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Kodai NAKAHARA: paintings
Written by Hironori YASUKOCHI   
Published: July 05 2011

A: Paintings vs. Drawings
This solo exhibition of Kodai Nakahara was entitled “paintings”. In fact, this title can be translated into “kaiga” in Japanese, but what I actually saw in this exhibition were not the so-called “kaiga”.

Then, if we use the word “paintings” as the term which can be paired with “drawings”, this title would have a more limited definition. In other words, the former means creating colored planes by painting and the latter means drawing lines.*1 However, even if we interpret the meaning of the title of this exhibition in this way, the title does not seem to meet the first impression that we get at the exhibition. The exhibition made me feel that it mainly showed us neither “kaiga” nor “paintings”, but “drawings”.

Why then was this exhibition named “paintings”?

The final goal of this article is to answer the above question. And I start by taking a brief look at creations shown in this exhibition. They can be broadly divided into two categories.

[fig.1] "A-movie, B-movie / DVD Stack Edition"
2009 - 2011, Installation View
Courtesy of Gallery Nomart

[fig.2] "A-movie, B-movie / DVD Stack Edition"
2009 - 2011, Installation View
Courtesy of Gallery Nomart

[fig.3] A-movie
Courtesy of Gallery Nomart

[fig.4] "Beads [exp.01]" plastic beads
216x172.8cm, 2011
Courtesy of Gallery Nomart

[fig.5] "PAINTING - beads [exp.02]"
plastic beads,14x14cm, 2011
Courtesy of Gallery Nomart

[fig.6] B-movie
Courtesy of Gallery Nomart

[fig.7] "Beads [exp.01]" detail
Courtesy of Gallery Nomart

[fig.8] Exhibition View
Courtesy of Gallery Nomart

[fig.9] Installation View
Courtesy of Gallery Nomart

[fig.10] "PAINTING - beads -edition [exp.01]"
plastic beads, paper
15x15cm (each), ed.20, 2011
Courtesy of Gallery Nomart

(1) Exhibits created by using DVD [fig.1] [fig.2]
① A-movie, B-movie / DVD Stack Edition
This work is composed of twenty sets of pieces, each of which is made up of fifty DVDs on which there are drawings. These DVDs are kept in a bulk container on the surface of which we can also find drawings. A total of one thousand DVDs are displayed on the wall. Twenty bulk containers are exhibited on the table. A film work entitled “A-Movie/B-Movie”, which was released in 1996, is included in each DVD.

② Film projection [fig.3]
This creation is divided into three parts, namely, A-Movie, B-Movie and C-Movie. “A-Movie” and “B-Movie” are films which are included in the above work (①) and “C-Movie” is a scanned image of the drawings which are found on the surface of DVDs mentioned in ① (In “C-Movie”, the images of the surface of DVDs which were used as supports are also being projected). In both “A-Movie” and “C-Movie” the images of the drawings are being switched continuously at high speed. They make viewers imagine cutoff animations (However, each of the images is not linked with each other. It is projected independently at high speed). In the second part, “B-Movie”, we cannot find any image of drawings. There are lights of various colors, such as blue, yellow and red, which are being switched at high speed in the same way as in the other parts.

(2) Exhibits created by using iron beads [fig.4] [fig.5]
① One work was made by arranging beads 14 mm in diameter in a rectangular shape. Under it, we can find “graffiti” written by using beads. These graffiti are similar to the drawings which have been written on the above-mentioned DVDs.

② Another work was created by arranging beads 9 mm in diameter in a circular pattern. The total number of circles is twenty and the way of arranging beads differs from one circle to another.

In this way, many drawings are shown in this exhibition. Most of pieces which I have mentioned in (1) are classified into drawings. The “graffiti” referred to in ① of (2) may also be called drawings.

However, in considering the question which I have mentioned at the beginning of this article, it is not important to think of the above points, because in this exhibition the drawings are not presented simply as the so-called drawings.

