Yoshio Nakajima

° 1940

Born in Kawamoto (JP), lives in Antwerpen (BE), lives in Helsingborg (SE).

Japanese visual artist Yoshio Nakajima was born in Kawamoto, where as a child he was introduced to the magic and beauty of calligraphy. Although his parents saw a future as a monk for him he went to study at the Musashino Art Academy in Tokyo. When he discovered a book about the works of Vincent Van Gogh, he used clay - from a lack of oil paint - to mimic the effect of the ‘Western’ brush stroke. Halfway through the 1960s he travelled to Europe where he met artists such as Asger Jorn, Joseph Beuys, Robert Rauschenberg, Bernd Lohaus, Lucio Fontana and Panamarenko, with whom he arranged multiple Happenings in Antwerp.

After Nakajima was allowed to assist at a happening at the 1964 edition of the Venice Biennale he began to paint on street surfaces and in public places more and more. In 1965 he moved to Antwerp where he received a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. There he forged artistic ties with Hugo Heyrman (alias Happy Spacemaker), Panamarenko (Mulimiljonair) and Wout Vercammen (Nihil). Together they started the avant-garde art magazine Happening News. They also devised campaigns to make the Conscienceplein car-free to prevent the demolition of the old town and to propagate green spaces and attention for contemporary art. Their campaigns were often stopped by the police for disturbing the peace. After several Happenings Nakajima was arrested by the police and deported.

Hitch-hiking through West Germany he made his way to Copenhagen where he got a temporary job as a silk-screen printer. He has been living in the Swedish city of Gothenburg since 1966. Yoshio Nakajima, known in Japan as ‘the son of the sun’, has participated in more than 500 happenings and his visual art is represented in major museums around the world. He gained fame with his paint performances, which he performs live in museum spaces, transforming them into a chaotic and colourful universe of painted beams, posts, boards and partitions. His canvas and paper based works evoke a similar colourful pallet of recurring lines, dots, brush strokes and white spaces. It is a pleasantly wriggling, non-figurative whole, bordering on psychedelic and devoid of a clear message but characterised by an artistic control that refers to the Eastern calligraphy of his youth.


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