Japan-born, London-based artist Nahoko Kojima cuts paper like no one else on earth. Her “four-dimensional” works have been on display across the globe. She speaks with Brian Noone about her creative process, her inspirations and her beloved pug, Duke
How do you choose your paper?
I choose paper after the idea. Sometimes I see papers I especially like but usually the idea comes first and then I select papers based on that.
Do you feel like you are bringing each piece of paper you use to life? Or destroying it by cutting into it?
The cutting gives life to the paper by the process of making. Paper has so many possibilities even using just one sheet so there are many ways to apply ideas to the medium.
How did you transition from two-dimensional pieces to three-dimensional ones?
I always want to develop something new, something contemporary so I started with two dimensions, making shadows, then two layers and then after that I wanted a piece that was three- and four-dimensional, so after a lot of tests I arrived at sculpture. By four dimensions I mean three-dimensional pieces under the influence of time with the changing shadows being part of the piece. My first true three-dimensional piece was a test I did of my Duke [Nahoko’s pug sleeping next to her during the interview] but that was made using a number of different layers. That piece was the beginning of the sculptural direction.
When you begin a new piece, do you make small models of it – like a painter’s studies – or do you just begin with the full work in mind?
I make a small piece first but that is just to get the shape right in my head but after that I start making the final size because small paper and big paper behave very differently.
The negative space is important in your works. Is there an ideal space for displaying your works?
The ideal space is also based on the idea but usually a white space works best to catch the shadows cleanly. One of the rules of Japanese Paper Cut art is using only one sheet of paper – this monotone quality of the works makes the consideration of the negative and positive spaces more critical.
Paper-based art has a longer tradition in East Asia than in Europe. Do you feel a strong connection to either one?
The things I am making are quite contemporary and not usually linked to any traditions, so whether it is Europe or Asia, it is always a big surprise for my audience. Both sides have not seen [something like it]. If it is just a 2D paper cut, then of course East Asians understand it more readily however my work now is a little different.
Are there any artists who have influenced you significantly?
None of them [laughs]. I can think of no other artist that influences me. I respect a lot of people but I am almost always inspired by nature, not by the work of other artists. For me that is not how art works. If I come across any person who works with conviction and dedication I find that inspirational in my career but I can think of no one particular person, especially not an artist. I find Duke a constant source of inspiration. I do not mean this as a joke. He is a pure and natural part of nature and that is always inspiring.
I am going to be doing a major show in the UK in October. I am still in research stage but I want to make something new and something that develops my work. In 2015 I am also doing a huge project in Asia, but I cannot discuss the details of that yet.
Experience, Spring 2015