Natural pearls which become skulls, shells and coral which become sculpted faces and feet. The tiny works of art by Shinji Nakaba to be worn with grace and lightness
Monday, 16 May 2022,
by Lorenza Scalisi
According to a belief deeply-rooted in Japanese culture, it takes 49 days for the soul of the deceased to leave the place he or she held most dear: home, and with it, the family. His or her relatives therefore try to spend those 49 days with a smile, recalling the good times they had together, celebrating all the things the deceased loved, and even giving a dinner with his or her favorite dishes. It took Shinji Nakaba more than 20 years to find his own interpretation of the mysterious and profound meaning that unites life and death and develop his own aesthetic form to represent it. The result is delightful little skulls carved from natural pearls, a conceptual oxymoron that transcends all beliefs to finally become art. «I have carved skulls in crystal, ivory, coral and precious stones but carved pearls are by far the most attractive and beautiful. I am fascinated by the unknown potential of pearls. I feel that only pearls can transform my idea of ephemeral beauty into reality. What is even more fascinating to me is the contradiction of an innocent pearl turning into an obscure object. I am beginning to think that pearls may have been born to be skulls. I started sculpting skulls in 2010 and the result was absolutely stunning. I was shocked by their beauty but I wasn't sure if they would sell or even be durable enough to wear, so I asked a friend of mine to wear one for a year. After a year, the skull was even more fascinating.» Hence, everything depends on the eternal dualism between life and death, light and darkness, in a closed circuit that revolves around Nature, perceived and experienced in all its forms. «The human body is the universe and there is nothing more interesting than a journey within it. This feeling grew more and more when I started doing breathing exercises and meditation. Nature is my teacher, my museum.» This reflection has led to a collection of rings and bracelets that, while literally breaking the body down into pieces, do so with the grace and wisdom of a hedonist, focusing on the stomach, then the face, the foot, the breast, the eye and transforming them into cult objects. A contemporary version and vision of ancient devotional offerings.