Interview with Fumi Nakamura for her upcoming exhibition, ‘Look Toward the Future, but Not So Far As To Miss Today’

Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present this new solo exhibition from artist Fumi Nakamura. ‘Look Towards the Future, But Not So Far As To Miss Today’ is a new body of work depicting flora and fauna.

Each element is carefully selected to represent elements of life, memory, body and soul. Nakamura pulls from the subconscious, using metaphor and imagery to create striking pieces.

In anticipation of  ‘Look Towards the Future, But Not So Far As To Miss Today’, our interview with Fumi Nakamura discusses the evolution of her style, how she balances creating for herself versus clients, and an exploration of her Japanese heritage.

For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your artistic background? How did you come to work with Thinkspace?

I have been working as a freelance artist for the past 15+ years. I graduated from San Jose State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in 2D art. I have exhibited my personal work in several galleries around the world (USA, Germany, Australia, England and Denmark), have done freelance illustration and design work for commercial clients (PUMA, Milkweed Editions, Barnes and Nobles, DIOR, Urban Outfitters, GAP), and contributed my work to multiple print and web publications (Juxtapoz Magazine, Gestalten, Ginko Press, NYLON Magazine). I have also assisted artists such as Takashi Murakami, Philip Taaffe, Sarah Morris, and Kehinde Wiley, as well as a head painter position at French luxury brand, Maison Goyard, for a few years.

Thinkspace and I began working in 2008, it’s been so long that I can’t remember how we met (sorry!), but I do remember we had a quick phone call back in 2007. We’ve been working together since then, and I was offered to do a solo exhibition in 2012. I am very excited to have my second solo with Thinkspace!

What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?

I’ve been learning and trying to incorporate my own culture into my work more. I moved to the United States when I was eleven. I stopped learning Japanese language, culture and history since then, instead, I tried to focus on learning English and American culture to fit in. Growing up in the United States made me question my existence, ethnicity and culturally more, and I was often being asked “which country is home to you?,” which troubled me a lot.

Now I am in my mid-thirties, looking back on all the work I made and working through many hours of psychoanalysis, that question no longer troubles me anymore, but it rather made me curious about my own existence, concentrating on being alive and what to look forward to in the future. I was always fascinated by death and afterlife for a long time, and wasn’t focusing on what is in front of me or to really live “now.” The title of this show “Look Toward the Future, but Not So Far as to Miss Today” reflects that.

I am exploring my roots, especially Japanese traditions, history and religion (buddhism) more, and integrating that into my drawing. Japanese culture has many symbolisms and traditions. I was especially interested in learning about Ikebana (meaning “making flowers alive” or “arranging flowers” in Japanese), which was historically made as an offering by Buddhist altar during the Heian Period. Flowers carry different meanings and symbolism individually, and Japanese culture strongly believes in Hana Kotoba (meaning “the language of flowers”), therefore, flowers are carefully selected with very strict rules.

People often choose flowers by looks. Of course gestures of flowers being gifted is beautiful but isn’t it more meaningful if each flower was carefully selected with a meaning?

But going back to Ikebana tradition, Buddhist also desire to preserve lives that lie at the root of the subject, and believe rebirth and death is a part of life. Unlike humans or animals, flowers and plants can continue to grow or regrow, even if they are detached from roots and soil. Ikebana is a form of art in which nature and humanity are brought together. Learning about this concept helped me to create my own version of Ikebana. Carefully selecting flora and fauna to express, explore, and create my own world, and share what I’ve learnt from my own psychoanalysis and experiences throughout my career and life.

Your style has evolved over the years from having a lot of negative space, to having very complex patterns with very minimal negative space. Can you tell us a little bit about that evolution?

Looking back on my older works, I wanted to contain and hold everything into a compact object. It was a very personal body of work where I collaged together some memories, created a safe space, and wanted the audiences to “unpack” it by looking at it.

In the new series, I want my mind and drawing to be a lot more free, and not to make work that is too constructed and well planned. I want my work to grow like a tree, and I realized that the older work with negative space would only hold me down and suffocate myself. In order to change and mature, I needed to change the way I think and construct my own work differently.

I sometimes think the new series is an exploded version of my older work that continues to move into different directions like how our mind wonders. It is still personal – I removed the figurative aspect, but added more symbolized objects with messages. Also I thought removing a negative space would let more audiences explore and dive into curiosity more comfortably. Like how each object is loose, floats around, and coexists together in the full sheet of paper, I want the audiences to do the same.

