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"Rising Peak" | Madake Bamboo and Mixed Media | 43 x 36 x 8.5 inches | 2016

Illuminations: Ones to watch

Spotlighting the work of artist Nagakura Kenichi

Written by Michele Corriel  

Michele Corriel

Other Contributions

Synchronicity A Voice in Stone Equus Ones to Watch: Sculptor Carol Alleman Ones to Watch: Artist Kathleen Dunphy Ones to Watch: Jeweler Jesse Monongye Ones to Watch: Michael Ross Ones to Watch: Furniture maker Charise Buckley Ones to Watch: Sculptor Charles Ringer Ones to Watch: David Slonim Ones to Watch: Catherine Courtenaye Ones to Watch: Ironworker Ted Docteur Ones to Watch: Evert Sodergren Ones to Watch: Jacquelyn Bischak Ones to Watch: Guilloume Ones to Watch: David Coffin Ones to Watch: Francis Di Fronzo Ones to Watch: Jeff Pugh Ones to Watch: Geoff Parker Ones to Watch: Troy Collins Ones to Watch: Dean Mabe Ones to Watch: Shelley Muzylowski Allen Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Ones to Watch: Architect Tim Belton Ones to Watch: Anne Moore Ones to Watch: Painter Flavia Eckholm Ones to Watch: Clive Tyler Ones to Watch: Weaver Cheryl Samuel Ones to Watch: Painter Gavin Brooks Ones to Watch: Tracy Leagjeld Ones to Watch: Jared Sanders Ones to Watch: Shawna Moore Ones to Watch: Aleta Pippin Ones to Watch: Rene Gibson Ones to Wacth Ones to Watch: Mike Krupnick Ones to Watch: Matt Smith Ones to Watch: Stacy Robinson Ones to Watch: Dean L. Mitchell Ones to Watch: Kirsten Kainz Ones to Watch: Susan von Borstel Ones to Watch: Craig Bergsgaard Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to Watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Ones to Watch: La Puerta Originals Ones to Watch: Artist David Patchen Ones to Watch: Architect Aaron Kang-Crosby of Spore Architecture Ones to Watch: Frank Marquette Ones to Watch: Architect Susan Desko Ones to Watch: Sculptor Tammy Bality Ones to Watch: Suzanne Wallace Mears Ones to Watch: Clare Walton Ones to Watch: Mike Medow Ones to Watch: Leon Loughridge Ones to Watch: Eric Cobb Ones to Watch: Greg Madeen Ones to Watch: Mary Baxter Ones to Watch: Julia Lucich Ones to Watch: Kevin and Val Pourier Ones to Watch: Marc Hanson Ones to Watch: Preston Singletary Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Ones to Watch: Artist Allen Garns Ones to Watch: Jill Zeidler Ones to Watch: Painter Luke Stavrowsky Ones to Watch: Bill Poss Ones to Watch: Britt Freda Ones to Watch: Painter Cesar Santos Ones to Watch: Troy Collins Ones to Watch: Bryan Christiansen Ones to Watch: Henry Jackson Ones to Watch: Simon Gudgeon Ones to Watch: Gordon McConnell Ones to Watch: Hadley Rampton Ones to Watch: Olivia Pendergast Ones to Watch: Kevin DesPlanques Ones to Watch: Jamie Kirkland Ones to Watch: Brian Scott Ones to Watch: Kyle Polzin Ones to Watch: Ben Pease Ones to Watch: Julie Gustafson Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Ones to Watch: Artist Linda Elliott Ones to Watch: Deborah Berniklau Ones to Watch: Painter Denise Lemaster Ones to Watch: Architect Erik Peterson Ones to Watch: D. LaRue Mahlke Ones to Watch: Artist Crista Ann Ames Ones to Watch: Christopher Ries Ones to Watch: Mary Bechtol In the Studio: Richard Parish Ones to Watch: Florian Roeper Ones to Watch: Greg Kelsey Ones to Watch: Andrew Denman Ones to Watch: Sandra Pratt Ones to Watch: Jeff Williams Ones to Watch: Josh Clare Ones to Watch: Daniel Weaver Ones to Watch: Nora Naranjo-Morse Ones to Watch: Marela Zacarías Ones to Watch: Glenn Dean Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Ones to Watch: Artist Jinni Thomas Ones to Watch: Artist Karen Bezuidenhout Ones to Watch: Rory Egelus Ones to Watch: Ceramic Artist George McCauley Ones to Watch: Painter Rick Stevens Ones to Watch: Jon Dick Ones to Watch: Mixed-media Artist Christopher Owen Nelson Ones to Watch: Diana Tremaine Ones to Watch: Josh Elliot Ones to Watch: Doug Smith Ones to Watch: David Barrett Ones to Watch: Howard Knight Ones to Watch: Silas Thompson Ones to Watch: Kristine Allphin Ones to Watch: Chris Morel Ones to Watch: Sherry Salari Sander Ones to Watch: Alan Carr Ones to Watch: Robert Royhl Ones to Watch: Robert Seliger Ones to Watch: Karen Woods Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Ones to Watch: Artist Glendon Good Ones to Watch: Painter Deladier Almeida Ones to Watch: Sculptor Stephanie Revennaugh Ones to Watch: Painter Gregory Packard Ones to Watch: Randy Stromsoe Ones to Watch: Beth Loftin Ones to Watch: Dyani White Hawk Ones to Watch: David Bardwick Ones to Watch: Donna Gans Ones to Watch: Susan Jarecky Ones to Watch: Carrie Fell Ones to Watch: Rose Masterpol Ones to Watch: Bryan Peterson Ones to Watch: Terry Karson Ones to Watch: Lisa Ronay Ones to Watch: Tracy Leagjeld Perspective: Gennie DeWeese [1921-2007] Ones to Watch: Andrew Mann Ones to Watch: Bonnie Teitelbaum Illuminations: Ones to watch Perspective: Frances Senska [1914–2009] Ones to Watch: Artist Ralph Wiegmann Ones to Watch: Artchitect Candace Miller Ones to Watch: Architect George Gibson Ones to Watch: Architect Nick Deaver Ones to Watch: Sculptor Bale Creek Allen Ones to Watch: Painter Brianne Janes Ones to Watch: Danae Bennett Miller Ones to Watch: Mark Edward Adams Ones to Watch: Josh Chandler Ones to Watch: Tony Abeyta Ones to Watch: Robert Spooner Marcus Ones to Watch: Ken Andrews Ones to Watch: Michael Kessler Ones to Watch: Jim Dayton Ones to Watch: Rahnee Gladwin Ones to Watch: Geoffrey Warner Ones to Watch: Gwen Samuels Ones to Watch: Kensuke Yamada Ones to Watch: Michael Greenspan Ones to Watch: Chuck Middlekauff Illuminations: Ones to watch Illuminations: Ones to watch Collector’s Eye: Native American folk art collector Bruce VanLandingham
December 2016 | January 2017


