Kiyoshi Nakagami’s powerful canvases burst with an elemental tension between light and darkness rendered in gold mica-enriched acrylic paint, which is dispersed through the use of gravity over an extraordinary, glowing surface. Nakagami’s dramatically lit canvases appear to be intricate depictions of a vaporous night sky, at once radiant and brooding. Evocative of awe-inspiring environmental phenomena (a sun eclipsed by plumes of smoke, billowing cloud-like forms that seem faintly familiar and reminiscent of moonlight streaming through the clouds on a dark night), Nakagami’s works are also tinged with a distinctly otherworldly quality.
Golden light—emanating from an unseen source—is Nakagami’s true subject, and its glow illuminates the edges of dark, vaporous forms, creating a sense of suspension between fantasy and reality. That titles are not used by Nakagami reflects the ambiguity he infuses in his work. He seeks to create an atmosphere that is that is both ephemeral and sublime.
Nakagami’s paintings embody the Japanese aesthetic of yūgen, which refers to the profound grace and mysterious subtle beauty of the universe. It also conveys nihonga, a style of Japanese art that, through the use of traditional materials, rejects the western artistic mode of imitating reality to instead concentrate on manifesting the essence of an environment. Following this principle, Nakagami does not try to capture the natural world through artistic representation; rather, his art relishes in getting at the spirit of nature by creating an indeterminate, dreamlike space that verges on pure abstraction.
Nakagami begins his process by coating a canvas with acrylic paint and dusting mica-enriched gold pigment across the surface. He then moves and maneuvers the canvas, allowing gravity to affect the dispersion of pigment. Nakagami’s dependence on gravitational force eclipses his own artistic gesture, directing attention to the resultant work rather than the artist’s ego. This unconventional approach, and his use of traditional Japanese materials (gold), alludes both to nihonga as well as contemporary means of artmaking (acrylic paint). Devoid of brushwork or any other sign of the artist’s hand, Nakagami’s metaphysically charged canvases conjure an arresting atmosphere of meditative contemplation through a remarkable articulation of light.
Kiyoshi Nakagami was born in 1949 in Shizuoka, Japan. He has had numerous solo exhibitions at museums and galleries internationally, including Hino Gallery, Tokyo, Japan; Galerie Richard, Paris, France and New York, NY; Gallery Finarte, Nagoya, Japan; Art-Taguchi, Gifu, Japan; Museum Haus Kasuya, Yokosuka, Japan; and The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura, Japan. His work may be found in the permanent collections of Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, Aichi; Kanagawa Prefectural Gallery, Kanagawa; The Museum of Modern Art, Kamakura and Hayama, Kanagawa; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; and Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama. In 2009, he received the Yokohama City Cultural Prize in Art.