Posted October 11, 2014 by Cooper Point Journal in Arts & Entertainment
 
 

Artist Interview: Jean Nagai

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By Phoebe Celeste Thomas

Jean Nagai is a visual artist living in Olympia and an Evergreen graduate who has had a number of solo exhibitions in the Washington area and across the country. His art is featured on our front and back cover. He is inspired by nature and what he calls “the contemporary pop cultural landscape.” He says his work is “often abstractly representative.” This much was seemingly the case with his exhibit at this year’s Arts Walk, which took place at Stable Studios, a space resembling a converted garage on Cherry Street near Olympia City Hall. The setting was intimate yet somewhat spacious and modern, and the artwork had a similar feel. Nagai’s artwork is refined and often meticulous. He takes a medium which is stagnant by nature and manages to suggest with it the energy of its author and also conjure a sense of energy in the enthused viewer. Colorful and ornate yet simple, Nagai’s artwork is an eye-catching and thought-provoking contribution to the contemporary art scene. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions, and this is what went down. seemingly the case with his exhibit at this year’s Arts Walk, which took place at Stable Studios, a space resembling a converted garage on Cherry Street near Olympia City Hall. The setting was intimate yet somewhat spacious and modern, and the artwork had a similar feel. Nagai’s artwork is refined and often meticulous. He takes a medium which is stagnant by nature and manages to suggest with it the energy of its author and also conjure a sense of energy in the enthused viewer. Colorful and ornate yet simple, Nagai’s artwork is an eye-catching and thought-provoking contribution to the contemporary art scene. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions, and this is what went down.

Who are some of your favorite artists? Seriously? So many to list… I like Olafur Eliasson, James Turrell and Anish Kapoor for installation work. Jason Rhoades, Sterling Ruby, Mike Kelley. Robert Gober, Sarah Sze, Cornelia Parker, Barry Mcgee, Keegan McHargue, Howard Finster, Dana Dart-Mclean, Bruce Nauman, Jean Michel Basquiat, Mark Rothko, Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler, Jenny Holzer, Emma Kunz, Meta, Horfe, Oze 108, Blade 2. This list continues as I live and meet new artists, young and old, that I’m inspired by.

Do you think Olympia is a good forum/space for visual artists in your experience? I think Olympia is a good place to incubate ideas and execute them without thinking about capitalism. Olympia has nurtured some amazing people for a town this size! I do wish there were a few more zones for people to play noise and create art beyond their abilities. I did hear they are building a huge arts facility downtown, but won’t be completed for years, but will most likely help establish a solid foundation for arts here.

What are your motives for participating in Arts Walk? This summer I had a show in Seattle with Baso Fibonacci that only a few people from Olympia saw. Unfortunately, our show was taken down and the owner of the gallery lost his mind and tried to smash our faces with a hammer. True story. I also wanted to show that work here in Olympia for people who didn’t get to see it.

Do you have personal or communal goals for your artwork? I want people to know we live in an intense, wild world that is hard to deal with, but sometimes it’s good, and to wake up the next day feeling okay living.

If you were in a science fiction reality where magic exists, what would your art be like, or is your art more rooted in the real world? My art would be made of pure light in a spectrum of colors dancing rhythmically  across the sky with a drone sound of moving water. I guess I just described the Aurora Borealis?

Do you think of your life as a work of art? There are some days when I wake up early to the birds chirping at each other and look at the beautiful gold sun shining through the misty green trees and think  “No way!” and then think “Yah weh!”

Is your art either an exploration or a mission? Usually I try to kill time by doing the same thing over and over between eating and shitting until it’s night time. I’ll look at what I drew on the paper and I’ll either hate myself or laugh to myself.

Do you have a personal philosophy? I’m trying to be more open about my focus on making art. My hand hurts. Should I keep drawing? I’m bored. I’m hungry. Did I create something that justifies my existence in this world?

What’s your favorite thing you did in the last 48 hours? Eating food with friends. Making food for my girlfriend. Walking with my dog, petting the cat and looking at the spectrum in the sky.

What do you like to think about in your free time? Parallel realities.

Do you have any additional statements you would like to add for the CPJ? I answered these questions when I was high (being high is a way to deal with life but not an excuse for poor behavior).

Check out Jean’s work by following him on Instagram @jean_nagai.

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