Interview with Makotu Nakagawa
What comes after death? This age-old question has been the cornerstone for many artists over the years. Makotu Nakagawa approaches the subject with intimacy, clarity and graphic representation, depicting his father and his body through numerous stages of life, death and the spaces inbetween.
Makotu notes: "I keep bending ear to these pictures, in order to carry this world after my father passed away. The work is only way for me to listen to the voice of silence. "
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us how you started in the arts? and your first experience in art making?
My name is Makotu Nakagawa. I majored in aesthetics and art historiography at Keio University in Tokyo. At that time, I saw Diane Arbus's "Untitled" and was struck by lightning. Then, I bought Nikon's FM2 and started taking pictures of everyday landscapes, seniors of band, etc. However, it took no time to get to know that my photo is one of a number of similar pictures. I wanted to take something that only I could take, and I aimed for a photographer in earnest. After graduating from college I learned skills professionally. I worked in a liquor store and pursued photography in the evenings at Tokyo College of Photography in Yokohama.
How would you describe yourself and your artwork?
My greatest concern is to listen to "the voice of silence". It is involved in death and life, mourning and salvation, absence and presence. What I intend in the series "uro no ena" is to present antithesis to general view about those. For example in Japan, it is thought that a spirit continues to live as a part of descendants or great nature after death, and can be connected with living people. The remains will be the medium to contact with the dead. And people will seek salvation in that bond and will restore everydayness while healing sorrow.
However, I think that true mourning is realizing the disconnection with the dead, and enduring the extreme of sorrow. Salvation appears in desperate and inconsolable surroundings, and beauty and sublime are living in a cold reality like holding an ice. It is paradoxical, but the absence of salvation is the only salvation. Therefore, I want to not give meaning and interpretation to death, but keep holding it as absolutely meaningless. I keep bending ear to these remains. In order to carry this world after my father passed away.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
In the sense that "something breathes life into the work", I will not be inspired from something to make a work. My aim is to just face the subject, and scoop up "presence" that constantly going to disappear. I have to throw away creative moods, ideas, internal refining, and even myself. Although, I do not know if the attempt is successful in my work.
However, there are so many artists I have been influenced. Jan Groover, Shiryu Morita, Robert Motherwell, Mokkei, Francis Ponge, Lee UFan, Jean Arp, Tohaku Hasegawa, Mark Rothko, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Alberto Giacometti, Robert Ryman, Basho Matsuo, Henri Matisse, and many many more.
What emotions do you hope the viewers experience when looking at your art?
I hope that the viewers can find something new in my works and notice its depth. And it is my great pleasure that they feel beauty and sublime in there.
When do you know that an artwork is finished ?
It is a very very difficult question. There are probably three possible answers. First, In terms of printing photos, after the process of developing → stopping → fixing → washing → drying → flattening → checking, the work is finished if I judge it to be "Fine Print". Second, in terms of achieving artistic purpose, I have never realized it. No, to be precise, I can not know if it has been achieved or not. As I mentioned earlier, my aim is to scoop up "presence". However, the moment I think I caught it, it has already faded away constantly. Although I forgot who they said, it is exactly "the object is complete, the art is incomplete". Finally, in terms of the independence of the work of art, from the moment the work is created, it leaves the author and stands alone. It will always keep updating itself, creating new meaning.
What has been the most exciting moment in your art career so far?
The word "exciting" may not be the correct expression, but it is when I took the last portrait of my father(on the top page of my website). It was taken just before he was sent to the crematory. I was crying. Not because I was sad but because the image on the focusing glass was so beautiful. I can not find a suitable word to express that feeling, but it has a very important meaning in that it scoops me up from the oblivion of death.
How long does it take to produce one work?
It doesn't take much time to make a single photo. Several photos are in progress at the same time, but it takes only 3-4 days to complete all the processes such as shooting, making negatives and printing. However, it takes a little more time for me to be convinced that those photos are strong enough to stand as art work. For example, it took more than 10 years for the series "uro no ena". In fact, for a long time, I did not know what I was doing. Until I finished taking pictures of my father's remains. When it was done, about one thousand photographs of my father (including bodies and portraits) taken so far were connected by one line. But from next time, I will be able to make works faster.
What exciting projects are you working on right now? Can you share some of the future plans for your artworks?
So far, I have been taking pictures of my father only. Next time, I would take other things, -landscape, still life, architecture, people, ruins, etc. However, no matter what picture I take, it will be no different than listening to the "voice of silence".
Do you have any upcoming events or exhibitions we should know about?
I will participate in the following exhibitions. Perhaps I will present new works at any of the exhibitions.
April: NYC4PA "THE BLACK AND WHITE " NY
April-May: ITSLIQUID "VENICE INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR" VENICE
August: SUMMER ART FAIRS WEEK NEW YORK
November: THE SALON OF ART+DESIGN FAIR December:ART BASEL MIAMI WEEK
March: NY ART FAIRS WEEK SPRING 2020