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Walk in the Maze Forest

Masao Nakahara
5 May - 3 Jun, 2023
Although the Cherry Trees are already in Blossom IV (2023) by Masao Nakahara
Although the Cherry Trees are already in Blossom IV (2023) by Masao Nakahara

SENS Gallery is pleased to announce ‘Walk in the Maze Forest’, a solo exhibition of Japanese artist and sculptor Masao Nakahara. Through tranquil and vivid surroundings, Nakahara invites audiences to explore the ‘maze forest’ of his creative mind, reflecting on what it means to exist in the world in which we live in.

‘Walk in the Maze Forest’ showcases Nakahara’s new works, stemmed from the everyday drawings created in his diaries in the last four years. The pages of these diaries are a portal to what the artist has described as a “familiar yet wondrous place, like a mysterious forest”. Nakahara’s visual language is transcribed through ageless humanlike figures interacting with the diverse terrains on which they stand upon, existing within the artist’s own memories and daydreams. These figures assume a state of universality, involving themselves in situations, and questioning what it means to be human. They are innocent in nature, with a subtle liveliness to their characters. But beneath the surface, they are concurrently attempting to find their way in the world, balancing loneliness and the search for their identity, as well as dealing with memories and looking to the future. 

Emblematic throughout his work are the presence of figures that enhance the pictorial depth and surface of the paintings. Through his experience as a painter and sculptor, Nakahara holds great understanding and concentration of wide, unpredictable spaces that allows his figures to be involved in. With fine nuance, they are tiny and remote yet simultaneously remaining generous and concrete to the scenarios they are in, even stretching from one canvas to another. Their lively characters are amplified by the thick brushstrokes of paint sticking out of the canvas. From small drawings to larger mediums, Nakahara showcases moments of painting that he creates exclusively for himself, without a prior thought of the audience – these images provide an intimate reflection on the essence of one’s existence in the world. 

Nakahara’s creative identity is forged as a symbiosis of Japanese culture, surrealism and German neo-expressionism that started in the early 1980s. Significant leitmotifs, like cherry blossom trees, juxtapose his unconventional depictions of Western art historical allegories: a submerged Garden of Eden featuring slender, embryonic depictions of Adam and Eve contrasts against the landscapes of fusuma sliding door paintings in Japan. His gestural brushstrokes resemble that of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Willem de Kooning and Edvard Munch; the solitary, youthful cartoon-like figures reminisce the style of his fellow Japanese artist and friend Yoshitomo Nara, who he has exhibited alongside. 

With these surreal environments, idyllic interiors, and intimate observations of memories, Nakahara’s paintings are images that portray humankind and nature coming in tandem, reflecting on his own feelings of the world. Throughout the exhibition, the viewer is encouraged to navigate the maze forest of Nakahara’s imagination and reflect on the complexity of human nature.