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stuffed deer, glass beads sculpture
138 x 73 x 54 cm. (54 1/4 x 28 3/4 x 21 1/4 in.)
Executed in 2007
SCAI the Bathhouse, Tokyo, Japan
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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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-Deer 7# (Lot 25) looks like a deer head 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-Deer 7# 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 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.

The representation of the deer illustrates Kohei Nawa's inspiration from Shintoism, notably through the relation to light and the image of the deer itself, an important motif in Shinto iconography. Paintings of the Kasuga Shika (fig. 1) represent the deer as a messenger of the Shinto gods who live at the Kasuga Shrine. The Rinpa School, from the Edo period (fig. 2), also influenced Keiho Nawa. While studying in London, he also discovered Antony Gormley's sculptures, sometimes consisting of iron bubbles. Gormley explores the relation between the human body and space. The quest to challenge perception is also at the heart of Magritte's works. Displacing visual patterns, playing visual tricks and surprising or disturbing the viewer's reading of the work, Magritte explores the flexibility or perception and reality. Visual associations, precisely what Kohei Nawa plays with, call the infamous work of Maurizio Cattelan to mind. Cattelan has used taxidermied animal to provoke and reveal contradictions (fig. 3). Here the intention is different but the manner is comparable. Both artists play on appearances, with Kohei Nawa, the viewer may not notice the taxidermied animal at first; with Cattelan, they see it instantly, but its very appearance of life in the actuality of death is unsettling.

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 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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