Kohei Nawa’s ‘Vessel’ sculptures shimmer in the dark

By Shim Woo-hyun
  • Published : Mar 26, 2019 - 17:34
  • Updated : Mar 28, 2019 - 14:51

Hypnotic sounds in a pitch-dark gallery space create an otherworldly atmosphere -- a fitting environment for sculptures of tangled human bodies glittering in the dark.

“Vessel,” a solo exhibition of some 30 works by up-and-coming Japanese artist Kohei Nawa at Arario Gallery’s Ryse Hotel branch marks the artist’s first exhibition here in seven years. 

Installation view of Japanese artist Kohei Nawa‘s exhibition “Vessel” at Arario Gallery’s Ryse Hotel branch in Seoul (Arario Gallery)

Exploring materials and techniques through sculptures and installations, his works are based on his own “PixCell” concept.

“I currently have tens of on-going projects, and the notion of a cell takes up the central part of all of my projects. A cell is the very basic unit that came to being in the universe a long time ago, and it has evolved to create the world as it is now. I am interested in how it will be in the future,” Nawa said during a press conference held March 19.

The representative works from his “PixCell” series include the sculptural works in which shimmering beads cover animals such as deer and everyday objects.

Glittering particles, silicon carbide powder that shines differently from different angles, form the sculptures in this exhibition. Adding yet more theatricality to the exhibition is the space where the sculptures are shown.

“The most important part in preparing this exhibition, however, was making an environment that will bring a certain experience to the audience. I have focused more on the space than I did on the glittering of the sculpture,” Nawa said.

“To express an image of the afterlife, I needed the space to be dark enough. To eliminate any sense of reality, I turned the lights off as well.”

The music, a slightly altered version of an original score by Marihiko Hara, adds dreamlike atmosphere to the exhibition. The music was originally used in Nawa’s collaboration with Belgo-French choreographer Damien Jalet, with whom the artist collaborated in creating “Vessel.”

In 2015, Nawa and Jalet co-produced a choreographic work of the same title which combines sculptural and choreographic elements. Dancers strike grotesque poses and abstract movements, which are reflected on the surface of the stage which has been covered with water.

In the 2015 dance production, the dancers hid their heads throughout the performance -- partly in reference to Andre Masson’s cover for the first issue of “Acephale” written by Georges Bataille. This image of seemingly headless bodies recurs in Nawa’s sculpture.

The two artists attempted to hide the heads to conceal the gender and hint at the existence of some nonhuman entity while emphasizing otherworldliness, Nawa explained.

“They are headless because we wanted to express bodies without souls. We have tried to depict bodies that struggle to find their souls in the afterlife,” Nawa said.

This Kohei Nawa‘s “Throne” sculpture is a miniaturized version of 10.4-meter-high sculpture work installed under under I.M. Pei’s 1989 glass pyramid in the Louvre’s main courtyard in the last year. (Arario Gallery)

Also on view is the “Throne” series, including a miniaturized version of a 10.4-meter-tall work previously installed under I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid in the Louvre’s main courtyard last year.

The exhibition runs through July 21.

By Shim Woo-hyun (