"For me it is very important to use parts of a bamboo plant from above
ground and parts from below ground," Nagakura says. "I like to add bamboo
roots to some of my work as a reminder of the dark side of life."
Unaffiliated with any of Japan's craft arts organizations, Nagakura is the
first recipient of the Cotsen Bamboo Prize, awarded in 2000, and an
esteemed independent artist for more than 20 years.
His organic, contemporary pieces are rooted in the functional baskets made
for centuries for flower arranging at Japanese tea ceremonies but also
borrow from wide-ranging sources, including European sculpture, the
American pop art movement, indigenous Japanese forms, and cord-patterned
clay work from the 3rd and 2nd millennia B.C. His fine plaiting mimics
complex line drawing and the graceful shapes of his vessels are inspired by
human form and by objects from the natural world, such as fallen leaves,
emerging shoots, and cocoons.
Nagakura began his career dyeing fabric for kimonos but quickly realized he
wanted to make artwork, like ceramics, that had an inherent vitality. He
spent three years splitting bamboo for his grandfather, who was a bamboo
craftsman. Several years later he brought his work to a contemporary
gallery that gave him a solo show. He is passionate about jazz, classical,
and rock music, and strives to elicit the "rhythm and harmony" of bamboo.
Nagakura's work is in the collection of the Clark Center for Japanese Art, Culture Mint Museum of Craft & Design, and San Francisco Asian Art Museum.
Click here to send this photo to a friend as a postcard.