Soft Opening is pleased to announce a solo presentation by Japanese-Nigerian artist, Narumi Nekpenekpen. Part 1 of Intra-action, a series of three individual but interrelated exhibitions curated by Kate Wong, Nekpenekpen’s show is formed of five glazed ceramic sculptures that employ vulnerability as a mode of refusal and world-building.
Nekpenekpen’s figures are small in relation to the human form, but gargantuan relative to the stars we see in the night sky, or the flecks of earthen elements that constitute the clay from which they have been formed. With their big doe eyes, heart-shaped pouty lips and cobby bodies, they gesture with a quiet but visceral urgency.
Inspired by the poetry of dreams and daydreams, and also by the language of film, Nekpenekpen’s work traverses questions of mistranslation, identity and belonging. In their innocence and playfulness, the sculptures protest against the binary of low and high art, and the Western commodification of different aesthetic forms. Drawing from wide-ranging pop-cultural references, Nekpenekpen’s figures come together in a liminal place. Here at the boundary of diverse perspectives, untethered from preexisting ways of seeing and making, her characters come to life.
In her process, slab porcelain clay is pushed and pulled into a central foundation onto which, like armour, the artist affixes a head, chunky limbs and highly textured garments, chains and other accessories. Nekpenekpen is interested both in what clay wants to do on its own, as well as what can emerge from their imminent relation. This method of handbuilding is honest, informed both by incongruity and imperfection. The result is a small, fierce army of lovers, produced from Nekpenekpen’s care and a dynamism of intra-acting forces. In this interstitial place, a dependency on others is essential to existence; love reigns supreme.