Koji Nakazono was born in 1989 in Kanagawa, Japan. At his graduation exhibition at Tokyo University of Arts in 2012, he was selected for inclusion in the exhibition “Art Award Tokyo Marunouchi 2012”, in which 30 students selected from all art schools in Japan presented works, and where he received the Tomio Koyama Award and the Audience Award. He held solo exhibitions at Tomio Koyama Gallery in the following years in 2013 and 2014, and participated in his first museum exhibition, The Way of Painting, at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in 2014.
His remark that ‘it’s more comfortable to be painting’ expressed his overflowing passion for painting evinced by his prolific production of works. Supported by his excellent techniques, Nakazono’s talents were clearly revealed in the liberated precociousness of his practice, full of prospects.
However, in the hot time of July 2015, the news that Nakazono had passed away suddenly arrived. He went missing in the sea in Kagawa prefecture, and the young talent of only 25 years old ended his life. His family and all those who are attached to him grieved and lamented his too-early departure. Since then his work has not been presented, but has been included in the public collection of Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. Now, the two first exhibitions since his death have been organized: a group exhibition NEW VISION SAITAMA: The Emerging Body at The Museum of Modern Art, Saitama (September 17 – November 14), and this exhibition Koji Nakazono at Tomio Koyama Gallery (September 16 – October 15).
Nakazono’s work amazes us for its prolificacy at his age and its variety in expressions. From a painterly work with the rich brushstrokes of a wide dancing brush, to an intense flood of colors and lines of crayon as if the artist were possessed by something. He also employed various media – linen, board and canvas. By covering all over the surface in an abstract way he limited the depth of the background, and by arranging multiple motifs such as unique figures in layers he is able to create pictorial space with perspective in only a limited area. Wavering motifs come to acquire images, and once they do they start flickering again. Adventurous, idiosyncratic and rich landscapes appear.
Nakazono remarked as follows:
What I am painting is not important. It’s important to create many of them. (Painting is) creating outlines. We can never know, see, or touch the inside.
(8/ tv , Koji Nakazono exhibition, documentary video, 2014)
After meeting someone I felt like I was able to paint, and I finished most of the paintings in this way. The surface of each finished work looks different, but it’s all the scenery I wished to see.
(Koji Nakazono, 2013)
A close look at the motifs that Nakazono often depicted reveals that they didn’t appear out of habit but were arranged carefully according to the composition. Art critic Ryo Sawayama remarks the following on Nakazono’s paintings’ structure:
Things inscribed within the outline of figure, or things inlaid in the space among abstract patterns. (…) “Faces” are carefully depicted all over the pictorial structure of 3 or 4 layers in all different manners. In this sense Nakazono’s work inlays complicated fragments, and stretches around the thread-like elements, turning a painting into a closely composed sculpture, as well as allowing figures=characters’ intrusion at the same time.
(Ryo Sawayama, Can Humanoid Complete Structure, Bijutsu Techo, October 2013)
This exhibition will feature works in different sizes that have never been presented before. It is a rare opportunity to feel the rich sceneries that the young artist saw, his devoted trust and love for painting, and his excitement as a painter through the artwork he left for us.