Born in 1984, Japanese artist Keigo Nakamura's works are mostly in small size, complemented by vintage refurbished or handmade Baroque frames, and painted in the traditional technique of Sfumato, which applies multiple thin layers to create soft, imperceptible transitions between colors and tones. The size, framing and painting technique of his works all reflect the deeply classical influence, revealing a refined and elegant style. At the same time, he changes the elements in the classic still life paintings to make innovations, trying to reflect the contemporary capitalist society and modern human’s mental landscape in an eye-catching way.
The artist has repeatedly stated in his autobiography the direct influence of the Western oil painting tradition on his practice. After applying more than ten layers of primer, he always uses the oil paint in the classical formula, and finally varnishes to increase the durability of his works. Although the entire painting process is time-consuming and laborious, Nakamura strives to find and explore the past. In addition, the original meaning of the ornately decorated Baroque frames in art history is mostly "divine power" or "blessing". Nakamura wraps the image with a large-volume frame, giving the work a historical charm that does not exist in industrial products, and linking it with the content of the painting through its beautiful symbolic meaning, “blessing for life”.
The composition of his works mostly presents the pattern of candles as the central light source, clearly inheriting the ultimate pursuit of light and shadow effects in classical realist paintings, and directly revealing the pictorial genes of the religious paintings of 17th century French Baroque artist Georges de la Tour. The candlelight has a primitive and organic nature that modern light sources, such as electric lamps, do not have, highlighting the tension and mystery of the image with strong contrast. Meanwhile, still life painting, as an important and independent genre in the history of Western painting, shows the deep reflection on the life and death, the rise and fall, and the honor and disgrace, and has evolved with the times in terms of pictorial elements and expressions to prosper its vitality. Through Nakamura's enthusiasm for exploring the forms and colors of bottles and jars, we can also glimpse the light of Giorgio Morandi's profound practice. In terms of still life composition elements, the artist is free from shackles, and strives for innovative content and new reflection of the times. Unlike traditional still life, which favors thick and hard vessels, Nakamura is keen to paint bright and richly colored, transparent and smooth utensils, which have become cheap and readily available after industrialization, alluding to modern values and lifestyles that are convenient and colorful, but essentially hollow and boring.
The recurring dolls in the works refer to the artist's background as born in the land of kawaii - Japan. The dolls can also be read as a fragment of modern society, sweet in its haunting power, suggesting the lonely existence of contemporary humans. The artist states that the combination of still life in a closed space is inspired by the "sandplay therapy" invented by the 20th century Swiss Jungian psychologist Dra M. Calf: the visitor, accompanied by a therapist, selects models to be placed in a sandplay to form a specific scene, thus fully expressing his or her inner world. The reflections from smooth surfaces (such as mirrors and stainless steel utensils) or the shadows of still life on the wall by candlelight suggest various angles or multiple aspects of the reflected objects, echoing the concept of the subconscious in Freud's theoretical system. Thus, another aspect of the modernity of Nakamura's works is the attempt to construct the complex and diverse mental landscape of contemporary humans from the perspective of psychology. Classical and contemporary visual elements and painting language echo each other like staggered notes, which together form the variation of Nakamura's works. Like the Sfumato technique that he consistently uses, Nakamura builds up the layers of works and gives them a fresh but long-lasting depth.