Amanda Linnell is managing editor of Viva.

Kazu Nakagawa's favourite things

Artist Kazu Nakagawa references our connection with the elements in his latest exhibition at Bath Street Gallery.

Kazu Nakagawa in his Waiheke Island studio with one of the pieces he will exhibit in his upcoming show at Bath gallery. Photo / Babiche Martens
Kazu Nakagawa in his Waiheke Island studio with one of the pieces he will exhibit in his upcoming show at Bath gallery. Photo / Babiche Martens

Lots of sun, lots of rain, lots of wind, lots of day, lots of night ... These are the words engraved on one of the key pieces in leading New Zealand artist Kazu Nakagawa's latest exhibition, calligraphy. The exhibition is the third in a series that explores labelling. (Some readers may remember his collaboration [un]dressed with dress designer Beth Ellery last year and his outdoor display cabinet showcase.)

"These previous works explored invisible connections, whereas with calligraphy I felt the need to carve into something solid. The subject is also more closer, more personal as it explores everyday things - the rain, wind, land - things from which our body is never truly detached."

Nakagawa's exhibition opened at the Bath Street Gallery in Parnell last night with a trailer about the artist's work for a documentary being made by local film-maker Bridget Quick. Nakagawa, who lives on Waiheke Island, is also currently collaborating with the Auckland Council on the new local library and creating a piece for the biannual Headland Sculpture on the Gulf to be held on Waiheke early next year.

Here he shares the things he feels attached to through "sight and touch".

* Calligraphy, Bath Street Gallery, Parnell Rd, Parnell, ph (09) 377 5171. For more info, go to


1. Abacus
I used this in my youth, and now it has become a bit like a fossil. However, it once trained my fingers to calculate visually, skipping the use of my brain. I guess I still do something similar - "think" many things better with my fingers than with my head.

2. Basketball
I taught my son Ku to play basketball with this when he was 10. I was also a very keen player until I was 18 years old. Now he is getting close to that age and he has started to teach me his new skills in return, which I struggle to learn.

3. Calligraphy
This is calligraphy my mother did for practice, not to show to anybody. When I asked to have it, she hesitated because she had no such intention attached - she was the only audience. When I look at this calligraphy, my eyes almost become hers.

4. My father's camera
My father used this a lot taking family photos when I was still too little to remember things well, so this camera created my early visual memories. I look into the lens sometimes when I clean it, and wonder how time has altered his eyes to mine.

5. Old letters
From high school friends, whom I haven't talked to since. But I received these letters not so long ago, after a few decades. It means that these letters have arrived from the past. What they really are is thought.

6. My mountain bike
I cycle when I need to remind myself I am a human who uses my body to move from one place to another. Actually, I use it more often when I hesitate to put fuel in my car for financial reasons. I cycled to Rotorua with this bike 18 years ago which was why I bought it from a garage sale in Auckland. The guy who sold it to me said "It's a very good bike" - and it still is.

7. Prayer beads
I hold these every morning before I start doing anything. I try to talk to my family far away or to those who have passed away or someone I cannot talk to physically with these beads.

8. Scratched music score
This is by composer Helen Bowater, who is a friend. She wrote this when she was creating/struggling with her orchestra piece River of Ocean, which was later played at a Festival of New Zealand Music in Edinburgh. I swapped these for a chair I made. I see it as a self-portrait of her 10 years ago.

9. My old umbrella
I have had this for over 20 years. I had a yellow one when I went to kindergarten, which was a symbolic item of walking safely without my mother. I love to look at this one, it still makes me feel safe.

10. Wooden heart
I made this for my daughter, Hu, when she was little and needed both hands to hold it. I also made one for my next door neighbour's baby daughter when she was born and a dear friend's new baby son. What amazes me is that these big things are at first held with tiny hands and seem to become smaller and smaller as they grow. I wonder how Hu sees this now she's nearly 15.

11. Music box
This has 256 folded plastic shopping bags in it. My mother was always folding away plastic bags to use again in the future. This fascinated me. So I copied it and enhanced it with the music box which plays the tune Home Sweet Home. I called the box Silence and You because at the time I made it, back in 1993, I thought that silence is always up to you.

12. Stained glass windows
These windows were what made me decide to buy our house. While there is a lot of maintenance involved to keep them in good condition, it's worth it. These windows define or frame how I see the outside world - early morning, evening and late at night. Through these windows, I have much more appreciation of rain, sun and wind, including the rain water which comes in when the wind blows strongly from certain directions.

- NZ Herald

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