery)
PixCell Double Deer (detail view)

Kohei Nawa’s Throne Series

Also included in the exhibition are three sculptures in the artist’s Throne series. These elaborate sculptures deal with the artist’s concerns about humanity blindly following advancements in computing, science and artificial intelligence. The thrones represent a power that entices us to claim it while at same time threatening to overwhelm us.

Three sculptures in Kohei Nawa’s Throne series

The golden sculpture in the middle is based on traditional designs found in portable shrines and festival parade floats. This throne is unoccupied

Throne (g/p_Pyramid): mixed media sculpture by Kohei Nawa, 2019 (Pace Gallery)

In the middle of the sculpture, there are two metallic spheres, one facing the front and one facing the back. These represent the eyes of the world, with one looking toward the future and the other looking back on the past.

This sculpture is a smaller version of one that was displayed in the glass pyramid at the Louvre. The color is partly inspired by the gold-leaf trim of the museum.

In each of the other two sculptures, the throne is occupied by a tiny childlike figure in what looks to be a spacesuit.

If advanced technology is a throne, does humanity sit on the throne or it subsumed within in? Will we control technology or will it control us?

Throne (p/g_boy): mixed media sculpture by Kohei Nawa, 2019 (Pace Gallery)
Throne (p/g_boy) (detail view)
Throne (p/g_boy) (view from the side)
Throne (SiCp_boy) (detail view)
Throne (SiCp_boy) (detail view)

Kohei Nawa’s Elements Series

The exhibition also featured nine paintings in Kohei Nawa’s Elements series. These are silkscreen and acrylic works that have dark patterns on even darker backgrounds. They give off a sense of mystery and the unknown as ambiguous, amorphous shapes emerge from and recede back into the darkness.

Element-Black#8: silkscreen on paper, acrylic, wooden panel,by Kohei Nawa, 2019 (Pace Gallery)
Element-Black#7: silkscreen on paper, acrylic, wooden panel by Kohei Nawa, 2019 (Pace Gallery)

Mini-bio: Kohei Nawa is a multi-disciplinary artist. Besides producing mixed media works, he also sculpts, paints, produces robot-controlled paintings and collaborates with fashion designers, theater groups, rock bands and dancers. He is based in Kyoto and studied at the Kyoto City University of Arts (including an exchange stint at the Royal College of Art).

Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries and websites.

Artist Website

Visit the artist’s website: kohei-nawa.net

Photography Challenges

One thing about this artist is that his works are quite difficult to photograph! For example, the bright light reflecting off of the PixCell animals tended to blow out the highlights. Therefore, I reduced the exposure when shooting the images. When I was editing the photos, I left the tones a little darker and warmer in order to better bring out the shapes of the spheres.The actual sculptures, when lit up, are brighter.

Similarly, the photos of the dark paintings are not quite as dark as the paintings are in reality.

Three Questions

  1. Which work do you like best? Why?
  2. What worries do you have about future technology?
  3. Can you think of a metaphor for one of your worries (e.g., an attractive throne)? How could you then represent this metaphor in art?

Art Challenge

Find something in naturea leaf, a branch, a rock, a flower. Transform it by covering it or merging it with something artificial (e.g., thread, cloth, plastic, glitter, etc.).


~text and photos by longzijun

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The Other Side of Innocence: Paintings by Chisato Tanaka, Mayuka Yamamoto & Duan Jianwei

What Remains at the End of the World (detail view) by Chisato Tanaka
Artist: Chisato Tanaka; Title: What Remains at the End of the World (detail view); Oil and acrylic on canvas; Art Central (Kobayashi Gallery)

Looking back, adults tend to view childhood as a time of joy and innocence, and we can forget that it can also be a time of uncertainty, doubt, fear and vulnerability. The artwork on this page captures this ambivalent nature of childhood.

Mayuka Yamamoto (山本麻友香)

Monster Hand (2013) by Mayuka Yamamoto;
Mayuka Yamamoto; Monster Hand 2013; Oil on canvas; Affordable Art Fair HK 2016 (Art Projects Gallery)

Japanese artist Mayuka Yamamoto often paints portraits of young boys with calm, serious and emotionally ambiguous expressions. In many of her paintings, the boys wear animal costumes or sport animal features such as antlers or rabbit ears. In Monster Hand, a small and thin boy, dressed in red shorts and a pale blue flowery tank top, sports a reptilian arm. It is not clear whether this monster arm is a costume or his actual arm. Is he merely playing make-believe, pretending to have a power that belies his tender appearance, or is the danger and wildness represented by the monster arm an inherent and irremovable part of him? You can see more of Mayuka Yamamoto’s work at the website Widewalls.
 

