Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Nao Matsunaga: Beyond Ceramics

Volunteering is an amazing opportunity not only to share your passion with others but also to discover artists. The Anthony Shaw space at York Art Gallery is full of interesting artists including Colin Pearson, Jim Malone and Kerrie Jameson but one of my favourites is Nao Matsunaga.

Legs (I-V) Nao Matsunaga (2012) 2
Legs (I-V) Nao Matsunaga (2012) 
Nao Matsunaga was born in Osaka, Japan and now lives and works in London. He studied ceramics at the University of Brighton and at the Royal College of Art in London. His work changes our perception of ceramic and uses other natural elements such as wood or paper. In an article about his residence at the V&A, he talks about his interest in ceremonial objects and the natural world.

Legs (I-V) Nao Matsunaga (2012)
Legs (I-V) Nao Matsunaga (2012) 
The Anthony Shaw collection is a mix of ceramics and natural elements. Matsunaga fits in the second phase of Shaw’s collection, when he started to interact with sculptural ceramics, moving away from traditional pots. Matsunaga translates natural elements into totems and ceremonial objects. His Totem is a good example of how to use clay with a sensual touch, you could almost see Matsunaga’s fingerprints on the artwork, yet with an end result that is almost frightening, a massive totem which seems to look down at you. Ceramic is now a “strange” material, not the domestic material that we are used to.   

Totem Nao Matsunaga
Totem Nao Matsunaga 

The other pieces exhibited in the space are related to each other; a drawing and a sculpture, Duality (2010). The sculpture was bought by Anthony who then acquired the drawing, without realising the links between the two. The two pieces are now exhibited together and interact with one another. The drawing shows the mental process of Matsunaga, an almost calligraphic drawing in black ink. However, the sculpture itself is a challenging and intriguing piece, closer to the artist’s interest in ceremonial objects. The piece seems to be part of a ritual and as a viewer you want to understand how this form made of clay can “float” on its wooden structure. The mystery surrounding the artwork is what strikes the eye, along with the reinterpretation of clay as a light material.  

uality Nao Matsunaga (2010) & Study on Duality Nao Matsunaga (2012)
Duality Nao Matsunaga (2010) & Study on Duality Nao Matsunaga (2012)

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