Beyond sculpture -Quest for truth – giving shape to the essence of life

Kyoji Nagatani, a Japanese sculptor who lived for over 40 years in Milan. "Pietre oniriche", one of his masterpieces, made up of seven bronze stones hung with Arakawa Grip and floating in the air, represents his poetic vision in space. He was interviewed during the "NAGATANI farewell" exhibition held at the ALMACH Art Gallery in Milan between November and December 2021, before his return to his country of origin, Japan.
Mostra “NAGATANI - farewell”
20.11-22.12.2021 @ALMACH Art Gallery, Milano


What attracted you to Italy?
I felt that in Italy, there was something I was missing. You can behave and express yourself freely as you please, but in Japan, people often keep their feelings inside. Another aspect that I admire is that Italians have "ideas out of the box" and break the mold more often than the Japanese do.

artwork "La via del cuore" with Maestro Nagatani


First of all, "respect," and then being myself
I always live showing "respect" for people, materials, and everything. All my works exist because I was born in Japan and now I'm here in Milan. If I hadn't lived in Italy for such a long time, there would have been a different way of expressing it, and I think that's something natural. I have various feelings inside me, and in some way, I’ve come to this point because I planned to be as I am, like a dream. I don't express myself in a complicated way but in a very natural way, which comes out of myself. For this reason, I want to be pure or, at least, as close as possible but, in reality, to be pure is not easy at all.

Is the bronze sculptor a mixture of artists and craftsmen?
The great Italian sculptor Giacomo Manzù used to say: "Being a craftsman before being an artist". In a sense, we cannot express ourselves without knowing the technique. I think an exhibition is a place where one highlights works arising from knowledge and professional experience, not just from technique ability.

Creating artwork and carrying out the project implies the work of different craftsmen; depending on the process, it might happen that more and more specialized craftsmen are necessary but, in the end, I'm the one taking responsibility for the whole project and who signs the art pieces.

There is also the important aspect of finding a good craftsman or foundry to collaborate with and work as a partner who knows and carries out my project. Communication skills are also required here, and there are more aspects to relationships than personal work. It can be said that the role is similar to an architect.

author's signature engraved in the work

What is your source of ideas? - I always think about the essence of life
The source could be a journey or a walk, but not only: I'm alive, so everything is relative. Considering the cosmic dimension, on a scale beyond imagination, the existence of human beings is almost insignificant. So what is the meaning of life?
It doesn't matter if human beings have intelligence; it doesn't matter if they have survived for thousands of years; our lives cannot be regenerated. So you can't take them away. This is a simple and clear truth. Our moral conscience and truth are connected to each other in a simple way; the reasoning of how a human being should live begins there.
I think every person is different, but as people get older, their inner awareness also grows, making everyone to commit to improving their life day by day. I think that this is the reason why human beings exist.
artwork "Pietre oniriche" with Maestro Nagatani

work details

ArtWork "Pietre oniriche"
However, it is not easy for me to live purely. So this work was born to evoke that consciousness inside me. These seven bronze stones embody the seven virtues: affection, courage, generosity, honesty, patience, humility and respect. This art piece arises from the prayer and the hope that by living consciously, day by day, after seven days (in a week), we will become a better person.
The rounded shape of the stones encloses a metaphor: where the mountains collapse, the rocks fall into the rivers, and, thanks to the force of water, wind, and over time, stones are found more and more rounded as they approach the sea. An image that can represent the maturation of human life. It can also recall the shape of "onigiri - Japanese rice balls," a typical Japanese food that the cook shapes by hand; at the same time, it represents a way to convey warm affection. I would like to be as generous as possible both in thinking and in visual expression.

Arakawa Grip integrated into the artworks:  "Astrolabio"

"Il seme del tempo n.3"

Arakawa Grip
When I was creating "Pietre oniriche", I started using a type of grip to suspend seven stones. The mechanism was made of a notched gripper to be fastened on the wire. But with time, the movement along the wire became less smooth, and I started having problems with both grip and fastening. At that moment, my brother and designer Takashi Nagatani introduced me to Arakawa Grip and I started using it. It has a mechanism in which the wire is blocked by three ball bearings inside the grip, and it's durable and highly reliable over time.
With the increase in the variety of works, the partnership with Arakawa Grip has lasted for 7-8 years, and we continue to explore the potential of the grip and its possible applications in artworks.


 "Ab initio"

detail of the work


For example, for the work "Astrolabium" I adopted the Arakawa grip, which was supposed to be part of a key holder. An Italian craftsman polished and gold plated the grip after I integrated into it a cap of the same color as the artwork. Being an industrial product, there are limits on size, shape, and finishing; but knowing the characteristics of the product, taking into account its peculiarities, and adapting it with the help of a craftsman, it is possible to create harmony between the device and the artwork.

As there is a huge range of products (about 500 items), inspiration may come even just looking at them. Furthermore, thanks to the stability of this grip, the work "Ab Initio" was born with the idea of being touched and swung by the hands, which goes beyond the preconceptions of traditional sculpture.

The new adventure in Japan
I still don't have a concrete image for the future. If I change the environment, everything is going to change, naturally, in a relative way, and I will express what comes out of it. I have always desired to create something interesting. If I can create a new suspension grip in collaboration with Arakawa, interesting works could be born. I see potential!

<Master Kyoji Nagatani>

<Arakawa Grip product information>
Product: B5R6
Size: φ19mm, L16.4mm

Interview, Translation, Editing: TOL