Chisato Tanaka (田中千智, たなかちさと)

Lying Child (2015) by Chisato Tanaka
Chisato Tanaka; Lying Child (2015); Oil and acrylic on canvas; Art Central 2016 (Kobayashi Gallery)
Lying Child (2015) by Chisato Tanaka
Lying Child (detail view)

Chisato Tanaka’s paintings also feature children with serious and emotionally ambiguous expressions. In her painting Lying Child, a lone adolescent girl glances sideways as she trudges across a barren landscape of white snow and black sky. The child’s gender is ambiguous, but looks to be female. She wears, or is covered by, a grinning white wolf. With her red boots and colorful sweater and with the wolf atop her head, she looks like something out of a fairy tale. Her figure is slight and she slouches as she walks, perhaps burdened by the weight of the wolf. The wolf can represent the lie of the title—a kind of mask worn to trick others. A lie (even to oneself) can be a form of protection, but at the same time it can be a burden.

The dark sky and white ground are characteristic of Chisato Tanaka’s work. In her artist’s statement (now offline) she writes:

Earth is shrouded by space, night is shrouded in darkness. My works are always shrouded in blackness, yet they are not just expressions of the night, but express the state of mind and the circumstances of what is painted. I weave my tales with the kinds of images you find in storybooks, of landscapes, places and other people that we all share memories with, and whom every one of us has memories of…. I reclaim the images, approaching those objects from memory, and draw near to them that way. I am always conscious of the presence of people in whatever landscape I am in. The white earth, the black sky, and the horizon that is the boundary between earth and sky going on and on and on. You can find light in the darkness that you wouldn’t see during the brightness of the day. Ideas and stories keep on being born while people go on to die. Darkness and light are symbols of death and life, endings and beginnings, the various backdrops against which people live their lives, and the thereon after.

What Remains at the End of the World by Chisato Tanaka
Chisato Tanaka; What Remains at the End of the World (2016); Oil and acrylic on canvas; Art Central (Kobayashi Gallery)
What Remains at the End of the World (detail view) by Chisato Tanaka
What Remains at the End of the World (detail view)

Video
The following video shows Chisato Tanaka at work in her studio:

Artist’s Website
You can find out more about this artist at her website (mainly in Japanese): www.tanakachisato.com

More work by Chisato Tanak

More Artwork by Chisato Tanaka
I came across more of the artist’s work recently. The painting Journey of Memory is especially beautiful. You can see the photos on this page: artjouer.wordpress.com/artists/chisato-tanaka/
 

Duan Jianwei (段建伟)

Young Person (2014) by Duan Jianwei;
Duan Jianwei; Young Person (2014); Oil on canvas; Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 (Gallery: Hive Center for Contemporary Art)

In the painting Young Person, a young boy with a solemn expression holds his wrist while staring at something out of the frame. Like Chisato Tanako, Chinese artist Duan Jianwei tends to strip away any detail from the background, drawing the viewer’s attention the the central figure of the painting. It appears that the boy is nursing his wrist, perhaps because he has fallen or perhaps because he has been pulled. As no other visual information is given, it is not clear exactly what is happening. As in the other paintings shown on this page so far, the subjects in Duan Jianwei’s paintings have ambiguous facial expressions—leaving it up to the viewer to consider what emotions the subjects might be feeling.

The Kid by Duan Jianwei;
Duan Jianwei; The Kid (2012); Oil on canvas; Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 (Gallery: Platform China Contemporary Art Institute)

Let’s end the page with a slightly more upbeat painting. At least this girl holding a deep fried dough cake has a hint of a smile on her face.

Deep Fried Dough Cake (2014) by Duan Jianwei;
Duan Jianwei; Deep Fried Dough Cake (2014); Oil on canvas; Art Basel Hong Kong 2016 (Gallery: Hive Center for Contemporary Art)

Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries.

Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Three Questions

  1. Which of the paintings on this page do you like best? Why?
  2. How would you interpret the painting entitled What Remains at the End of the World? What is going on in that scene? What is the overall effect of the painting?
  3. Most of the children on this page have very flat, almost emotionless expressions? What feeling does this give you.

Art Challenge

Draw, sketch or paint a picture representing the negative side of childhood innocence.


~ text and photos by longzijun

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