22 June – 18 August 2021
White Cube Paris
White Cube Paris is pleased to present an exhibition of painting, works on paper and ceramics by Japanese artists Minoru Nomata and Kazunori Hamana.
Both Nomata and Hamana's work examine our relationship to past and future, to nature and to the built environment. Rooted in philosophical methodologies, they turn to ancient and contemporary forms to pose questions about the strengths and vulnerabilities of human existence in terms of both the natural and the industrialised world.
Over the past four decades, Minoru Nomata has painted a lexicon of visionary architectonics: imaginary buildings, monoliths, ‘eco-scapes’, engineering structures and aerostats. Monuments to the human condition which are devoid of people, these hybrid, free, unrestricted structures sit against empty, indiscernible locations, like stage sets that transcend a time-space continuum.
Growing up in the industrial district of Meguro in Tokyo during a time of rapid economic growth, Nomata became fascinated with urban architecture, industrial structures and the subsequent process of destruction and reconstruction of the city's fabric. In his early works from the mid-1980s, elements of Classical, Renaissance or Medieval architecture are incorporated into compositions with dramatic shifts in perspective and scale, which draw inspiration from religious painting and architectural ruins. In these works, such as Arcadia-14 (1988), or Decors-31, (1987) – which features a walled enclosure with stepping stones and slide, a playground amid classical ruins – 'construction, repair, and demolition are going on simultaneously.'
Working in series, Nomata's paintings consistently focus on a single central motif; a superstructure anchored to land or sea or rising into the air, often rendered in bone-coloured stone as if tonal realism has been bleached out of the image. Although identifiable as 'buildings', with entrances, apertures, stairways and cladding, they are un-achievable and functionally elusive. Calling to mind to the paintings of Magritte or the sparse classicism of de Chirico as well as the 18th century 'visionary' architectural drawings of Piranesi, Ledoux or Boulée, Nomata's exacting draughtsmanship, flat handling of his subject matter and reduction of colour results in a discernible sense of the unreal.
During the 1990s, Nomata focused on solitary structures with an elimination of detail in a style described by the architect Irata Isozaki as 'amazingly clear...with expression of temporal retroactivity', lending the compositions a dream-like clarity. In Forthcoming Places-11 (1996), for example, a half moon shape is balanced on top of a sphere recalling Cézanne's treatise that artists should treat ‘...nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone, with everything put in perspective so that each side of an object or a plane is directed toward a central point.’ More recent works such as Points of View-18 (2004) or Skyglow-V17 (2008) feature an increasingly hard-edged and reduced style, depicting incomplete buildings against night-time skies, a 'nameless architecture' that points to a future yet to be determined. 'People, politics and the economy, but also planet Earth are in a fluent state and I can’t seem to see any measures or prospects that are certain. Yet...I am always wishing that my architectural visions will eventually herald something positive’, Nomata has said.
Kazunori Hamana makes large, organic vessels out of clay, whose delicate forms seem shaped by the forces of nature. Inspired by traditional Japanese tsubo – functional clay jars dating back to prehistoric times, used to store and process food – they are made by hand using a traditional coil process, produced over time with improvisation and experimentation.
A self-taught ceramicist, Hamana lives in Isumi, a rural fishing village in Chiba prefecture and his work connects to and evolves from these natural surroundings. Using a specific clay from Shiga prefecture and various mineral glazes which are scratched, painted or scored, his vessels are elemental and fragile, referencing the effluent materials of nature such as discarded husks, tree bark or once-inhabited shells. Gestural stripes, symbols and language cover their surfaces, an expressive abstraction that is inspired equally by the paintings of Cy Twombly as by symbols on ancient Japanese pottery from the Jomon or Yayoi era.
Hamada's unique methodology involves leaving the vessels outdoors following their firing, either in direct sunlight or in the shade of a bamboo grove. Resulting in weathering and iodisation from the salt air of their seaside location, their final appearance changes according to seasons, even breaking at times and then repaired using the traditional method of Kintsugi, with gold or silver dusted lacquer infilling cracks and joins. Hamana welcomes this process of continual evolution which allows for unexpected tones, forms and structures in the final work. 'Clay is a natural thing: it changes.' he has commented. 'I don't want to fight with nature so I follow it...the outcome depends on weather and temperature. I just follow nature.”