Who are a few of your creative influences? How have they inspired you and your work?

I have many respects to experimental noise and ambient composers like William Basinski, Leyland Kirby, Stian Westerhus, and Juv. Their work makes my body and heart shake so hard that it feels like floating on the water, taking my mind to a place that’s deeper than the ocean.

I often feel numb – it takes me a while to process my own feelings and be able to fully understand it, but these composers have helped process both mentally and emotionally so much, and they inspire me to continue to draw without losing my soul.

I respect and am always inspired by anyone who creates their own “universes,” and is obsessive towards a specific subject matter and pursues perfection!

What is a day in the studio like? Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?

Since I normally work as an artist assistant or on freelance during weekdays and day time, I usually make my work late in the evening to early morning (around 22:00~4:30). I don’t think I have a specific ritual for a creative flow, but that specific time of the day is when I feel the most productive, and not to forget to mention, it is the quietest time of the day. Also being physically and mentally fatigued helps me be in a deeper trance state where my consciousness loses some awareness of my own surroundings and times, and sometimes my own body, and that is when I dive deeper into creative space. Listening to experimental ambient and noise music adds even deeper concentrations, and helps me to retrieve my subconscious, and sometimes unconscious.

What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? How did it help you to grow as an artist?

I think making “The Universe is Perceiving Itself Through Our Eyes” was the most challenging piece I made for the show. It is the first sea related drawing I’ve drawn and they are much more complicated to draw then regular flora and fauna.

The sea is full of mysteries and I am still learning so much about it daily. I always had fascination with deep sea fishes and the condition where they all survive in. There are so many unknown facts and information about them, and yet to be discovered more. I find it very intriguing, compare and reflect these ideas to how our subconscious and unconscious minds work. When we wander deeper into our subconscious and unconscious, there are so many things we can discover and to observe, and bringing it to our conscious mind, we all learn more about ourselves.

Life in the sea is like that. Working on this piece gave me time to grow, look back and also forward to what I‘ve been longing for, and to continue to search for what means a lot to me. I think I want to make more pieces like this to reflect onto my deeper mind.

What is your favorite part of the creative process? What is your least favorite part of the creative process?

My least favorite part of the creative process is definitely coming up with the titles. I think the title could either give away too much information about the work, and/or could be misunderstood or misrepresented. It is like watching a foreign film and translation can be a bit off.

The favorite part of the other hand is filling spaces with tiny lines (always!).

How do you stay inspired as an artist when switching between working on illustrations for clients, and then working on pieces for yourself?

There are 2 separate boxes in my head when it comes to working on my work vs client works. Working for different artists and jobs throughout my career made me separate those 2 things apart.

Whenever I am working on illustration assignments, I come up with as many ideas as possible in one sitting, and provide them sketches and work from their requests. I tend to separate my feelings with client work; I keep my drawing style the same, but concentrate on client’s needs the most.

When I am working on my own work, I avoid making any idea sketches prior to productions. I start drawing directly onto paper with whatever comes to my head, and keep building it up from there. It is very time consuming in many ways, and sometimes I think to myself why I work this way. However more challenging it is, it makes me want to work harder, and satisfaction of completion of the drawings is astonishing and rewarding. I think I work this way with my own work because it is very hard to satisfy myself and I feel like there are so many things I want to accomplish, and I am not even close to where I want to be in my life as an artist or one self.

If you were given the power to master any skill or become an expert in any subject you wanted within a 24 hour period what would you focus on?

Becoming a better writer.

If you could have dinner with five people (fictional or real, dead or alive) who would they be? What would be on the menu? And what is your ice breaker question?

I’d love to get together with Noam Chomsky, Randall Carlson, Graham Hancock, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Leyland James Kirby. I’d love to take ayahuasca with all of them surrounded by shamans and ask about what made them become who they are today.

Inside the studio of Fumi Nakamura as she prepares for ‘Look Toward the Future, but Not So Far As To Miss Today’

Inside the studio of Fumi Nakamura while she prepares for ‘Look Toward the Future, but Not So Far As To Miss Today’

March 6, 2021 – March 27, 2021

Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present this new solo exhibition from artist Fumi Nakamura. ‘Look Towards the Future, But Not So Far As To Miss Today’ is a new body of work depicting flora and fauna. Each element is carefully selected to represent elements of life, memory, body and soul. Nakamura pulls from the subconscious, using metaphor and imagery to create striking pieces.

