Interview with Claire Nakazawa

'I would like to be reactive to the present and to my instincts and I feel like I haven’t been able to at times, trying to fit into how I think everything should work out, but the more confident I get the more I can live in that way. More what I feel is the right thing to do. That's a nice way I believe' - Claire Nakazawa

You grew up in the Blue Mountains, was it big change to come to Sydney?
I wanted to go the city to study art and branch out from my small community up there because I’d come to know it and needed a new challenge. It was really exciting to figure out what was going on, how things work, who was doing what. That was ten years ago now, so now I feel really comfortable here.  A lot of the mountain community has moved here as well so we still have a big network which is really nice.

Is there a large artistic community in the mountains?
There are heaps of artists, healers and alternative people, and a lot of parents of our generation with those same values, so our upbringings were very focused on our own creativity and our own paths. I went to a Steiner school that particularly focused on whatever your strength was, not the same values as more mainstream schools. If you were really good at the recorder, it was considered equally as important as being good at maths or something similar.

So for you it was art?
I always liked art and I always found I could get good marks and it was the thing that came most easily for me and it was always fun - it came most naturally to me.

A lot of the time your art is described as ‘intuitive’ - do you think this is accurate?
Yeah, in terms of my process it is non-calculative. I don’t do much preplanning. I often don’t know what it’s going to be, but that’s the thing that keeps it fun and exciting for me. In the process of seeing what happens and letting myself make things without boundaries. I don’t do drafts, I just do it. The things that don’t (need drafts) feel so much more magical because they’re unexpected and you kind of just have trust what you’re doing.

In terms of colours, is there a palette you’re drawn to?
I really love colours and it changes. I went to Brazil and I was really influenced by the pastels because all the paint is faded from the sun and everything blended together really nicely. Tonally they’re all the same, but are made up of different colours. I thought I was going to recreate this in my art and then I came back here and I felt like it didn’t really fit with Sydney. It wasn’t responding to the colours and energies in Sydney. So I think I’m going to incorporate both influences and combine a bright colourful palette with pastels.

You’re images seem to have changed a lot over the years
I think what led to that big transition was being on a bit of a break. I was doing music and performing, travelling a lot. Eventually when I returned to painting, I thought I’m just going to have fun and see what happens. That’s when that new style came out: I realised I like doing abstract and I like doing colour-based works and not thinking … I think I was doing more figurative work and characters because my peer group was responding more to them at the time. I was scared people wouldn’t be able to identify anything in it. But now, I’m like, that’s good. I like the ambiguous realm. Why do you have to know what everything is?

You have performed in past on stage and in Art Battle. Do you feel the need to ‘get in the zone’ beforehand?
For Art Battle I planned it. You don’t have time to make a mistake and start again. That was just a matter of doing it, using your skills fast enough to complete the work, to get the message across. It was a cool challenge, especially as a younger artist wanting to be amongst people and a busy environment and not always wanting to be a recluse in a studio. You get a big adrenaline rush. It stops you from being as precious about how you work.

When you exhibited with your sister in 2013, were you influenced by her practice?
Yeah, she has a really strong aesthetic of her own and a different style and way of working. I feel like it complements in a way because I’m very driven and she’s more of a planner. She thinks about things differently. We’ve worked together a fair bit and had to make adjustments for equilibrium. I would paint on people’s faces, Mie would take photographs. That whole exhibition was collaborating. I feel like that was a project that has definitely influenced future works to some extent, but I haven’t done too much more in that field. Now I’m getting involved in film and editing and doing other things. I really like painting. Painting is my home, and then other things I feel are very important to keep interest, because I can always come back to the painting. It keeps the tension there.

So painting is your love - but have you got another medium to which you’d like to go to next?
Well I’m learning how to be a vocalist, and I’ve always loved dancing. Performing basically. I want to maintain those practices and work on them.  It’d be cool to get to the level of proficiency that I have with painting. It’s fun to be able to do stuff. You get a really different kick out of performing than what comes with painting - instant gratification, immediate adrenaline, immediate response. It’s an awesome chance to have that side and then I get to be my quiet side with painting.

Is 'Land in Love' an actual place?
I was in a specific place when I came up with the name. We were driving out of a festival. It was dusk and there was mist. It was beautiful and I just wanted to take heaps of photos. I felt really euphoric about the views and said I felt like I was falling in love, like land in love and then said that would be a good name for my show. It was more a feeling that you get when you see the beauty of nature.

In the works that you’re doing at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be tangible images, like there is often in nature. Yet your works are nature inspired?
I think it really is, because of the way of working. If you think of intuition: I would think intuition as closely tied with nature, as opposed to the more calculating ways. If there is a message, or a cause, I’d like to contribute to it, it would be environmental and people being less ego-driven, they should be more driven about what they care about. We need to be conscious that we can make lots of changes and make better decisions about how we live.

Is there anything that inspires you art wise - another artist?
I really like Klimt's work, his imagery, as well as Miró and Kandinsky. They were really inspired by music and really abstract and into colour. And I really like Egon Schiele. He died when he was 28 and did all these figurative works, kind of surrealist. But they’re all really different. I definitely don’t want to try and replicate.

Does music inspire your art?
I definitely draw a lot of cross-referencing in terms of balance, space and dynamic. I definitely spend a lot of my time around music so it’s intertwined. Sometimes I like to think of music as colour, shapes and space, space in the music as space in the work.

Any future projects?
I’m actually starting a new band called Haiku Hands, with a friend from Melbourne. We’re going to do creative things around it, the videos and visual content. 

You can see all of Claire's works for sale here.