I love staring at the colors of the sky when it is approaching dusk, watching the sky become a massive gradient, and slowly fading to dark and then to the stars.
- Jean Nagai
How does living in the Pacific Northwest shape and inform your work?
Jean Nagai - I am from the Pacific Northwest, born in Seattle, it is where I currently reside and where I have spent most of my life. Here, I am connected with the landscape, whether I like it or not. At this point, I have learned so many lessons from observing the climate and seasons here. I feel like spending time outside when we are approaching the summer solstice and indoors when the days are getting shorter. I love staring at the colors of the sky when it is approaching dusk, watching the sky become a massive gradient, and slowly fading to dark and then to the stars. This feeling of encroaching night also fills me with dread and loneliness and then I try to fight it with futile pleasures like food, drugs and sex. I am a very basic human with basic desires.
In your recent work, do you find that your small repetitive mark making technique coincides with meditation?
I've made small repetitive marks for awhile now, most of my artistic life. I have spent a lot of time making these marks. I've spent a lot of time making different kinds of marks in my life but I've learned to channel a lot of that time and energy into a surface, because it's safer that way, and sometimes I can create something that makes my life seem worth living,
How do you see a connection between your work, textiles and embroidery?
My grandfather was a tailor and a very good one. My mother always talked about his attention to craft and detail and I know it affected her entire way of seeing the world. I did not understand it when he was alive because I was a silly boy who was into robots. I was never into fashion but many of my friends were into fashion in their Vintage-Olympia way of fashion. I saw my friend making clothes and I thought, "Well, I am not skilled enough to make clothes but I can draw, so I will embroider on clothes." My embroidery was an extension of my drawing and vice-versa. I have always enjoyed making designs for my friends' bands and through that I have learned how to dye fabric and make big hippy tents for people to hang out under.
I love textiles and embroidery. I would love to get back into embroidery when painting does not fulfill my desire to create anymore. Do you think your work is political, spiritual, both or neither?
My work is political because it is spiritual and my work is spiritual because it is what I believe in. If people want to talk to me about spirituality, they can hang out with me with some tea or gin and we can talk about connections. I think it was Tom Marioni who did "The Art of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art". I'd replace LSD with beer but I think we get the concept.
Before knowing each other, we both read a book by Masaharu Emoto called, Hidden Messages in Water. The book's main ideas are about how our thoughts influence the energy around us in a physical and metaphysical level. How does this book relate to your work? Do you think there are hidden messages in your creations? I think my work is metaphysical, it definitely is not pop! I think there are enough Warhols and Warhol duplicates in this world to fill a boring posh country. The difference is most people understand Warhol, or at least know what they are looking at it. I don't know if people get the same connection with my work but I want people to connect with my work. I do like a good joke and sometimes and I hide a couple personal jokes in a piece but there are no hidden messages in my work. Except that, I'm sensitive to certain patterns and waves that are all around us. And I just tend to notice them more, like a person who gets excited by guitar riffs or fashion designer.
This past year, I have been including cyanescens spores in my paintings because art is knowledge and I want to share my knowledge in my work. If the person who owns one of my pieces wants to compost my painting, they can create an big patch of cyanescens mushrooms to consume or share with their peers. We can learn a lot from symbiosis and the mycelium world. I hope people understand that idea of sharing and giving.
Do you see a difference between painting large scale murals opposed to paintings on paper? Do you change your approach based on the scale of the work?
I do see a difference between paintings and murals. I'd like to combine the two at some point, or at least do what I like to do on paper on a wall sometime. I guess with my studio work, I am describing or talking about a mood or connection that is an internal/external feeling, a macrocosm/microcosm. And with murals I tend to want to brighten an area with colors and shapes, or use the public space to address Black Lives Matter or the wrongful incarceration of Leonard Peltier.
You have a big collection of works on paper that you have produced throughout the years. Have you ever grown a certain attachment to your works, and are there some pieces in which you just wont sell?
I am attached to every piece I make and I don't want to sell most of them, but I make works that people enjoy and they want a part of me. I like meeting new people and art is a way for me to communicate with people I don't know.
How was your experience teaching art?
I have given a few lectures at different universities and a few to middle school art classes. I do enjoy sharing what I know to people who I can help that want to learn. Honestly, of all eight lectures/talks I have given, I have enjoyed talking to the middle schoolers at Sankofa Academy in Oakland, California the most. These kids wanted to learn so much in such a chaotic environment and I hope they all pursue art for the rest of their lives.
it to be visual art. The funny thing is, I have terrible vision so I can not even see what I am creating most of the time! The universe can be such a joker.
Do you utilize music as vehicle for creation? I see music as a vehicle for poetry and I guess visual art is also poetry. Visual art is a vocabulary for our spirit that we can not express in words and music can also be that.
What are your coming projects?
I am planning on working on large mural in San Francisco this fall if everything falls into place. I am planning on showing my work in Oakland in the winter and I hope to show more work in other cities. If you are reading this and want to include me in a group show, please email me reader :)
Besides art, you are a musician. How often you do play music, and are you in a band? Haha, that is so generous for you to say! I think you are a good musician. I was lucky enough to be around friends who could sort of play music and also wanted to create something with me. That was a long time ago and I had a lot of fun, I don't think they had much fun though. Music was expressing a part of me that is not so important for me these days. I do miss being around my old friends with a goal in mind to create rhythm to combine ourselves. I still do make music on my own under the title Chrome Windows. I live in the country and I have been recording a lot of frogs mating, and thinking about life, death and harmony. I don't play or record music anymore because visual art is what I want to get improve on. I want to spend most of my life getting good at one thing. and I have chosen it to be visual art. The funny thing is, I have terrible vision so I can not even see what I am and I have chosen.
Thanks so much for this time and space to talk about myself Pablo. You are an inspiration and a good person.