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b. 1975, Japan

Kohei Nawa Biography

Kyoto-based artist Kohei Nawa challenges the boundaries between virtual and physical space in surreal, semi-abstract multimedia works. Exploring themes of science, digital culture, and sensory perception, his works have been exhibited across Europe, Asia, and the United States.

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Born in Osaka, Nawa graduated from the Kyoto City University of Arts with a BA in 1998 and a PhD in Fine Art Sculpture in 2003. Between degrees in 1999, the artist attended a sculpture course at the Royal College of Art in London on an exchange. He claims a diverse range of influences from this background, including the work of artist Antony Gormley, architect Antoni Gaudi, manga artist Katsuhiro Otomo, and the art of Buddhism and Shintoism.

Working with a range of modern synthetic compounds including silicone oil, silicon carbide dust, polyurethane foam, and epoxy resin, Nawa's sculptures and installations hover between an organic and a sleek, artificial appearance. His distinctive, career-spanning 'PixCell' series (2002–ongoing) is inspired by the appearance of digital pixels. Selected objects are encased in a lattice of 'cells' made up of glass beads in different sizes. The resultant form magnifies and distorts the object's surface akin to a pixelated digital image in three-dimensional form. As structures of individual cells making up a singular whole object, the 'PixCell' works also mimic cellular biology. A defining format, much of his sculptural work expands on this process of encasing objects in synthetic materials to explore and alter viewer perceptions.

Nawa also works with highly viscous liquids as both a subject and a medium. Sculptures such as those in the 'Ether' series (2012–ongoing) evoke liquids dripping downward in solid form. Installations like Force (SCAI The Bathhouse, 2015) and Biomatrix (SCAI The Bathhouse, 2018) challenge viewers' perceptions of the liquid and solid states of the highly viscous, slow-moving medium of silicone oil through electrical manipulation or the action of gravity. The relation of liquids and forces like gravity are also explored in two-dimensional artworks such as those in the 'Direction' series (2012–ongoing).

One of Nawa's most ambitiously scaled installations is the immense, intricately 3D-printed, gold-leaf-encrusted Throne (2018), which is suspended within the Louvre's iconic I. M. Pei-designed glass pyramid. The opulent but empty throne reflects the artist's interest in the absolute authority and power of monarchical rule that occurred in the past, and his premonition of future blind obedience to computers with increasingly powerful artificial intelligence.

While continuing to develop his practice, Nawa is also working to support and collaborate with other contemporary artists. Founding the creative platform SANDWICH in 2009 in a former sandwich factory near Kyoto, the artist has sought to bring together Japanese artists and performers to create an image of contemporary Japanese art and culture beyond the stereotypes of manga and anime. In projects such as Vessel (2015–ongoing), a touring collaboration with choreographer and dancer Damien Jalet, the artist works with contemporary dancers and musicians to enrich his artwork. Nawa also teaches as an Associate Professor at the Kyoto University of Art and Design.

Nawa's works feature in prominent permanent public collections such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo; and the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. His work also featured in the 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (Brisbane, 2009) and the 14th Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh (Dhaka, 2010), where he received first prize.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2019

Kohei Nawa Featured Artworks

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Particle-Rocking Horse by Kohei Nawa contemporary artwork
Kohei NawaParticle-Rocking Horse, 2017Mixed media
46 x 71.5 x 26.5 cm
Pace Gallery
Throne(SiC/p_boy) by Kohei Nawa contemporary artwork
Kohei NawaThrone(SiC/p_boy), 2019Mixed media
80 x 23.7 x 38.2 cm
Arario Gallery Contact Gallery
Yomi#3(Black Sic_VESSEL) by Kohei Nawa contemporary artwork
Kohei NawaYomi#3(Black Sic_VESSEL), 2017Mixed media
152.3 x 68.3 x 65.2 cm
Arario Gallery Contact Gallery
PixCell-Greater Kudu #2 by Kohei Nawa contemporary artwork
Kohei NawaPixCell-Greater Kudu #2, 2019Mixed media
171.4 x 77.9 x 86.4 cm
SCAI The Bathhouse Contact Gallery
Moment#129 by Kohei Nawa contemporary artwork
Kohei NawaMoment#129, 2019Acrylic on paper
204.2 x 129 x 3.8 cm
Pace Gallery
Element-Black#5 by Kohei Nawa contemporary artwork
Kohei NawaElement-Black#5, 2018Silkscreen on paper, acrylic, wooden panel
80 x 60 x 3.8 cm
Pace Gallery
Element-Black#2 by Kohei Nawa contemporary artwork
Kohei NawaElement-Black#2, 2018Silkscreen on paper, acrylic, wooden panel
80 x 60 x 3.8 cm
Pace Gallery
Velvet #2 (Moss) by Kohei Nawa contemporary artwork
Kohei NawaVelvet #2 (Moss), 2018Mixed media
94.2 x 63.7 x 11.5 cm
SCAI The Bathhouse Contact Gallery