Fumi Nakamura draws inspiration from the Japanese phrase meaning “language of flower.” In line with this concept, each flower has different meanings right down to the positioning. Colors play a huge role as well, and each work becomes full of phrases and meanings. One tulip can mean a variety of things from “compassion” to “confession of love” to the “lost love” of a white tulip.

Different from her previous work in which she frequently incorporated negative space, this new series is filled up to the edges. Using custom “coffin” or “container” imagery, Nakamura takes inspiration from the funeral ceremony where we last see and connect with another being physically and reflect on the past together. This collection of works is layered and complex both in visuals and meaning

Video by Birdman

Inside the studio of Ken Nwadiogbu as he prepares for ‘UBUNTU’

Take a tour inside the studio of Ken Nwadiogbu as he prepares for his upcoming exhibition ‘UBUNTU’

March 6, 2021 – March 27, 2021

Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present Nigerian-born multidisciplinary artist Ken Nwadiogbu’s first solo exhibition in the United States. ‘UBUNTU’ is an ideology of humanity, often translated as “I am because we are.” In twenty new hyperrealist works, Nwadiogbu investigates representation through a focal-point of eyes as a means of discovering and revelation.

By recreating his own realities as a young Nigerian, his work projects the experiences encountered by black lives around the globe. Nwadiogbu invokes a humanist connection to the ongoing issues of police brutality, racism, xenophobia, culture conflict and shock. Working with charcoal and acrylic he creates a hyperrealist narrative that demands socio-political thought and discourse, bringing the ideology full circle by emphasizing an understanding that we are more alike than different.

Societal tendencies drive Nwadiogbu’s work and his commitment to technique amplifies the intention behind every mark. Nwadiogbu explains, “I implore us to consider our society as spaces we occupy and challenge us to think, in a larger context, about our role in these spaces, what we can do to influence these spaces and how we react to these spaces, because I believe, it is only then that we can discover the true meaning of Ubuntu.”

Video by Birdman

Interview with Ken Nwadiogbu for his upcoming exhibition “UBUNTU”

Thinkspace is pleased to present Nigerian-born multidisciplinary artist Ken Nwadiogbu’s first solo exhibition in the United States. ‘UBUNTU’ is an ideology of humanity, often translated as “I am because we are.” Nwadiogbu recreates his own realities as a young Nigerian, but the pieces reflect the spirit of experiences encountered by black lives around the globe.

His work invokes a humanist connection and illuminates the ongoing issues of police brutality, racism, xenophobia, culture conflict and shock. Working with charcoal and acrylic he creates a hyperrealist narrative that demands socio-political thought and discourse, bringing the ideology full circle by emphasizing an understanding that we are more alike than different.

In anticipation of “UBUNTU” which will be showing twenty new hyperrealist works, we interviewed Nwadiogbu to find out more about his creative process, thoughts about art in society, and Nigeria.

For those not familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about your artistic background? How did you come to work with Thinkspace?

Passion pushed me to become a visual artist in a society where art was not popular. While studying Civil Engineering in the University of Lagos, Nigeria, I stumbled on Hyperrealism art. The thought of creating something so real took my interest and that became my gateway into the world of art.

I got more interested in creating art that had value to me. Inspired by issues around, I took an interest in creating works that reflect the everyday struggles of people around me, with the hopes of invoking empathy. I am able to pose questions on what it means to be Nigerian and highlight the challenges that come with it. This helps to interrogate, explore and challenge socio-political structures and issues within the society.

I first worked with Thinkspace in 2019 for the LAX group shows. We kept in touch and in 2020, they reached out to me for a possible solo show in 2021 in their new gallery. Really grateful and humbled for the ability to share my conversations and works.

What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes were you exploring?

These works were created between 2020 to 2021. The question was: what did it feel like to be Nigerian during this time and what do I think we can do to make it better.

I experienced a lot of threatening events around me and could connect it with what was happening around the world. The hatred, the war, division and violence. I got really interested in making direct statements through my works concerning this. This gave rise to UBUNTU, an African philosophy made popular by Late Nelson Mandela. The philosophy of togetherness. “I am because we are”. I believe there’s a lot of good we can do if we are United.

