An Interview with Fumi Nakamura

by Ken HarmanPosted on

Opening this weekend at LA’s Thinkspace Gallery is an exhibition of new works from NYC based artist Fumi Nakamura (who’s first feature on the site garnered her the #5 spot in our most read posts of 2011.) Following her signature style of tangled flora and fauna, enveloping at times, a romantic pair of pale figures set against white backgrounds, her new work, ‘Our Hands Will Eventually Destroy Everything Beautiful,’ features a nuance in the complexity of these scenes. Created entirely in graphite and colored pencil, the new works feature a wide ranging color palette and strange inclusions amongst the natural elements. Recently we had a change to interview the artist about using colored pencils, living in NYC and Norwegian bands. Read the full interview and preview some of the new work below, here on Hi-Fructose.

What was your childhood like? Can you pinpoint the time or feeling when you felt drawn to create ?

From my current perspective as an adult, I find my childhood to be dark and clueless to my own surroundings. I remember a lot of great moments growing up but I don’t see them as happy, maybe content is a better word for all the positive moments. Growing up in a small town surrounded by nature was wonderful though. I love talking about all the small moments and fuzzy memories I experienced there. I am making a map of places, pin pointing small moments I remember in my head. Hopefully one day I can share it with some people. Anyway, it was getting harder as I grew older, especially when I moved to the United States. I’ve always enjoyed and liked to draw but when I moved to the foreign country where I had to restart my life- I realized I needed to draw. It was my only escape. Eventually I became more comfortable speaking English and made some friends but usually after dinner with my family, I locked myself in my room drawing. I became more serious and felt drawn to create when I moved the college, where I felt like restarting my life once again.

Very few artists work with colored pencils, can you talk about why you have made this choice and how it effects your process?

Out of all the other mediums I chose colored pencil because it fits perfectly in my right hand. Though, I am not great at holding them and literally destroy my hand from using them. But mainly, I can control colors better and am able to work into details easily. I also finding paintings to be stressful. I am too impatient to wait and too OCD to make a mess in my studio.

How does living in NYC effect your work ? Do you often escape to view natural landscapes ?

Living here in New York makes my work and myself more humble and makes me work harder. Meeting new artists and working relentlessly, I find it healthy and great for me since I do like the challenge. Though, I would love to escape to nature more often and I dream about going to all kinds of places that are filled nature and quietness, but also it’s easy to get stuck in this concrete jungle. When I leave New York, I miss it, and when I come back, it feels good to be back. This city is strange. But I talk about moving to somewhere quiet and peaceful with my partner a lot. Eventually somewhere green and close to a body of water.

Often your figures re-appear tangled together and white haired. Is this couple part of a continuing narrative ?

Yes/No : I am in process of figuring out the new series and I am planning to un-tangle and keep white hair. Though having a collage like composition is something I enjoy making and would like to continue but I would like to expand them into something else. I think it’s time for change. It might be a characteristic of my work style but if it doesn’t work well with my thesis and artist statement, I need to make the change and move on.

Can you talk about some of your current inspirations?

Lately, I’ve been taking pictures and videos of light and shadow. I am hoping to incorporate it into my current work (meaning I am still figuring stuff out). Music inspires me but I haven’t really checked out any new stuff. The most recent one I’ve listened and loved was Norwegian band Alog’s “Unemployed” 4LP sets. The side E and F are truly magnificent. I see so many kinds of lights and colors, sometimes images of landscapes. It”s amazing, I highly recommend listening to that album and making something. It takes you somewhere. Anyway, not much inspiration from art and artists these days. I haven’t been really been checking much and even when I go to art openings, I don’t get that excited as much I used to. Maybe I need a vacation and that could help me to be inspired again.

What is an “average” working day for you like?

I work full-time as a studio assistant / designer at a textile company in Brooklyn. Then after 6 pm, I go to my studio in Brooklyn or my partner’s studio in Manhattan, then work till 1 ~ 5 am. It all depends on the workload I have to take care, so I usually work 12~15 hours total average.

I know you also work as an illustrator. Can you talk about how that challenges / effects your personal work or vice versa?

Clients often come to me with specific images for me to work on, but their ideas dont match the image. Following that, budgets and time frames usually do not work together, so sometimes I feel like I am letting down my client. My personal work takes lots of time – in concept and construction. Most client work requires 1 to 2 days to do sketches, work on the actual drawing for couple days and then turn in final and do couple fixes depends on clients. But the process usually takes 1 week to complete (and if you are lucky, some projects are 3 weeks to a month), and that is not enough time to make something I make with my work. So usually, what I make with clients are simpler version of my personal work.

How important are the titles to you work ?

Very – Though sometimes I feel like I give out a lot of information and story from the titles but I hope it’s vague enough to make people wonder about the artwork. I hope!

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