Interview with Makotu Nakagawa
Makotu Nakagawa | Japan
What comes after death? This age-old question has been the cornerstone for many artists over the years. Makotu Nakagawa approaches the subject with intimacy, clarity and graphic representation, depicting his father and his body through numerous stages of life, death and the spaces inbetween.
Makotu was born in a rural town in Japan, when his father was 50 years old. For that reason, he grew up feeling the anxiety that father will die in near future. As he grew older, that anxiety grew.
After completing his aesthetics degree at Keio University in Tokyo, he worked in a liquor store and pursued photography in the evenings at Tokyo College of Photography in Yokohama. In order to escape from anxiety of death, he kept taking pictures over ten years. Only his father as a subject.
At the beginning he began taking pictures to escape from reality, but after time, it turned into a means to accept and record the raw reality that was in front of him. Even if it is hopeless and cold like an ice. Because, infinite beauty lives in the sight of reality.
Contemporary Art Station: What is art for you?
For me, art is the only way to get to know reality better. My aim is to scoop up "presence". However, I have never realized it. No, to be precise, I can not know if it has been achieved or not. The moment I think I caught it, it has already faded away constantly.
CAS : What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
When I was a university student, I saw Diane Arbus's "Untitled" and was struck by lightning. Then, I bought Nikon's FM2 and started taking pictures of everyday landscapes, seniors of band, etc. However, it took no time to get to know that my photo is one of a number of similar pictures. I wanted to take something that only I could take, and I aimed for a photographer in earnest. After graduating from university, I pursued photography in the evenings at college of Photography.
The most influential experience was made when I took the last portrait of my father(on the top page of my website). It was taken just before he was sent to the crematory. I was crying. Not because I was sad but because the image on the focusing glass was so beautiful. I can not find a suitable word to express that feeling, but it has a very important meaning in that it scoops me up from the oblivion of death.
CAS : Which subject are you working on?
My greatest concern is to listen to "the voice of silence". It is involved in death and life, mourning and salvation, absence and presence. What I intend in the series "uro no ena" is to present antithesis to general view about those. For example in Japan, it is thought that a spirit continues to live as a part of descendants or great nature after death, and can be connected with living people. The remains will be the medium to contact with the dead. And people will seek salvation in that bond and will restore everydayness while healing sorrow.
However, I think that true mourning is realizing the disconnection with the dead, and enduring the extreme of sorrow. Salvation appears in desperate and inconsolable surroundings, and beauty and sublime are living in a cold reality like holding an ice. It is paradoxical, but the absence of salvation is the only salvation. Therefore, I want to not give meaning and interpretation to death, but keep holding it as absolutely meaningless. I keep bending ear to these remains. In order to carry this world after my father passed away.
CAS ：What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
As I mentioned earlier, my aim is to scoop up "presence" that constantly going to disappear. I have to throw away creative moods, ideas, internal refining, and even myself. That is more difficult than anything. Although, I do not know if the attempt is successful in my work.
CAS : What do you hope for viewers to take away from this collection specifically?
I hope that the viewers can find something new in my works and notice its depth. And it is my great pleasure that they feel beauty and sublime in there.
CAS: What are you currently working on?
So far, I have been taking pictures of my father only. Next time, I would take other things, -landscape, still life, architecture, people, ruins, etc. However, no matter what picture I take, it will be no different than listening to the "voice of silence".
CAS: How do you view your art career in five years?
Japanese aesthetist Juzo Ueda said like this. "What leads artist's life is the artistic conscience of him. It is to listen to the call from deep bottom that he has not seen yet." Five years later, I hope that I have reached a deeper level than now.
Thank you Makotu!