Kohei Nawa Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Chewing Gum IV at Pace Gallery, Hong Kong
Closed
28 May–2 July 2020 Group Exhibition Chewing Gum IV Pace GalleryHong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Kohei Nawa, Recent Works at Pace Gallery, Hong Kong
Closed
18 July–29 August 2019 Kohei Nawa Recent Works Pace GalleryHong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Kohei Nawa, Biomatrix at SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo
Closed
10 October–8 December 2018 Kohei Nawa Biomatrix SCAI The BathhouseTokyo

Kohei Nawa Represented By

Arario Gallery contemporary art gallery in Seoul, South Korea Arario Gallery Cheonan, Seoul, Shanghai
Pace Gallery contemporary art gallery in New York, USA Pace Gallery New York, London, Geneva, Palo Alto, Hong Kong, Seoul, Beijing

Kohei Nawa In Ocula Magazine

Frieze New York Viewing Room Sales Exceed Expectations Ocula News Frieze New York Viewing Room Sales Exceed Expectations New York, 8 May 2020

Galleries have reported stronger than anticipated sales at Frieze New York's Viewing Rooms, which opened to VIPs on 6 May. The online event, initiated after the physical fair was cancelled due to COVID-19, opens to the public from 8-15 May.

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'Mission [Spacexart]: Beyond Cosmologies' And 'Chronicle 1995' At The Museum Of Contemporary Art, Tokyo Ocula Report 'Mission [Spacexart]: Beyond Cosmologies' And 'Chronicle 1995' At The Museum Of Contemporary Art, Tokyo By Annabel James, Tokyo

Too many Tokyoites miss the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) altogether. Beyond both the Ueno museums and the network of newer art spaces in Roppongi, this institution of first-class exhibition facilities, a vast pubic art library and one of the most significant global collections of contemporary Japanese art takes you by surprise in Old...

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Kohei Nawa In Related Press

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OzAsia review: Vessel Related Press OzAsia review: Vessel 28 October 2019, In Daily

Known for his collaborative work with the likes of Thom Yorke, Anthony Gormley and Marina Abramovic, Belgian choreographer Damien Jalet has made a career of melding dance with other artforms. His latest project is his most conceptually ambitious yet.

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How technology distorts nature: Kohei Nawa’s art for the information age – so tactile you want to feel it Related Press How technology distorts nature: Kohei Nawa’s art for the information age – so tactile you want to feel it 24 July 2019, South China Morning Post

It takes some restraint not to reach out and touch the art when walking through a Kohei Nawa exhibition. From the stuffed animals covered in glass bubbles in his 'PixCell' series to the polished, futuristic blades of Throne, and the voluptuous objects coated in bedazzled grains from his "Particle" series, these sculptures have tactile...

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Q&A With Japanese Artist Kohei Nawa Who Distorts And Illuminates The World We Live In Related Press Q&A With Japanese Artist Kohei Nawa Who Distorts And Illuminates The World We Live In 19 May 2019, Forbes

A major figure in Japanese contemporary art, Kohei Nawa reinvents sculpture by associating cultural tradition and new technologies. We sit down with the 44-year-old Osaka-born, Kyoto-based artist.

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The Louvre has a new seat of power Related Press The Louvre has a new seat of power 28 August 2018, Japan Times

PARIS - This year, Paris has had a little bit of a Japanese makeover. To celebrate the 160th anniversary of diplomatic ties between France and Japan, the capital is hosting Japonismes 2018: Les Ames en Resonance, a large-scale initiative running through February 2019 involving numerous exhibitions and events promoting Japanese art and design...

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Kohei Nawa In Video & Audio

ASIA NOW 2018 || Yuko Hasegawa (Curator) and Kohei Nawa (Artist) Related Video & Audio ASIA NOW 2018 || Yuko Hasegawa (Curator) and Kohei Nawa (Artist) 22 November 2018, ASIA NOW

Yuko Hasegawa, Artistic Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, and Kohei Nawa discuss the artist's recent sculptures and installations, including Throne, on view under the Louvre Pyramid until January 14, 2019.

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