Nagakura Kenichi translates the wind, the leaves as they move on water and the elegant fold of a bird’s wing. Using bamboo and washi paper, he threads together the shapes, allowing each piece to develop through a sense of rhythm and flow. Working in this medium for more than 30 years, Kenichi broke from ancient Japanese tradition to create his own unique process.

“In contrast to the traditional process, the way I work allows me more freedom to create multifaceted bamboo sculptures in a variety of shapes and sizes,” he says, referring to the common method of starting at the base and finishing at the rim. 

“Instead, I prefer the unconventional process of creating one section and allowing it to guide the creation of the rest of the artwork. The actual step-by-step process for a particular work varies from piece to piece, depending upon what I am seeking to convey through the piece.”

His work doesn’t depend solely upon traditional mediums or techniques, and Kenichi continues to experiment by introducing new materials and textures. However, before he starts any piece, he thinks deeply about what emotion he’s communicating to his audience.

“Once I’ve settled on this emotion, I start to think about what will work to create this vehicle of expression,” he says. “It is always a journey of trial and error to find the right material and technique to make it happen. In my previous series, I have created greater substance — what I call visual weight — by applying layers of homemade earthen clay to the bamboo armature beneath.”

 In his most recent work, Kenichi has changed the theme to find harmony within a dichotomy — visual weight contrasted with lightness. 

“I have also found myself interested in bamboo-fiber paper-making, which tells me that the bamboo material I work with can also transform itself into a thin paper. I decided to incorporate this washi paper into the bamboo-and-earth combination to help me bolster the structural integrity of my sculptures. This new technique enables the expression of the theme through the flatness of their forms.” 

Instead of relying on his past work, Kenichi erases all of his previous work from his mind. He then focuses on his inner voice and waits for images to appear.

“I try to catch a fragment of something that leads me down a creative path,” he says. “I have learned to be patient, allowing the unfocused seed to eventually take shape and become solidified in my mind. This formulation process is essential to my art-making.” 

The bamboo forms evoke a feeling of nature, but not necessarily as a direct connection to the natural world as it is seen. It is rather related to the experiences of nature that every person has within — the memory of nature, shared among the entire human race. 

“Light casting a shadow, the decaying of leaves and the sound of the wind are actual natural phenomenon, but these patterns themselves do not spark my imagination,” he says. “Rather, the way humans experience these patterns — something more fundamental — is what touches my senses and sparks my imagination.”

Kenichi’s work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Japan, France, Belgium and the United States. His work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Asian Society, the Japanese Society, and The Museum of Art and Design in New York, New York; Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts; Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, California; New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Chicago Cultural Center in Illinois; Denver Botanic Gardens in Colorado; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; and the Ishigami-no-oka Museum of Art in Iwate, Japan. He is represented by TAI Modern in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Editor’s Note: Parts of this interview were translated from Japanese.

"A Scrap of Paper" | Madake Bamboo, Washi Paper and Mixed Media | 10 x 33 x 10 inches