NAGAI Kenji - 永井 研治 (b. 1947)
Just now, walking down a busy Manhattan street, I noted a flurry of drifting pear blossoms, reminiscent of the snowflakes that decorated our sidewalks just a few weeks ago. This reminded me that, no matter where one lives, nature surrounds us.
Japanese artists have long celebrated nature, sometimes through brilliant, gold-leafed screens representing seasonal landscapes, composed of both real and imaginary flora and fauna. Contemporary artists still choose nature as their theme, although it may not necessarily be a figurative rendering thereof.
Nagai Kenji lives far from the big metropolises of Japan. When asked to describe his work, he states that he wants to visually evoke the wind rustling through a grove of trees. His fluid, gestural style indicates an abundance of energy and when I pointed out that the lines of his work often spill over onto the blank space of the sheet of paper used, he merrily answered: “Nature knows no boundaries. Leaves are carried by the wind and never settle in a pre-determined place, nor for very long.”
Nagai taught lithography for many years and prints his work using limestone; an outlier in this time when zinc and aluminum plates are most often used as the lithographic matrix. Since he lives in the countryside, he has ample space to store his lithographic stones, a luxury not afforded to artists residing in the city, especially in Japan.
Any time our Tokyo gallery has a showing of his work, his students appear, eager to see what Nagai san has translated from nature this time, closely followed by his collectors, keen to snag a new print from one of his very limited editions.