Art Basel Hong Kong 2014

May 15, 2014 – May 18, 2014

Kaikai Kiki is pleased to announce that we will represent Japanese abstract painter Kazumi Nakamura, beginning with an exhibition at Art Basel Hong Kong 2014.

After actively working as a renowned abstract painter for twenty years, Kazumi Nakamura has been conspicuously silent and absent from the center stage for more than a decade, a fact that is not completely unrelated to the Japanese contemporary art world’s narrow-minded pursuit of the latest trends. Despite such head winds, he has continued to produce paintings with more vigor than ever, creating a body of work consisting of over 1,300 major pieces, including some works up to 3 meters in height.

In spring 2014, a large-scale retrospective of his work was held at The National Art Center, Tokyo, and the time is ripe for reevaluation of his oeuvre.
With the publishing of an accompanying, comprehensive catalog, the depth and strength of Nakamura’s art will no doubt spread its appeal outside of Japan, especially within abstract painting circles. (Takashi Murakami)

Fossa MagnaⅠ, 2000
1304 × 3000 mm
Acrylic on cotton

Kazumi Nakamura


Born in 1956, as a child, Nakamura lived with his mother in a facility for the intellectually disabled in Chiba prefecture until her sudden death in his senior year of high school.
In 1984, he received a Master of Fine Arts in oil painting from Tokyo University of the Arts, studying under the Mono-ha artist Koji Enokura. He debuted at the age of 24 at Gallery Parergon.

2.Influences, favorite things
-Artists: Heihachiro Fukuda (whose painting Rain inspired Nakamura to attend art university); Barnett Newman (on whom Nakamura wrote his thesis)
-Filmmakers: Werner Herzog
-Plants: Mulberry (his mother’s family owned a silkworm factory), grapes
-Sport: Mountain hiking (he belonged to a Wanderfvogel club)

3.Remarks by the Artist
a) “Though I am an abstract painter, I feel resistant to the label ‘modernist.'” (Nikkei online, April 3, 2014)

b) “I have arrived at the conviction that the appellative ‘abstract painting’ should be abolished. This idea was formulated in the twentieth century and it tries to describe my painting simply as formalistic abstraction. My paintings, however, from the very first Y Shape painting, have never been either abstract nor representational; instead, they are paintings that are concerned with the social semantic level.” (On the occasion of his solo exhibition at Nantenshi Gallery, 2002)

c) “The incomprehensible world arrives in the blink of an eye and in the before and after of that moment, all meaning is completely transformed.” (On the nature of his paintings)
*Nakamura started to paint following the disintegration of his family.

d) “What I aim for is to utterly demolish the uncertain notion that everything is present within the painting. My work cannot be witnessed just by looking at one piece; it can only be witnessed in the discrepancies that arise among an unspecified number of pieces. My paintings suggest the discrepancy itself.” (On the style of painting he aims for)

e) “In the real world, a countless number of colors exist and they have a certain cohesion. For example, even if a person wearing a bright pink dress walks into natural scenery, it doesn’t destroy the scenery. In the technique of painting you learn in school, on the other hand, you are told that if you place a wrong color in a painting, it will destroy the painting. The oil painters at my art university constantly talked about valeur (color value). I hated it. [Laughs] My painting philosophy arose from my conviction that there is no such thing as valeur in the real world.” (On colors)

f) “The displacement mechanism I speak of is the one that exists in the movement between A and A’, or one that indicates that A will transform to A’.
Rather than expressing A’ in opposition to A (in other words, the effect of the transformation), it is the expression of A becoming A’ and embodies the momentary effect itself that exists temporarily when the transformation occurs. If we follow this logic, it is neither A nor A’ but <A> and by painting it, I express the displacement of A becoming A’.
What I attempt to paint is <A>. ”

– From the catalog “Touka suru Hikari: Works by Kazumi Nakamura” : Excerpted from “Benbetsu Teki Image”, April 10, 1981

g) “In response to the innovative confinement of space to the boundaries of the painting we find in modernism,
I have made the manifestation of differences in each canvas my fundamental concept. There, the full range
of spatial possibilities are deprived of their absoluteness and are reduced to compositional elements of that contrast.”

– From the catalog “Touka suru Hikari: Works by Kazumi Nakamura” : Excerpted from “Sakuhin ni tsuite,” July 29, 1987

Non Dispersion ーRishiriII, 1991
2600 × 1800 mm
Oil on cotton

After debuting in 1980, Kazumi Nakamura soared to stardom in the Japanese contemporary art world as the nation’s most representative abstract painter. He continued working in earnest in the ’80s and, as with many of the artists of his generation, started out under the influence of post-war American Abstract Expressionism. While he studied the abstract paintings of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, he managed to avoid the pitfalls of mere imitation and made the style his own with works that possess both a Japanese originality and universal qualities. He took interest in the depiction of space in traditional East Asian paintings, such as Chinese landscape paintings and Korean folk paintings, as well the symbolic and representative function of forms.

One telling example is his acrobatic reinterpreting of the work of the flat Nihonga painter Heihachiro Fukuda, whose style resides somewhere between design-like patterns and realistic depiction, through the theories of Western Modernism. Nakamura achieves this by continually extracting simple motifs and repeating them according to strict compositional rules in order to dominate the flat painting surface.

In the 1980’s Nakamura received great support from the leading Japanese art institution of the day, the Sezon Art Museum, and unveiled a series of massive abstract paintings.
He was active for the next twenty years before disappearing from the stage, along with the decline of the Sezon Art Museum itself. After a period of silence, he reemerged in 2014 with a large scale retrospective, on display through May 19 at the National Art Center, Tokyo, and the process of rediscovering his artistry has only just begun.

At Art Basel Hong Kong, we will be showcasing multiple paintings produced between 1991 and 2002, a time of fermentation for Nakamura’s work. The exhibit includes a series of works whose motif is a grid of diagonal lines, a theme extracted from the Heian-era pictorial diaries of Lady Murasaki.

HermitageⅠ, 1986
2290 × 1810 mm
Oil,Acrylic on cotton

※Images of the Illustrated Hand Scroll of the Diary of Murasaki Shikibu, Painting of Section 1 and Hermitage l are
excerpted from the catalog for Nakamura’s exhibition at the Tokyo Art Center

By skewing the grid, long given a privileged position in western minimalism, in a protruding manner, Nakamura shows his dislike of the technique of resting the eye within the bounds of the painting; he deviates from the western aesthetic of creating a three dimensional space within a painting by guiding the viewer’s attention to what lies outside the picture. In this way, his work is connected with Monoha theorist Lee Ufan, who also emphasizes the relationship of the painting with its external environment. Both men also, if unintentionally, approach a zen-like sense of space in their work.

The energetically explorative nature of Nakamura’s work knows no bounds and to this date, he has produced over 1300 individual paintings. The vitality of his approach to production and the spirit seen in his ability to put it into practice are without precedent in Japan. We can say that he occupies a place of unique and the highest importance in the history of pure abstract art.

– Takashi Murakami

Saisoro 14: ALegendary Old Man Doomed to Die Under a Curse Seeking the Elixir of Life, 1998
2400 × 5850 mm(3 pieces)
Oil,Acrylic on cotton
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