KYOJI NAGATANI | FOCUS

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«Entering Kyoji Nagatani’s studio in Milan means crossing an ideal threshold: making a mental leap that allows us to leave behind the chaos of the metropolis, the colorful crowd, the noises of the street and to access a new, welcoming, calm reality, based on ancient rhythms. There is silence, love for words spoken calmly and accurately, in a low voice. And, suddenly, you realize how much we lacked these moments and how much we needed them»

Alessandra Redaelli

Kyoji Nagatani was born in Tokyo in 1950. He graduated at the Zoukei Arts University in Tokyo and was awarded with a degree from the Research Institute of the State University for the arts in Tokyo, Craftsmanship course. In 1976 he graduated in bronze casting at the Tokyo University for the Arts. After that, he won a scholarship from the Italian Government in 1981, and in 1984 he graduated from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera under the tutorship of Prof. Manfrini and Alik Cavaliere. Nagatani’s artworks soon gained international resonance and became part of many private collections. He is a worldwide famous sculptor who lives and works between Italy and Japan.

SEEDS OF TIME

Il Seme del Tempo N.4, 2016, patinated bronze, 23 x 28 x 19 cm
Il Seme del Tempo N.5, 2016, patinated bronze, 25 x 38 x 24 cm

One of the most evocative and well known themes of the Japanese sculptor is the one of “seed of time“, from which many bronze works take their name. The subject is a simple and iconic form, a grain: it is symbol of the limitless potential of time and life, whose origin hides in the mystery of a primordial seed.

“The seed contains the potential of life, its future, its construction; it is its symbol.”
– Kyoji 
Nagatani, May 2012

Nagatani seeds have not an abstract geometric shapes but appear soft, sensual, natural, almost warm beyond the bronze armor.

The Swiss architect Mario Botta wrote in June 2015: «In order to properly interpret Nagatani’s sculptures, it is essential that the observer recalls his sensitivity and active participation. As it sometimes appears in the titles of his works, the sculptures are shaped as “seeds”, primordial elements with unexpressed potentials, with hidden realities to be discovered. […]  Looking at these works the imaginary of the observer is pushed towards a cosmic dimension; sculptures appear as atoms comparing to matter, or cells for tissues, or stars as parts of galaxies. The sculptures are messages in the incomprehensible mystery of the creative force. […] Nagatani’s forms live a difficult relationship between fragile balances and the emotional condition of the observer becomes part of the work itself. The sculptures assert themselves as signs that evoke in silence the deepest secrets of life.»

"Le pietre oniriche", installation view from the double solo show "Nagatani - Annalù", PUNTO SULL'ARTE 2017

The Japanese sculptor is able to create works of unexpected material power but at the same time with a strong symbolic and poetic charge. As for his “pietre oniriche“, his “paesaggi dell’anima”, his “arche”, his astrolabes…

Astrolabium n.1, 2019, bronze, 80 x 50 x 50 cm

Nagatani’s sculptures live a relationship of continuous tension between fragile balances. Each sculpture becomes almost emblematic of the duality of the worlds from which it descends culturally and artistically, east and west, Japan and Italy. From his homeland, Japan, the artist has inherited his poetics of essential, calm, clear and compact forms, like a haiku. From the western world, often hard and multifaceted, he has inherited instead elements of roughness, materiality and dynamism, certainly inspired  by the Italian tradition of bronze working and by the great sculptures of Arnaldo Pomodoro.

Unlike Pomodoro, however, Nagatani lets levity, rather than tension, poetic warmth rather than cold monumentality shine beyond the bronze armor. Thus, on its shapes, the gaze dwells for a long time and can be reflected. “Le pietre oniriche” suspended along a vertical thread offer the suggestion of balance, not stillness, and the most material of the arts, sculpture, thus becomes in Nagatani’s work a metaphysical act.

FACE TO FACE

There’s no better way to understand an artist’s work than to listen to him talking about his life and artworks…

We present an evocative video, made for #Fienilarte Social Art Gallery in June 2017: Nagatani speaks of his life, through images and memories of his childhood, such as the teachings received by his grandfather, but also through shots taken while working, from the design of a work in the studio to the bronze casting.

WATCH VIDEO

«Kyoji, if you want something in your life, it is not enough just to try to take, but you also have to give.. and after some time, for the laws of nature, what you desire will come to you»

Viaggiatore del tempo, 2010, bronze

MONUMENTAL WORKS

Living and working between Italy and Japan, the sculptor creates important monumental works, such as the Monument for the Hachioji Municipal Theater in Tokyo, “Sedia del Vento” for the Open Air Museum of Utsukushigahara in Nagano. “Porta del Vento” for the Hakone Open Air Museum of Sculpture, and three monuments for the Yoshikawa City Public Gardens (Saitama), including “Il Seme del Vento” and “Arco del Vento”.

«Returning with the mind to the ancient time of myths, it is sometimes possible to grasp in the sound of the wind the words of the gods. Blowing over the wide blue sea and the stillness of the earth, the wind becomes a voice while the light draws its being, in the shape»  
– Kyoji Nagatani

Among the artworks created in Italy we remember “Seme” (2012) for the Bergamo Building School in Seriate (BG), the sculpture “Viaggiatore del Tempo” (2008) at Voghera Airport 829 and “Trono del silenzio” (1998) in Pioltello (MI).

Nagatani’s sensual and monumental compositions combine dream, poetry and art, offering themselves as an opportunity for aesthetic and critical reflection: the Wind, Time, the Column, the Door, the Chair, the Earth, Silence constantly return as keywords, to give rhythm to the titles of his works. The artist faces things from a philosophical, as well as a physical point of view. At the core of his works, after all, there are also the calm presence of the landscape and the lyricism of nature: Nagatani invite the viewer to go beyond the visible, beyond silence, to find himself in the harmony of the entire universe.

We cannot therefore forget to mention the imposing and evocative “Porta della memoria” (Door of Memory) (2009) at the Chiesa in Valmalenco, Sondrio, of which we show some historical shots below.

In 2020 he took part in the group exhibition “Welcome to Sculpture Studio” at Hakone Open Air Museum with the artwork “Astrolabium no.1 – Space -Temporal Vibrations” (see the picture) and, thanks to this work, he showed the creative process of casting bronze, the technique he uses in all his artworks.

From October 31 to November 8, 2020 Kyoji Nagatani was one of the protagonists of the exhibition “Si dice sull’acqua e unisce” at Museo Scalvini in Desio (MI), curated by Cristiano Plicato (painter and curator of Donazione Museale Giuseppe Salvini). 

«The moment of casting represents a passage that I like to call divine. When matter becomes white-hot it takes place a transformation capable of going beyond the matter itself, it’s on a different level, I could say spiritual».

Exhibition “Si dice sull’acqua e unisce” at Museo Scalvini in Desio (MI)
Exhibition “Si dice sull’acqua e unisce” at Museo Scalvini in Desio (MI)