Shigeru Nishikawa

Copyright(c) Shigeru Nishikawa

Sealed House 121-New National Stadium 2- 970×1940mm oil, graphite, metal powder on canvas, panel 2020

Painting by Shigeru Nishikawa; Abstract Expression as Constant Flux Between Life and Death

Yasuyuki Nakai
Chief curator
The National Museum of Art, Osaka

The current paintings by Shigeru NISHIKAWA, as he himself states, are inspired by situations in which sheets used to cover buildings under construction (or possibly deconstruction) suddenly appear in urban scenes.The sheet can be described as being physically held up by the structure in order to fully cover the building. In any case, Nishikawa views the relationship between sheet and building as analogous to the canvas’ wooden frame and fabric. This is made clear by the fabric sheet covered by his rough brushstrokes representing abstract expressions in oil. We can assume that NISHIKAWA is building the enormous fabric of flattened space that appears incidentally in our everyday world. Rather than simply retracing the reductionist path taken by Modern painting, here presents this space as abstract expression spread out onto a single canvas. The silhouette of buildings covered by the sheet of abstract expression, come together with backgrounds painted in variations of monochrome and gradation as a single painting for an overall sense of unity.

Beyond the practical conception of sheet and covered building discussed above, we can also consider analogies between all kinds of situations found in life and extinction, or birth and death, as devices that express continual change in all creation. For example, an enormous sheet that suddenly appears out of vacant land could represent the birth of a structure; oppositely, as a sheet that covers a dilapidated building it could represent destruction. By the time we realize what we see, the location could revert to being a space of land. Or possibly, as humans we exit the womb to enter the outside world, and though perhaps the first thing we encounter is the baby’s bath, in the first moment of sleep, we are covered up by some form of fabric in that time and place. When we lose recognition of our world, although the length of time may vary by situation, a majority will be spent covered by fabric as we depart from the present world.

If we combine the above ideas, we see that NISHIKAWA sets a stage for opening up abstract expression as a symbolic representation of the entire phenomena of birth and extinction that surrounds us. Moreover, it is clear in his work that the sheet serves as a tool for proving humanity’s preservation of cultural patterns. Overall, Nishikawa’s oil expression rendered by rough brushstrokes can only be viewed as chaos, comparable to a surge that symbolizes the many phenomena and living forms that exist in life and death, expanded onto the fabric set of the canvas. Personally, the first time I felt a sense of life and death in this series of NISHIKAWA’s painting was probably through an early work that represented a sheet covering a shrine. Without fixing to the specific characteristics of the motif, he chose to represent the subject in a more universal and modern way by spreading this view of life and death that penetrates all phenomena.

Lastly, NISHIKAWA’s abstract expressions on canvas may even capture recent explorations in natural science, especially the enormous, seemingly unfathomable theme of our universe’s birth and death. NISHIKAWA’s paintings cannot be contained by art historical frameworks or by religious doctrine – they are expressions that venture beyond into new interdisciplinary possibilities. (2017)