Nao Matsunaga, Hybrid of sorts/Hybrid of Thoughts

Friday Dispatch – 7 October 2022

Nao Matsunaga, Hybrid of sorts/Hybrid of Thoughts
Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix, Spitalfields

23 September – 12 November 2022


“Deep down I want to make rocks,” says Nao Matsunaga, standing in front of his reverberating new works. Looking at the sculptures that punctuate the gallery and the large colourful canvases, this affirmation makes total sense. It resembles Japanese rock gardens from Matsunaga’s native homeland. The artworks are carefully composed arrangements for the viewer. The five larger ceramic pieces look like natural elements, counterintuitively decorated by expressive touches of colour, erratic lines, and glazed finishes. As beings on this planet, 2022, introduces an element of research: the interplay between human and non-human; natural and artificial.

The play between figurative and abstract is constant in this exhibition. Speak for others 2, 2022, hangs mid-way on the back wall of the gallery, it looks like a figure with its mouth wide open. Matsunaga is interested in the anthropomorphism of objects and beings.

“The magic of the human eye is to find shapes where there are not,” says Matsunaga. “Did we not all, as children, try to find familiar shapes when looking towards the clouds or mountains?”

In both his ceramics and paintings, Matsunaga investigates the abstract. Downstairs, the viewer sees an ambitious body of new works, consisting of large round-shaped ceramics. These hang like mirrors, akin to circular Renaissance paintings. They capture the viewer in awe because of their abstract imagery and complex textures. The pieces look like landscapes from above, mountains and rivers adorned with a mix of colours. His way of working with clay is special, as he uses a ‘slab’ technique to join different pieces together like dough. The sheer labour from which these works manifest parallel action paintings. In Addition to this, he works horizontally on his ceramics and canvases; here, intuition and expression come together. Similar to collage, there is the challenge of working with different materials; and yet, the outcome is a dance where the artist moves with various elements that morph to make the work.

The variety of clay used and final details in the finish captivate the viewer’s attention. In a smaller room, brightly coloured canvases set an emotional tone for the exhibition, one of freedom and experimentation. Throughout the exhibition, it is clear that Matsunaga manages to treat clay like painting and painting like clay.


Ilaria Puri Purini

Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix, 19 Goulston St, London, E1 7TP
Opening Times: Wednesday – Saturday. Noon – 6pm
Exhibition open until 12 November 2022