Artwork by Kazuo Nakamura,  Solitude

Kazuo Nakamura

oil on canvas
signed and dated 1973 lower right; titled and dated “September 6, 1973” on a label on the reverse
24 x 30 ins ( 61 x 76.2 cms )

Auction Estimate: $15,000.00$10,000.00 - $15,000.00

Price Realized $28,320.00
Sale date: September 24th 2020

Acquired directly from the artist
Private Collection, Toronto
While many of his contemporaries embraced the gestural mode of abstract expressionism, Kazuo Nakamura developed an idiosyncratic and personal approach to image-making. By embracing structure, pattern and rhythm, Nakamura explored painting through the conceptual context of science and mathematics. The artist perceived art and scientific thought as parallel frameworks which both represent humanity’s impulse to respond to profound questions of reality and existence. Nakamura explained “... I think there’s a sort of fundamental universal pattern in all art and nature. Painters are learning a lot from science now. In a sense, scientists and artists are doing the same thing. This world of pattern is a world we are discovering together.”

Nakamura applied an experimental, abstract approach to landscape painting in “Solitude”. The work is restricted to yellow, green and blue hues, demonstrating a careful, almost pointillist paint-handling. The rhythm and repetition of small brush strokes reinforces the artist’s systematic and restrained methodology. “Solitude” deviates from the conventional landscape structure of a clear foreground, middle-ground and background, creating an ambiguous space made up of naturalistic and architectural forms. Kazuo Nakamura broadened Canadian art’s long history of the painted landscape, forging ahead into experimental new ground.

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Kazuo Nakamura
(1926 - 2002) Painters Eleven

Born in 1929, Kazuo Nakamura was a founding member of Painters Eleven, an Ontario based group of abstract artists inspired by other Canadian landscape painters and were active between 1953-1960. Nakamura distinguished himself from the other painters in the group due to his simplistic abstractions and precision. Nakamura was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and during World War II he was imprisoned in Tashme, a Japanese internment camp. After the war, Nakamura moved to Toronto and attended the Central Technical School from 1948-51.

Using a constrained pallet and drawing inspiration from Hungarian-born photographer László Moholy-Nagy as well as fellow Painters Eleven group members like Jock Macdonald, Nakamura explored science, time, and spatial perspectives through his abstracted paintings. Through his experimental techniques he explored the perception of beauty and the social positioning of artists in society. He believed that there was a universal pattern in life that created beauty in everything, including Tashme where he was imprisoned.

Nakamura’s style can be described in four major stages, which are known as Inner Structures, Block Structures, Topology, and Number Structures. These stages were elaborated on at the 2004 posthumous retrospective “Kazuo Nakamura: A Human Measure” exhibited by the Art Gallery of Ontario. Each stage was informed by his fascination for science and influenced by the work of mathematicians and philosophers, such as Blaise Pascal. Nakamura’s earliest stage, Inner Structures, features black lines on colored backgrounds and explores the relationship to natural and built forms. Second, Block Structures channel contemporary architectural elements as well as Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico. Block Structures appear as three-dimensional geometric forms on empty planes. Inner and Block structures began after he finished his studies at the Central Technical School in the early 1950s. In Nakamura’s third stage, Topology, he was primarily focused on creating mappings using lines, curves, and grids. Finally, through Number Structures, Nakamura incorporated ideas put forth by Pascal to explore fundamental number patterns through grid-like structures. Nakamura focused on Topology and Number Structures in the 1970s and 1980s as exploration of the chaotic nature of the world in which he lived.

In 2000, Nakamura was made an honorary fellow at the Ontario College of Art and Design, he was also a member of the Canadian Academy of Arts. He passed away in 2002 in Toronto.

Literature Sources:
Carpenter, Ken, “Kazuo Nakamura,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, Historica Canada, Accessed June 15, 2020
Koch, Phil, “Kazuo Nakamura: A Human Measure, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto,” Border Crossings, February 2005

We extend our thanks to Danie Klein, York University graduate student in art history, for writing and contributing this artist biography.