"Japanese artists Shintaro and Yoshiko Nakahara work both together and separately … Recently they have begun to collaborate, combining their different approaches to create an exquisite series of works that they have called 'Hikari' (Light), a metaphor for the revelation implicit in taking a mutual journey." - Helen Kedgley, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at Pataka Museum
Shintaro and Yoshiko Nakahara are artists who work both independently and together. Their individual practices are visually disparate, but the pair demonstrate the intensity of their partnership and their respect for the practice of the other. This mutual regard is necessary to achieve the balance and compromise required to give physical form to the mental collaboration taking place between them. The artists describe this process as signalling the emergence of a ‘third artist:’ their respective practices combine to produce singular works which remain distinct entities in themselves.
As the two work independently, yet on the same canvas, they attempt to hold in their minds the other’s dreams, thoughts and intentions; thus the process becomes a kind of mutual reconstruction and can lead to surprising and previously unimagined imagery. The unique reflections of two minds together elicit contrasts of striking beauty, depth and dimension.
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Shintaro Nakahara’s studies in pure colour are played out in his vast, calligraphic paintings that joyfully defy any accepted notion of colour theory. Crisp, even sequences of intense (sometimes lurid) colour diverge, align and intersect across the surface of his works in combinations that simultaneously bewilder and delight the viewer. His fields of flat, solid colour, defined by razor-sharp lines, retain the overall surface consistency used by the Colour Field artists of the mid-twentieth century.
Nakahara is a colour-savant, seeing esoteric interrelationships within the chromatic scale with intensity and clarity. His tonal pairings are both masterly and a bit nuts. While at first glance his works glow with brilliant, florescent colour, closer readings reveal equally compelling neutrals, pastels, mid-tones, and earthy tertiaries. His compositions overlap identical offset forms that imply a bizarre translucence with their visible intersections. Viewed through Nakahara’s psychedelic lens, mauve and grey may converge to create burgundy but just as easily could lead to ochre or lime green.
Nakahara has developed his own abstract language to convey colour-as-subject – influenced by Japanese shodo or script, yet almost never using established of real characters. With a fundamental understanding of its principles, having studied shodo since childhood, Nakahara’s ‘characters’ are pure, aesthetic forms that mimic the calligrapher’s vociferous left-to-right, top-to-bottom gesture. In fact Nakahara uses the traditional Japanese inkstick and washi paper when drafting the forms that he later translates to his paintings.
Zen Buddhism holds that the art of calligraphy can create a path to one’s original self through brush with the loose movement of the artist’s body used to guide the stroke in a single, unerring motion. The rigidly-controlled lines of Nakahara’s painting seem to challenge this freedom; rather than created unflinchingly in a moment, requiring gestural confidence and immediacy, Nakahara’s forms de-emphasise gesture and brushstroke. The transformation from initial inkstick sketches to precise, grid-like canvases results in a paradox; works are both gestural in form and anti-gestural in execution. Across all of his work, Shintaro Nakahara’s blithe, astonishing compositions leave us to consider our own prosaic ability to comprehend the colour spectrum.
BIOGRAPHY – SHINTARO NAKAHARA
Born: 1972, Saitama, Japan
Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts, Tama Art University, Tokyo, Japan
Collections: The James Wallace Arts Trust, Auckland
Public Exhibitions: The Whittaker’s Big Egg Hunt NZ, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch (2015);ArtDEGO, Artweek Auckland,Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki(2014); Recent Acquisitions Part II, Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, Auckland, (2011); Double Vision: When Artists Collaborate (with Yoshiko Nakahara); Pataka Art + Museum, Wellington (2010)
Publications/Articles: "The Mark of the Modern Moko" by TJ McNamara, The New Zealand Herald, 22 Aug 2015; ‘Clockwise double dip’ by Rhiannon Horrell, East and Bays Courier, Nov 2011; Double Vision: When Artists Collaborate Exhibition Catalogue, Pataka Art + Museum, Wellington, 2010; ‘Opposites Attract’ by Sharu Delilkan, The New Zealand Herald, May 2009; ‘Contrasts a fine fit’ by Sharu Delilkan, The Aucklander, May 2009
The intricate drawings of Yoshiko Nakahara juxtapose a sense of rigorous activity with a calm, pattern-based technique. The complexity of her compositions inspires a mood of introspective contemplation that is both unexpected and immediate.
Working on a relatively small scale is key to Nakahara’s practice, which centres on perfecting the quality of her mark-making. Working exclusively in ink, her pieces are built slowly and deliberately from thousands of individual pen strokes and subtle washes. Every minute detail is described with unshakable precision; gradually, forms emerge and intersect in complex, multi-layered arrangements of great depth and subtlety. Pattern-making is central to much of her work, with compositions constructed largely through the repetition of simple lines or geometric forms.
Nakahara’s distinct style is predicated on the traditional Japanese aesthetic Wabi-sabi. Comprising a variety of aesthetic principles based on Zen teachings, Wabi-sabi values irregularity, naturalness, subtlety and tranquillity. Each of these properties is derivative of nature in some way, and form the basis for the model of much traditional Japanese art. It is therefore unsurprising that much of Nakahara’s work takes the natural world as its subject. Even in recent work, which has seen a shift towards more abstract patterned compositions incorporating new figurative elements, she still applies the stylistic principles of her earlier work.
Nakahara seamlessly melds her formal concerns with these understated philosophical ideas. Emphasis is placed on the details, with the artist taking great care to impart a sense of the beauty and wonder of the scene. The intricacy of Nakahara’s work creates a viewing experience that is much more intimate than usual. The small scale of her pieces demands contemplation from the individual viewer, offering a moment of personal reflection rather than intellectual analysis. Nakahara’s work engages at the level of the senses and appeals to an innate bond with the natural world; her flawless renderings and thoughtful compositions capture a sense of the sublime.
BIOGRAPHY - YOSHIKO NAKAHARA
Born: Kanagawa, Japan
Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts, Musashino Art University, Tokyo, Japan
Awards/Distinctions: The Wallace Art Awards - Finalist (2008)
Public Exhibitions: Double Vision: When Artists Collaborate(with Shintaro Nakahara), Pataka Museum of Arts and Cultures, Wellington (2010); MORI Art Museum, Roppongi staff project, Tokyo, Japan (2005)
Publications/Articles: "The Mark of the Modern Moko" by TJ McNamara, The New Zealand Herald, 22 Aug 2015; "Art for art's sake" by Warwick Brown, The Listener, Oct 22-28, 2011, pp 40-41; "Clockwise double dip" by Rhiannon Horrell, East and Bays Courier, Nov 25, 2011, p6; Cranmer, Ursula, Exploring Drawing: A look at contemporary drawing, Whangaparaoa: Integrated Education Ltd, 2011; Double Vision: When Artists Collaborate exhibition catalogue (featured back cover), Pataka Museum of Arts and Cultures, 2010; ‘Brainstorming proves triumph for art’ by Terry McNamara, The New Zealand Herald, Aug 2010; ‘Contrasts a fine fit’ by Sharu Delilkan, The Aucklander, May 2009; Sanderson, Kylie, Tamara Darragh and Kim Atherfold, The Artists: 21 Practitioners in New Zealand Contemporary Art c. 2009-2011, Auckland: Beatnik Publishing, 2009, pp 56-59