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[Review] Michiko Nakatani: What a Tree Dreams

  • [Review] Michiko Nakatani: What a Tree Dreams

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[Review] Michiko Nakatani: What a Tree Dreams

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We would like to present the review written by Hitoshi Nakano, about Michiko Nakatani's artwork, "Boat."

Please let's see through Hitoshi Nakano's perspective, who plays an important role in the contemporary art, and was the curator of the Japanese Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition (2015), and curated the project, -The Key in the Hand - by Chiharu Shiota; of the Yokohama Triennale 2017, and of numerous exhibitions at KAAT Kanazawa Arts Theater and at Kanagawa Prefectural Hall Gallery.

The installation view of group exhibition : Art Front Selection 2020 autumn


Michiko Nakatani: What a Tree Dreams
Hitoshi Nakano, Curator

Nakatani is known for her deep-cut sculptural works in plaster and resin. Many convey to the viewer a complex sense of distance. She first builds a clay prototype and then encases it in a plaster mould; the clay is then removed, and resin poured into the void. I myself have seen several pieces made by this process.

Boat 2015 / plaster / 42 x 110 x 32 cm

However, her Boat (2015), which we see here, is not produced in that manner. The boat form is composed of various items. To me, the way in which these entwine and interrelate somehow evokes Bronzino’s Allegory with Venus and Cupid in the National Gallery, London. It is an iconography in riddles.

Let’s look more closely at the composition. The boat is made up of plaster reliefs, behind which is a large tree, its branches extending forwards. It looks like a mother gently protecting the boat from enemies. Focussing in, we find a single fruit and realise this is a pear-tree. In and around it are 35 birds, flying in all directions. Birds cover long distances and can connect our world with unfamiliar places. Underneath, 50 women are seen, exhibiting various expressions and gestures. Among the women are two fish, one seemingly raised upwards, as if enshrined, and the other dead. The dead fish, just lying there without breath or heartbeat, resembles Christ deposed from the Cross, and may remind us of Michelangelo’s Pieta. The surrounding women look on sorrowfully. Beside this, rowing boats put out to sea, one after another.

Nakatani held a solo show in 2019 at the Mie Prefectural Art Museum, titled In Their Own Little Cosmos. On that occasion she described her work as ‘crossing the boundary between you and me’. The forms that make up this Boat create dramas enacted by tree, birds, fish and women. The women send the boats off, towards the bow of the sculpture, as they engage in wordless conversations. The birds in the sky look down at events on the ground. The fish are raised, or lain. All is contained in the pear-tree. Eleven boats gathered at the bow of the sculpture explore the possibilities of an encounter with ‘you’. That is what Nakatani wants to create. She seems to hope for a resurrection of the fish, celebrated by the flying birds, as boats depart from the mother ship and the land with the pear-tree. Many tales are integrated into the form of this boat, crystallising the artist’s attitude. Nakatani uses this work to sympathise with a ‘you’ whom she might already know, or a ‘you’ whom she will encounter only later.

Nakatani’s Boat, will continue its voyage in search of ‘you’, beyond the boundary separating you and me, connecting memories of past and future.

Photo by Hayato Wakabayashi


works for reference

The installation view of solo show : In Their Own Little Cosmos, 2019 at Mie Prefecture Art Museum, Japan

Song of the Dog, 2019

Beyond the river, voice calling for a boat, 2018

courtesy of Mie Prefecture Art Museum



Hitoshi Nakano (Curator)

Curator of the Japan Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition (2015). Curator of the Yokohama Triennale 2017.
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1968. The main projects are the performing arts based on the musical poem Iku Tagawa Monogatari-Noh "Kizuka" (creative contemporary Noh, 2004, Kanagawa Prefectural Music Hall), Alma Mahler and artists at the end of Vienna (music and art). , 2006, same year), John Cage's 100th birthday, time and space to meet each other (music and dance, 11 years, Kanagawa prefectural hall gallery). Among the contemporary art exhibitions, Chiharu Shiota "Silent From" (2007, Kanagawa Prefectural Hall Gallery), Kento Koganazawa "Between that and this" (2008, same), "Everyday/out of place" exhibition (09, Same), “Port of Design.” Katsumi Asaba Exhibition (2009, 10 years same), Taro Izumi Exhibition “Kneading” (10 years same), “Everyday/Why there” exhibition (11 years same), Sawa Hiraki Exhibition "Whirl" (12 years, same), "Daily/Off-reco" Exhibition (14 years, KAAT Kanagawa Arts Theater), Ryota Yagi Exhibition "Science/Fiction" (15 years, Kanagawa Prefectural Hall Gallery), KAAT Kanagawa Arts Theater "Sudden Museum" (15th, 16th year, same), Chiharu Shiota "Locked Room" (16th year, same), "Poetry Forest" Exhibition-Speaking space (17th year, same), Sawa Hiraki Exhibition “Narrative of Latent Image” (18, same) and others.
Completed a doctoral course in the first half of Keio University Graduate School of Aesthetics and Art History. Director and researcher of the Institute of Arts and Resources Management. Part-time lecturer at Joshibi University of Art and Design/Tokai University.




























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