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KOHEI NAWA (Japanese, B. 1975)
Taxidermied coyote, glass, acrylic, crystal beads
81.5 x 99.5 x 28 cm. (32 1/8 x 39 1/8 x 11 in.);
base: 90 x 90 x 1.5 cm. (35 3/8 x 35 3/8 x 5/8 in.)
Executed in 2008
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Please note that the correct medium is Taxidermied coyote, glass, acrylic, crystal beads.

Brought to you by

Eric Chang
Eric Chang

Lot Essay

Born in Osaka, Japan in 1975, Kohei Nawa is a rising contemporary Japanese artist that has gained international attention for his meticulous works of acrylic and glass sculptures. Pixcell is a new vocabulary that the artist uses to describe his most sought after body of works. He combines two words "Pixel" and "Cell", which describe the most fundamental form in technology and humans. Pixel is a term used to describe each dot on the computer screen, that make up a 'picture and element' and the quality of the image depends of the density of these pixels, i.e. the amount of dots within a specific range. Similarly, cell is the smallest unit of life that is the basic structure of all living organisms. Kohei Nawa treats the two elements as parallel substances and eliminates the opposition of technology and nature to create a new approach for his sculpture.

At first glance, PixCell-Coyote#3 (Lot 36) looks like an animal covered with shimmering water drops on its body. It is an animal specimen that Nawa purchased through the internet. The search engine results showed pictures of the specimen and the real animal at the same time, and in todays advanced technology, it is hard to tell the difference between the real and the computer generated form. In response to this, he uses in his work transparent acrylic spheres in various sizes to cover the specimen, a literal translation of the format of the virtual image made up of countless dots. Today, we come across in our daily lives many images in digital pixels on the internet and those computer generated images represent the "real" appearance of an object. In his work, he makes use of the transition between virtual and reality by transforming digital pixels into transparent acrylic spheres in three-dimensional form. The transparent spheres on PixCell-Coyote#3 replace the flesh and blood of the animal, becoming the new cells of the sculpture. This work requires a very advanced technique to completely cover the specimen with perfectly shaped transparent spheres. Nawa's work reminds us of the artworks of various creatures in formaldehyde solution (Fig.1) by Damien Hirst. It is a universal and everlasting topic that deals with the meaning of life and death, as well as deterioration and rebirth.

Kohei Nawa's animal specimen sculpture recalls the theme and technique of the artworks by Ito Jakuchu (1716-1800), an active artist during the mid-Edo period. In his detailed and meticulous colour paintings on silk, his excellent skill of realism vividly depict the animals and plants true to life. Fish (Fig.2) demonstrates the artist's close observation of more than 10 species of fishes gathered under the same natural background. It is a marvelous work that combines realism and imagination in a format similar to that of a biology textbook. However, Nawa does not completely reveal all the details as in the paining of Jakuchu. Covered by transparent spheres, the body of the animal specimen is divided into countless parts. Viewers have to reassemble those parts to restructure the whole image in their minds. The refraction and distortion of images from the spheres stimulate observations and imagination of the viewers at the same time. Moreover, viewers need to take a closer look to understand that beneath the layers of glistening gemlike acrylic balls, is an animal that have once been alive, a real taxidermy of a coyote. Likewise, the tea set with animal skin created by artist Meret Oppenheim (Fig.3) retains the original form of the objects, but also induces a surreal imagination with its external materials. Reality and imagination has an interactive relationship, which leads to another major theme in the PixCell series.
Born in the 1970s, Kohei Nawa is the generation suffering from computer technology. From his PixCell series, he successfully associates the lifestyle and experiences of modern society in his artworks. It is a complete transformation in the materials with the perfect use of transparent acrylic spheres to cover the animal body. This concept is similar to Jeff Koons's balloon animals in stainless steel (Fig.4) which similarly reveal the shimmering effects under the lights. Weather stainless steel or acrylic media, the light reflection of the materials matches the tastes and daily habits of the urban people, making the sculpture a contemporary and popular masterpiece.

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