Kohei Nawa (b. 1975, Osaka, Japan) is a multidisciplinary artist whose diverse practice explores the perception of virtual and physical space and examines the relationship between nature and artificiality, and between the individual and the whole, illustrating how parts aggregate together, like cells, to create complex and dynamic structures.
Notable solo exhibitions include: L_B_S at Ginza Maison Hermes, Tokyo (2009); Synthesis at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2011); SCULPTURE GARDEN at Kirishima Open-air Art Museum, Kagoshima, (2013); and Throne on view as part of the Japonisms 2018: les âmes en resonance at the Musée du Louvre, Paris (2018). He has participated in the 6th Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane, Australia, 2009; the 14th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2010 (Grand Prize winner); Aichi Triennale in Nagoya, Japan, 2013, amongst others. Nawa is currently an Associate Professor at the Kyoto University of Art and Design.
Hong Kong—Pace is honoured to present the first exhibition in Hong Kong dedicated to renowned Japanese artist Kohei Nawa. A multidisciplinary artist, Nawa explores the perception of virtual and physical space and examines the relationship between nature and artificiality. The artist embraces the causality between the individual and the whole, illustrating how parts aggregate together like cells through complex and dynamic structures. The exhibition will be on view at Pace’s gallery in the H Queen’s building from July 19 – August 29, 2019, with an opening reception in the presence of the artist on Thursday, July 18, from 6 – 8 pm.
Nawa’s PixCell series is created by covering the surface of an object with transparent spheres, transforming each into a “husk of light.” “PixCell,” a word invented by the artist, combines the idea of a “pixel,” the smallest unit of a digital image, with that of a “cell,” the smallest unit of living matter. Showcased in the exhibition, the taxidermied deer have been completely transformed through the artist’s use of variably sized “PixCell” beads, producing a distorted lens effect that occurs throughout the cell units. The result provides a visual experience of seeing into various details simultaneously as they are magnified in an array. Moreover, in traditional Japanese art, the deer is often depicted as a companion of ancient sages and has auspicious and poetic associations, adding to the perception of the visual with the spiritual.
Another highlight in the show, is a work from Nawa’s Throne series, which comments on the acceleration of computers, science, and artificial intelligence in contemporary society, conveying the artist’s concern that humans will blindly follow advanced technology that boasts absolute intelligence. Created with reference to the forms of festival floats and portable shrines that appear in the rituals and festivities in Asia, this series on view attempts to express that premonition as an immense “floating vacant throne.” Shining, spherical mirrors are placed at the center of the work facing the front and back. They are made of platinum foil and represent “the eyes overlooking the world” where the frontal mirror faces the future and the back reflects into the past. A bigger version of the sculpture was exhibited in 2018 on the grounds of the Louvre Museum in Paris, designed to form a relation to the architecture of its iconic Pyramid, designed by I. M. Pei. The 3D modelling techniques that this series adopts can also be found in the making of the artist’s series Ether.
In the Particle series, objects are covered with silicon carbide powder, a material that has the properties of both diamonds and silicon and emerge as radiant sparkles of light in darkened spaces. This material treatment is also used in the sculptures that result from the performance work VESSEL, in which the artist converts the physique of choreographed dancers into three-dimensional digital information (Voxel data) to materialise them into sculptural forms. The work emphasises the transitions from motion to static states, virtual to physical, organic to inorganic substances, and beyond materiality to particles of light.
From three-dimensional work to the flat surface, the Direction and Moment works capture the accidental phenomena transposed onto the media, as it occurs in front of the observer. The work documents the physical movement of liquid material, either dripping from the top edge of the canvas or from a moving mechanical device. Proprietary tools, methods, and formats are chosen according to the type of perception intended to be conveyed. Dot and grid, line and form, alignment and at random, amorphous structures are repeated through the interlocking of image and materiality.