Artist Interview with Noriko Nakamura

Noriko Nakamura was one of the recipients of the Sainsbury Sculpture Award last year. Based in Melbourne, she has exhibited as a solo artist and as part of groups in Melbourne, New Zealand and her native Japan. Here she talks to us about the inspirations behind her work.

Image credit: Heather Lighto

Please explain your work to someone who might not be familiar with it. Is animism central to all of your work?

Animism is the belief that the boundary between the physical and spiritual is not absolute, but can be transgressed. According to this idea a spiritual force resides in all things; animals, objects, even landscapes. My practice is informed by these ideas and explores the transformation of materials in order to show this life-force.

What will we see at your upcoming solo exhibition at TCB art inc. (Melbourne from 4 December)?

Recently, my work uses stone carving and organic elements such as my cat's hair to make installations that draw on ideas of animism and ritualistic practices. For my upcoming solo show at TCB art inc. I have been working with limestone and marble carving. The installation will consist of small marble objects, such as hair bun, cat paw and human ear shapes and large limestone sculpture in response to the architectural space of the gallery. There will be an accompanying text.

Can you tell me about your pet sculptures – have they proved popular?

I have been making ceramic sculptures of pets as my side job. I have just started this business so it has been only word of mouth, usually commissioned by my friends or friends' relatives. It has been really nice to see big smiles on their faces when I give them the sculptures. I already have an order for Christmas gifts so I think they have been popular. This is a great way to improve my skills and technique with pottery.

Noriko Nakamura

Noriko Nakamura, Smell of Sun, 2014, cat hair, lime stone, dimensions variables, Installation View, Thin air at Slopes Fitzroy VIC Australia, Photo: Christo Crocker

What is integral to the work of an artist?

I find to enjoy the process of making art is integral to work as an artist. Sometimes being an artist can be very stressful especially before the exhibitions, but I can face the stress because I enjoy the process.

What has been a seminal experience which has influenced your work?

My practice is influenced by Shinto Animism, which is a Japanese indigenous religion. The influence of these beliefs can be seen in Japanese everyday customs. I have been living in Australia for the past 10 years, however I still remember these cultural differences and they inspire my art.

My cat Cinnamon also takes a big part in my practice. The cat is a half domesticated and half wild animal. He gives me an opportunity to experience nature in different ways.

What did winning the Sainsbury Award mean to you?

The Sainsbury Sculpture Award has given me the opportunity to have Fayen d'Evie as my mentor. We'll be working together later this year. She is the Director of 3-Ply, an independent publishing initiative that focuses on publication, writing and editing as an extension of art practice. Fayen will be assisting me to improve my creative writing skills and expand my reflection on integration of language as part of my installations. I'm developing a new body of work that investigates the dialogue between language and installation. She will also assist me in developing a long-term structure for my own practice. The Sainsbury Award provided me the ideal opportunity to advance my technical skills in creative writing.

Is there a piece of advice or some information you wish you had when you started your working life as an artist?

Not really, I'm grateful for all the experiences and knowledge I gained through working as an artist and I wouldn't understand it without actually going through difficulties.