At age 32, Kohei Nawa's name and work are far more recognized
than can be imagined for most young artists. Today, Nawa
is definitely one of the busiest artists of his generation
and is also known as a popular icon among art students.
So, what has he been making?
Nawa himself acknowledges that his creations may be categorized
as sculpture, but its conventional definition often fails
to accurately describe his work. For his "BEADS" series,
for example, he uses various objects such as stuffed specimens
and totally covers their surfaces with small glass beads.
Viewed through the transparent beads, the objects appear
as if they have been reduced into small particles of light,
creating an effect that is powerful enough to disapprove
the ordinary images that we have had of them until that
moment. In another series, called "PRISM," Nawa
attempts to depict an unexplainable world that exists between
reality and fiction by enclosing an object in a box made
of prism sheets (which divert light in two directions).
He has also produced "SCUM," a collection of
amorphous objects made of polyurethane foam, and "LIQUID," which
highlights the organic movement of liquid to express the
moment when a creative idea is born. So far, Nawa has launched
and continued more than five project series, all of which
are abstract yet directly stimulate human senses. The true
nature of Nawa's artwork is that it shakes people's senses
Nawa is also unique in that he is quite flexible in his
choice of materials and techniques, about which some artists
can be very particular. "I do choose materials carefully,
but it is more important for me to consider how I can use
those materials as an interface and also how I can inspire
people's senses with them," says Nawa. Having experienced
the IT revolution as a graduate student, he mostly finds
his materials on the Internet. "We are now free from
geographic and temporal factors that used to limit our
imagination," says Nawa. "The revolution also
helped remove a presumption that sculptures need to be
made only of certain materials." His attitude suggests
to us that he is probably a practical example of what an
artist will be in the advanced information society.
Nawa loved to make things when he was a child. As a student
at art college, he maintained his hopes of eventually pursuing
a creative career in some form, but he just couldn't imagine
himself making a living in art. His views, however, changed
after he went to England to study as an exchange student
during his graduate school years. "It is extremely
tough to be an artist, but successful artists are highly
respected in society. I realized that and was greatly encouraged." Since
his first private exhibition in 2000, Nawa has widely expanded
his activities both in Japan and overseas. This year, he
plans to hold a series of monthly exhibitions at various
locations around the world, including Dubai, Barcelona, Basel,
Zurich, and Beijing. Based on what Nawa has demonstrated,
it is reasonable to say that globalization is obviously the
key to success for today's contemporary artists.
During the 90s, artists such as Takashi Murakami attempted
to establish their identities by emphasizing the peculiarity
of Japanese modern culture. It is, however, not the direction
in which Nawa and other artists of his generation are heading.
What matters to them is simply whether to produce a superior
piece of work or not. While it's been only eight years since
the 21st century began, Japanese artists today have already
made an evolutionary change in the way they live and create.
And Nawa's success clearly proves this point.
(2006, h:695 x w:995 mm ,Acrylic
paint on paper)
(2007, 800 x 800 x 2800mm, Water, silicone oil; photographed
by Keizo Kioku)
December 26, 2007
Text by Takafumi Kobuki, a freelance art writer