1xRUN Thru Interview
Études by Kenji Nakayama
1xRun: Tell us a little bit about this piece and this new series of work Études, is this original piece for sale?
Kenji Nakayama: The body of work is called “Etudes” because it was a new challenging exercise for me—not unlike what musicians and composers do with etude works. I had a specific set of rules to work within, but I never knew how the series would develop. It organically evolved over time. Yes, the original will be for sale on April 18th at the Fourth Wall Project in Boston, MA. It is one of the forty-nine experimental paintings that I created over the past several months. Within this series, each piece has it’s own number.
The series begins with several rosettes created in summer and fall of 2013, which might remind viewers of stained glass, mandalas, and hubcaps. The series transitions organically from circular-based works to more calligraphic compositions that meander from central points. The later works in the series takes inspiration from Edo-era signage, which is defined by thick and heavy brushstrokes with round edges. The number of works created in this series — forty-nine — refers to the period of mourning that is observed within Zen Buddhist traditions. Within this ritual, it is believed that the spirit of the deceased will transition into the next realm after a forty-nine day period. The forty-ninth day is celebrated by family and friends with a ceremony.
1xRun: These pieces are part of an upcoming show you have right? Tell us a bit about the show and what people can except?
Kenji Nakayama: The show opens April 18th and it runs through May 18th at Fourth Wall Project in Boston. The show is curated by Kristen Wawruck, a New York City based independent curator, and the show is sponsored by Converse Inc. All my works in this show were created over the past several months, and I made the artwork specifically for this show. Basically, I spent the past several months making work within certain conceptual guidelines. Kristen and I conceived of a show that was strictly abstract and about painting, which is a new experiment for me.
1xRUN: When were these pieces drawn and with what materials?
Kenji Nakayama: This series was started late in 2013 and has been wrapping up in February of 2014. Each original piece was created using a mix of acrylic and enamel on a piece of black matte board.
1xRun: Tell us how the idea and execution came about?
Kenji Nakayama: The new body of work is all about experimenting with the variation of brush strokes, colors, transparency, compositions, and challenging myself to see what I come up with next. Every piece was created by improvising. There were no sketches and no plans; all I knew was that I was making 49 paintings. I figured out the next brush strokes, lines, colors, etc. after one another.
1xRun: How long did each piece take?
Kenji Nakayama: 1-2 evenings.
1xRun: What is unique about these pieces?
Kenji Nakayama: Each piece in this series was created through an improvisational process. Also, the 49 abstract paintings are very important to visual document for the new body of work and upcoming project that I am planning on. So this piece is one of the 49 pieces, and there is a significant meaning in the piece.
1xRun: Why should people buy one of these prints or an original piece?
Kenji Nakayama: This was definitely created in a new segment of my art career, and this is important for me to move on to next phase.
1xRun: Describe this series in one gut reaction word.
Kenji Nakayama: Études.
1xRun: As you mentioned, this is a bit of a new direction for your work, trace the change for us ?
Kenji Nakayama: I was actually painting similar things back in 2009. The works were all about practice of pin-striping, and brush control exercises, colors, and texture. However, in this new series, I went much deeper with it. My focus was exploring and finding a new sequence of brush stroke patterns and colors, compositions, etc.
1xRun: Safe to say this was grown from your recent endeavor into sign painting?
Kenji Nakayama: Yes definitely, I think since I am obviously spending way more time painting for commercial endeavors it makes me want to keep it separate from my personal work and makes me want to try a different approach with the sign painting technique I have picked up over the past 10 years. I went to the sign painting school and learned about this trade 10 years ago, and I am still learning something new every day.
1xRun: What have been some of the catalysts in this recent change?
Kenji Nakayama: I think most of my work, including stencil works, require craftsmanship. The techniques that I use for my work come from practical methods, but with this series, I am stripping subject and context away and re-applying them in to fine art. In this recent change, I pushed boundaries with the techniques I have acquired over the decade.
1xRun: Who are some new artists who have been inspiring you as of late?
Kenji Nakayama: I took inspirations from calligraphers from the Edo period, such as Ukon Tachibana, as well as just calligraphers in general, folk art from Ainu culture (origin:Hokkaido, Japan) and Inuit Art (origin:Alaska), also the idea of formalism painting. As far as specific artists, I could list many names here, but Josh Luke (pictured below) of Best Dressed Signs whom I work with daily making signs; Dana Woulfe , my former studio mate and a frequent collaborator, still keeps going hard with his new abstract expressions; and Pat Falco, my current studio mate, for his creativity and hard work ethic.
Also, the show curator Kristen Wawruck is a big influence of this series of work. There was a lot of going back and forth in conversation with her to define what this body of work is about, and she has navigated me to a new creative direction. Last, one more important person to add—my father, who is the one who came up with the name of the show (“Études”) during my last visit in Japan.
1xRun: Anything else you want to add that we didn’t touch on?
Kenji Nakayama: I hope many people get to see the show in Boston. It is a beautiful season to visit this town. And thank you for taking your time reading my