Your work stares back at the viewer, breaking down the proverbial fourth wall – when developing your work, do you start with the expression or does the entire composition inform the gaze that is selected? 

There’s a powerful feeling staring at someone intensely and I always wanted to explore that in my works. It became my way of interacting with the viewer. My works always highlight important issues around and I want people to pay attention to them.

Taking pictures is something I enjoy doing. Pictures of my experiences and close-ups of the people around me. These sorta come together when creating my works. No routine way.

Who are a few of your creative influences? How have they inspired you and your work?

I was first influenced by works from Kelvin Okafor and Chuck Close. I later found works by David Hockney, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kara Walker, Kehinde Wiley and Ai Wei Wei to be of huge influence. These artists had something to teach me. Some about how art can save the world while some about the extent of expression.

What is a day in the studio like? Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?

No ritual. I just love creating every day. I enjoy it. I might have some breaks in between to catch up with social life, but always back to create. Once I’m ready, I put on the speaker to play beautiful music, and I just create.

What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? How did it help you to grow as an artist?

Syncytium was a work I did after my dad was diagnosed with cancer. It represents all these cells connected together to aid human life. Here, just one bad cell could ruin the whole connection, Just as one bad person could ruin a whole community. It represents humans as fields of energy connected together.

What is your most favorite part of the creative process? What is your least favorite part of the creative process?

Honestly wish I didn’t have to experience so much violence and division, so I can focus on creating other things that matter to me. Asides that, I enjoy every part of my creative process.

What do you think the role of an artist is in society?

Artists have important roles to play in society. Asides just responding and educating the society through their art, I believe they can also lend help and opportunities as well. I read an article about how Ai Wei Wei’s sunflower seeds created many jobs for skilled artisans in Jingdezhen. I also am aware of Kehinde Wiley’s Black Rock Residency in Senegal that give black artists an opportunity to grow. These are artists doing amazing things to give back and uplift the community around them.

Can you share with us a few of your favorite Nigerian or West African artists/creatives?

Oh yes. I’ve always been a fan of works from my brother Arinze Stanley. Great works from Alex Peter, Dennis Osadebe, and Babajide Olatunji too. I believe there are many amazing artists from West Africa with really powerful conversations.

What are three things you would like people to know about Nigeria? And three things about your hometown?

Three things I’ll love people to know about Nigeria:

AMAZING unseen talents
We are not fraudsters as these movies most times represent us.
You need to eat Nigerian jollof rice

Three things about my hometown:

Located in Anambra state, Nigeria
Popular language is Igbo
Beautiful music

If you could have dinner with five people (fictional or real, dead or alive) who would they be? What would be on the menu? And what is your ice breaker question? 

Oh wow. Please Let me mention five artists instead (fictional or real, dead or alive) that I’ll love to have dinner with.

Jean-Michel Basquiat
Frida Khalo
Toyin Ojih Odutola
David Hockney
Kehinde Wiley

Food Menu will include Nigerian Jollof rice and grilled chicken. With a bit of salad too.

My ice breaker question will be: What is Art? (Just because I know we could talk about it for years)

A special fundraiser for Ol Pejeta Conservancy involving Dulk x Suarez Rhinoceros ring “Sudan”

Thinkspace Projects, Spoke Art, Joyeria Suarez, and DULK are happy to announce a special fundraiser involving the new Rhinoceros ring “Sudan” that Suarez has designed and produced together with the artist. The rhinoceros-shaped ring is one of a kind and it’s made with 18-carat pink and white gold with brilliant-cut champagne diamonds alongside brilliant-cut brown diamonds and round-cut pink sapphires.

The artist has decided to donate all profits from the sale of this special ring to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Nanyuki, Kenya where he recently went and discovered first hand all the good this special organization does for the wildlife there, specially for the rhinos. After this visit, DULK wanted to pay tribute to the last male northern white rhino that lived there with this jewelry ring piece named “Sudan”.

Thinkspace Projects in Los Angeles, California, in partnership with Spoke Art in New York, New York, will be handling the sale of this incredible piece of jewelry as part of DULK’s current solo exhibition in NYC “Ephemeral Treasures” and will also be donating all their shares to the conservancy, along with the producer of the ring, Suarez, as well. 100% of the profits from this incredible piece of craftsmanship will go to Ol Pejeta Conservancy.