As for (1), as I have mentioned above, the pieces of ① are treated as materials to be used to create the exhibits of ②. If viewers who are looking at the film (②) are asked, “What are you viewing?”, they would answer, “We are looking at the films of drawings”. Actually, however, their eyes can only recognize the fragments of the images of drawings. On the screen, one image switches into another one at high speed. Therefore, we, viewers cannot completely understand the whole image of each drawing. This may be the reason why viewers can only receive an accumulation of vague images of the drawings from the films [fig.6].

Such an impression of the exhibits may become stronger by the intervention of B-Movie. As I have already written in this article, B-Movie shows us the blinking lights of multiple colors. This leaves us a different impression from that of A-Movie and C-Movie, in which the images of drawings are being aired. However, if we compare the impression of B-Movie with that of A-Movie and C-Movie, we would be made recognize commonalities among them more strongly than their differences.

A-Movie presents us the images of the drawings, B-Movie shows us the blinking lights and C-movie again presents the films of the drawings. B-Movie plays a role in resolving the difficulty of understanding A-Movie and C-Movie. In other words, B-Movie encourages us to view A-Movie and C-Movie, namely, continually changing images of drawings, while being focused not on their individuality but on a transit of light [fig.7].

The above indication can also be applied to the exhibits of (2). As for (2), the way of creating the exhibits (arranging beads) seems to be similar to pointillism which was used by neo-impressionist artists.

However, in contrast to pointillism in which generally complementary colors are laid side by side with each other, (2) is composed of beads which were arranged at randomly. Therefore, in (2), each healthy color of beads is appealing individually instead of complementing with each other. And as a result, the exhibits of (2) totally leave us a dynamic impression of colors in moiré.

In this way, drawings and beads used in the exhibits transcend the limited frameworks of planes, such as those of lines and dots. As I have mentioned “vague images of the drawings” and “dynamic impression of colors”, drawings and beads are transformed into “paintings” which have broader meanings than those of drawings and beads. This would be related to the reason why this exhibition was entitled “paintings”.

B: Analog vs. Digital [fig.8]
By the way, the creations shown in this exhibition can also be viewed in terms of another adversary relationship than “paintings vs. drawings”. This relationship can be called analog (continuing) things vs. digital (separated) things.*2

As for (1), for example, drawings are found on the surface of DVDs. In fact, essentially the DVDs themselves are classified into media (containers), but they were used as supports in creating the exhibits. Therefore, we tend to interpret such as that the images which originally should be kept inside of the DVDs are depicted on their surface.

However, this is not a correct way of interpreting the exhibits, because things which are included in the DVDs are digital data of drawings and what depicted on the surface of the DVDs are analog images. They can never be treated as the same things.

This can also be applied to the relationship between the projected images of drawings and the drawings which were depicted on the face of the DVDs. They are not the same things.

In addition, let me consider the “graffiti” which are found in ① of (2). I have mentioned earlier that they are similar to the drawings of (1). However, in this exhibition there is a critical difference between the graffiti and the drawings. The graffiti are composed of not analog lines but arranged beads. Looking at the graffiti in close-up, you would notice that the things which look like drawings are composed of dots (beads) arranged.

In this way, there is also another advisory relationship, such as analog vs. digital, among the pieces displayed in this exhibition. And the both works of (1) and (2) were created with the aim of making viewers incorrectly view digital pieces as analog works and consider them as the same things. If we, viewers, do not misidentify the creations of (1) and (2) or not treat them as the same things, the works of ① and ② of (1) would be recognized as completely different exhibits and the creations of (2) would be viewed simply as an accumulation of dots.

Of course, such a way of viewing exhibits, namely misidentifying creations and treating different kinds of works as the same ones, is not specific to this exhibition. And the best example of this is the above-mentioned pointillism which was applied by neo-impressionist artists. Although there cannot be found any physical line between dots, viewers feel as if there are lines or planes which are bordered with lines. In other words, they are made recognize as if images of lines and planes are appearing between dots.

