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KOHEI NAWA (B. 1975)

PixCell-Deer #29

KOHEI NAWA (B. 1975)
PixCell-Deer #29
mixed media sculpture
132 x 77 x 60 cm. (52 x 30 3/8 x 23 5/8 in.)
Executed in 2012
Private Collection, Asia

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Shanshan Wei
Shanshan Wei

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Lot Essay

One of the Kohei Nawa’s most distinguished seriesis PixCell, in which he homogenises the physicalityof found objects, ranging from toys and animaltaxidermies to containers, by affixing a new layer ofskin to them. Nawa acquired items from an onlineauction and ‘PixCellated’ these objects using glassbeads. The PixCell treatment re-engineers the physicalcomposition of the objects. In the PixCell world,everything shares a unified DNA. The PixCell seriesenvisions the worldview of Kohei Nawa. He states,

“To our senses of vision and touch, the world is acontinuum of surfaces, and all things are covered withsome sort of skin. Because we sense and becomeaware of objects through their skin, it is the qualityof the skin that determines whether or not we feelsomething to be real. The skin becomes an interfacethat links sensibility with matter, and images areproduced through this interplay of sensibility andmatter.”

In this series is PixCell-Deer #29, a sculpture of adeer that has been encapsulated in a coat of delicateglass beads. Visually, the deer has been broken downinto the glass sphere unit, a method typical of thePixCell series. The granular skin is akin to the cellsof an organism or pixels, the basic unit of computergraphics. The deer becomes a real-life analogue todigital imagery through the artist’s hand. The glasscoat alters the natural texture, colour, and form of the animal fur, giving the PixCell series a surrealistic touch. Theact of affixing foreign media repeatedly to domestic objects issimilar to Yayoi Kusama’s Accumulation. In PixCell-Deer #29, Nawatransforms the deer’s physicality and releases the deer from itsworldly state. The layer of glass beads creates a myriad of refraction.When looked at under light, PixCell-Deer #29 appears like a glowingform of life that walked out of a movie and materialised in thephysical world. It could even be said that the artist inspires infiniteimaginings of how new species could be created with the fastgrowingbioengineering field.

If we consider the material and structure of PixCell-Deer #29, itis apparent that, as a three-dimensional work, it does not chieflyconcern itself with traditional methods of sculpting and modelling. PixCell reflects the idea of ‘readymade’. In Bicycle Wheel , MarcelDuchamp selected and transformed found objects, a wheel and astool, into a work of art. Likewise, in Bull’s Head , Picasso emphasisedthe idea of multiplicity; he claimed, “If you were to see only thebull’s head and not the bicycle seat and handlebars that form it, thesculpture would lose some of its impact”. The PixCell treatment maygive the objects a homogenised look, but it remains important forthe audience to contemplate the process of transformation into thefinished object.

Nawa appropriates the deer motif to highlight the transformation ofmatter between the spiritual world, cyberspace, and physical reality.The deer motif carries multiple meanings in Nawa’s oeuvre andJapanese culture. According to the artist’s survey on the internet,deer is one of the most frequently searched categories on Japaneseauction websites. Deer are loved and respected in Japaneseculture. In Shinto religion, deer are believed to be messengers andcompanions of the deities. Today, these spirit animals continue toroam freely in front of the Kasuga Grand Shrine in Nara, a placenear the artist’s Kyoto residence. These bowing deer in Nara attractvisitors to the historical landmark every year. With the signature deermotif, PixCell Deer #29 has references to not only popular culturebut also to Japanese traditions.

PixCell-Deer #29 brings an extraordinary optical experience tothe viewer that emphasises the depth of the gaze as the glassspheres distort the skin. The artist says, “The lensing effects of thedifferent-sized cells enable a number of details of the object to beseen simultaneously. This produces a visual experience involving aunique depth and continuity.” The sheer surface lure may promptthe audience to examine the orbs and contemplate the relationshipbetween each PixCell and the larger sculpture. The reflectivesurfaces create a viewing experience suggestive of Yayoi Kusama’sprojects, such as Narcissus Garden . In the current work, each PixCellis an enclosed micro-ecosystem and together, the final artworkembodies a mesmerising universe of Nawa’s creation.

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