Art Exhibition: Lya Nagado “Still Life” ICN Gallery London
Exhibition: 10 May- 23 June 2012 at 96 Leonard Street; London EC2A 4RH
ICN gallery is pleased to present Lya Nagado’s first solo exhibition “Still Life”. Her most recent series takes the viewer to a journey of life mediation through portraits of dolls.
Nagado possesses an extraordinary creative harmony that allows her to construct forms that fully adapts to the mystery and energy that emanates from the subjects portrayed. Soft but confident lines and imaginative colors generate static images that are at the same time full of energy and vitality.
At first sight Nagado’s portraits of dolls emanates classic values of balance and serenity of the Renaissance masters. A more detailed look allows us to realize, that it is in reality reflecting a new outlook on the world we live in, especially our childhood memories.
It is the distorted and sometimes distressed reality through infantile eyes, mysticism and simplicity that lead us to a different dimension.
The reality that Nagado shows us is certainly from a different world but somewhat as real as the world we live in. While her works stand out for their wittingly simple composition, the entire gallery is taken over by these visually compelling and almost overwhelmingly intimate pieces.
(courtesy of Ermengol Puig i Tàpies)
Lya NAGADO (b. 1972; Sao Paulo, Brazil)
With a background in Communications, for almost two decades Lya Nagado explored her creative talents, artistic skills and critical eye in the fields of design and illustration, having her works in shows and publications worldwide, including IDN (Hong Kong) and Shift (Japan) magazines. In 2008 she decided to become a full time artist, and since been awarded her MA degree in Fine Arts with distinction at City and Guilds of London Art School in 2011, Nagado was shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award 2012, and has been exhibiting regularly in the UK and Europe.
The body of personal choices that I have built in the course of my painting process represents, consciously or unconsciously, an attempt to enact the association between the territories of history and imagination that we all inhabit, akin to the universal symbolism of playing with dolls itself. Similarly, the title “Still Life” is a reference to the historical theme of painting inert objects, posing the question of life within apparently inanimate forms, in conjunction with the idea of cycle of life and rebirth.
As a subject, dolls can symbolise aspects of our primordial nature in the very core of the construction of the self. They are everyday objects that readily evoke childhood memories, a powerful sense of personal and family history and nostalgia for beauty and purity. At the other end of the spectrum, dolls can also be somewhat a source of anxiety, as empty vessels that hold the fear of the uncanny and the supernatural.
Above all, they recall the potential of hosting a life force that connects us with the archetypal world.
The philosopher Giorgio Agamben suggests the hypothesis that all play (and games and toys) descends from what once belonged to the realm of sacred, but somehow had lost its meaning as the modern world has became more secular. In Japan, toys (Omocha), as a taxonomical genre, have far trespassed the realms of childhood: “Indeed, most traditional toys originally were, and to some degree continue to be, talismans and amulets for the blessing and protection of the holder, tokens ofand material links with certain holy places and their tutelary deities.”. For the Japanese, traditional dolls have an even more profound quality of relics, as the embodiment of beliefs that are passed from generation to generation.
As an artist, the process of making paints from pure pigments and the preparation of supports from organic raw materials are ways to connect with my own work on a more ancient level. The transformation of matter from its primordial state invites one to a meditation on one’s own essence and origins, echoing the nakedness of being, which traverses time and borders. The historicity of materials in my practice, such as gesso, vellum,and earth pigments, performs as a medium to our common cultural memory.
On these grounds, the images emerge gradually, through many transparent coats of pensive colours, witness to the passage of time and the superimposing of ideas.
The questions that “Still Life” poses in my work are consequently about how traditions can survive, fade or transform. This series of paintings look at fragments of rituals that are somewhat in dissonance with their original meaning. Through the agency of combining heritage and culture, we are constantly incorporating changes in the portrayal of the contemporary. However, concealed within these layers, we might just be able to see a glimpse of a deeper underlying nature.
Lya Nagado’s pieces resemble the earlier Flemish school of classical art which is utilized in Jan van Eyck’s precise techniques and material. Like making a film, there are many layers of thin paint on the wood block, which is a classical technique used to express heavy density and tender light in the texture while engraving her sensitive movement of lines onto the surface of the painting. Instead of calling it a drawing, the traces of paint overlapping each other are painted with passion, and are collectively forming a shape. The motif on the surface are all child-like, while being almost like a doll and also somewhat neutral (in sexuality). Moreover, when we are observing the piece, it feels as though we have walked into a special private dimension, which is most likely triggered by the doll motifs in her work.
Dolls are given life with the addition of the face (eyes, eyebrows, mouth, hair, expression etc.), clothing, hands, and foot, and as long as these elements exist, it will become an item even if it is to be hollow. Therefore, a doll is a collection of details. Details are a quality present with the Buddha statue, and a characteristic common in the Japanese art of the sculpture. For the case of Hans Bellmer, his Western physical symbols have sculptural meaning. Bellmer’s ball-jointed doll has a body that works like a script but has the mechanism to divide and disassemble when the ball-joints are altered, and this replaces the piece with a new poetic context. The most significant difference between a statue and a doll is that where a statue must have meaning, the doll does not. On the other hand, director Mamoru Oshii mentions that “a doll removes vague cognition from the human, and becomes the ideal physical icon.” In the movie “Innocence”, Mamoru analyses the similarities between animation and doll creation, and questions “why humans are attracted to dolls” and “what others are to a human being”. Conclusively, if the quality of a doll rests in its feeling of privacy, sharing of time (with the owner), and lack of meaning (emptiness), then the inq uiries questioned in Lya’s work are in the same framework.
Lya’s “Still Life” can be perceived as her personal idea based on her faint sense of Japanese aesthetics from her background, and homesickness she felt during her youth. Ultimately, she views the doll as an entity of its own and she tries to discover life using her fresh sensibility, while questioning the big theme of identity.
About ICN gallery:
ICN gallery is a contemporary art gallery based in London that actively seeks to showcase and share with the UK public the most outstanding upcoming young contemporary artists from Japan and other Asian countries.
Neither seeking to imitate the West nor call for a return to pure tradition, the ICN gallery artists’ works present messages on today’s dynamically changing world of Asia. Producing works of pure creativity, they expand beyond established boundaries, incorporating ideas of art, culture and philosophy with originality and skill.