Actually, such a phenomenon can be found commonly among almost all of works which are called “kaiga”. It can be said that this kind of phenomenon is one of requirements for creations which are to be classified into “kaiga”. For example, when people look at “Mona Lisa”, only materials, such as supports, paints and varnish, exist in the picture. In spite of this, viewers feel as if a smiling women and a three-dimensional space appear on the canvas.

In this way, we usually refer to images which appear in a different dimension from that of physical exists as “kaiga” [fig.9] [fig.10].

Considering the above-mentioned point, it can be said that this exhibition represents an orthodox attempt in the field of “kaiga”. As for the exhibits of (1), the creations of ① were made up as analog drawings and were transformed into digital data to be used as materials for creating ②. The films of ② are projected while being switched at high speed. In the exhibits of (2), the digital dots were made assemble to depict analog lines and planes. Just as painters who try to create different images from those of materiality though they use materials (paints), all attempts in creating the works which are shown this exhibition were made with the aim of transforming materials into images.

Based on the above-mentioned recognition, what then do the visual effects of the pieces which are shown in this exhibition, such as “vague images of the drawings” and “dynamic impression of colors”, mean?

As I have already confirmed in this article, images exist in a different dimension from that of physical things. In other words, “kaiga” and “paintings” are created to realize a dream of completely separating objects from a physical dimension. If so, it would be able to say that such works as shown in this exhibition, in which visual effects have been realized by transforming analog things into digital ones, represent original factors of images, “kaiga” and “paintings”.


In this review, I use these two words, “kaiga” and “paintings”, as terms which have different meanings respectively. In other words, “paintings” means a concept which can be paired with that of “drawings”, and “kaiga” is used as a broader concept than that of “paintings”. The concept of “kaiga” includes that of “paintings” and “drawings”.

Originally, the term “kaiga” was created in the Meiji period as same as many other words which are used in the field of art. The kanji character, “繪 (絵)”, is a combination of “糸” and “會”. “繪 (絵)” means creating patterns by using strings of five colors. In other words, it includes the meaning of having colors. On the other hand, “畫 (画)” originally meant creating border lines in fields and later it came to refer to dividing things. The word, “絵画 (kaiga)”, was created by combining these two kanji characters (cf: Doshin Sato "〈NIHON BIJUTSU〉TANJO KINDAI NIHON NO "KOTOBA" TO SENRYAKU", p.44). Thus, “絵画 (kaiga)” includes the meanings of “絵” and “画”, which are translated into “paintings” and “drawings”, respectively.

The terms, “analog” and “digital”, mean the ways of classifying things in terms of amount. Sometimes “analog” and “digital” are translated into a continuous quantity and a discrete quantity, respectively. Simply speaking, a continuous quantity means the amount which is measured in length or weight and a discrete quantity refers to the amount which is measured by counting the number. For example, when we draw a straight line on a paper without lifting our pencil from the paper, the line continuously increases in length while we are drawing it. The line does not get longer suddenly, such as from 5 cm to 6 cm, but it reaches 6 cm after passing through all of the countless numbers of length existing between 5 cm and 6 cm. A continuous quantity is measured in this way. On the other hand, when we count the number of lines, it grows one by one, such as from five to six. There is no intermediate space between five and six. These two numbers are completely separated with each other. This is an explanation how to measure a discrete quantity.

The above criteria can also be applied to a common distinction between “analog” and “digital”. Let me give you an example of clocks. As for analog clocks, the time is indicated continuously by using the movement of clock’s hands. Digital clocks show the time with individual numbers per unit (e.g. __ hours __minutes __seconds).

In this review, I distinguish the meaning of “analog” and that of “digital” based on the above-mentioned principle. Generally speaking, characteristics of “analog” can be defined as the continuity and a series of things which cannot be separated, and those of “digital” can be explained as things which can be divided into some parts or can be counted.

Reffered exhibition;

"Kodai NAKAHARA: paintings", held at Gallery Nomart, April 23 - May 28, 2011

Last Updated on July 07 2011

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