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Sadao NAKAMURA (Oil Painter)

About Sadao NAKAMURA

Born in Osaka prefecture in 1934, Sadao NAKAMURA studied under Ryohei KOISO and Tsuguro ITOH from the time he was in high school. In 1952, his works were accepted for their first exhibit. In 1957, he graduated from the French Literature Department at Osaka University's School of Letters, and in 1969, he was recommended to become a member of the Shin-seisaku Association.  In 1970, his work was submitted for the Yasui Prize, and his exhibits include a 1984 exhibit of his Fuji Series at the Umeda Museum of Contemporary Art, a special display in the 1999 Shinseisaku Nile series exhibit in Kyoto, and a personal exhibit of his Indus River series at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art. His Yellow River series was also displayed at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art in 2010, as well as at the National Museum of China in Beijing in 2012. He is currently an instructor at Takarazuka University.

Education is important for artists

"At Osaka University, I wasn't praised much as a student. Whenever I hear French being spoken, I feel a bit ashamed of my roots in the French Literature Department; I feel like I want to run in the opposite direction," said a seemingly uncomfortable Sadao NAKAMURA when the topic of his school days was brought up, albeit with a bit of a laugh.

Mr. NAKAMURA began oil painting during his days at Osaka Prefectural Otemae High School. When he was a third year student, he submitted his work to the Shin-seisaku-ha Exhibit (later, Shinseisaku Association), led by Ryohei KOISO. Mr. Nakamura had intended to begin his life as an artist then and there, but decided to enter Osaka University after Mr. Koiso had told him that, "education is important for future artists."

Around the time he entered Osaka University, he painted for around 7~8 hours a day. "When I was tired from painting, I would go to school and study as a break from my work. That was pretty terrible."

There were quite a few times where he struggled with artistic expression.

"Even though I strove for more advanced techniques, there was very little response. During my one of my most difficult periods, I read French philosopher Alain's Eudaemonics." In this book, Mr. Nakamura found his inspiration in this passage: There will be times when nothing that you do seems to go your way, but if you can get through those hard times, the moment that your work has come to fruition, it'll instantly feel that much better. Mr. Nakamura continued, "Even during a long series of disappointments, I believe it'll be all right in the end. This optimism has supported me the whole way, and it's what has allowed me to come this far."

It seems that, to Mr. Nakamura, French literature wasn't just a simple "break" after all.

I don't paint for profit

Mr. NAKAMURA constantly paints his landscapes, a style which he pursued himself, on an overwhelming scale. At one point, he became enthralled with the poet Saigyo, a poet and a lover of cherry blossoms, and spent a period of his life painting the blossoms at Yoshino in Nara prefecture. There was also a period where he painted the Shimanto River and the Tosa Bay of Kochi Prefecture. In his 50s, he challenged Mt. Fuji. Life, and human behavior, can be found just beyond the landscape, which may be why Mr. Nakamura does not often include people in his paintings.

When asked why he doesn't sell his large paintings, the reason may surprise you. One might think he has no desire to sell them, but in fact, Mr. Nakamura is, in his own words, "a bit greedy. I'd like the works that I've created to stay together in a series. I don't want them to be scattered around."

Mr. Nakamura's favorite color has changed quite a few times throughout his career. "When I was young, I liked the color green. But eventually, I gave up green for brown, and then yellow, and, currently, white." But it seems that he's already considering moving on to his next color. When asked which color he'll focus on next, he gave us a chuckle.

Painting the "water" of the four great civilizations

At the age of 60, Sadao NAKAMURA decided to spend 5 years a piece at each of the four great civilizations to paint works based on "water."

And with that, his first trip overseas was to Africa. For one year, Mr. Nakamura traveled along the Nile River, painting the river from its headwaters to its mouth. In Sudan, he sketched the River in a desert heat which reached 50 degrees Celsius during the daytime. In the latter half of his 60s, he switched his focus to the Indus River, placing his base of operations in Pakistan.

He was over 70 years old when he began work on his Yellow River series. On his journey to the headwaters, there were quite a few places where even the locals did not often go, which he says was the reason he went through 7 guides along the way. This series was included in an event celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Japan-China Diplomatic Normalization entitled "Sadao NAKAMURA Yellow River Exhibit" in May, 2012. This marked the first time a Japanese artist was on display in the National Museum of China in Beijing.

That very same year, at the last stop for this series, Mr. Nakamura visited Mesopotamia. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers flow through a politically tumultuous Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, the last of which was the only country of the three he was allowed entry.

"But during this trip, I wanted to paint not only rivers, but also Mt. Ararat, the holy mountain of the legend of Noah's Ark."

I want to try and live for others

While on his way to paint Mt. Ararat, luggage containing his painting tools that he had checked on the plane was lost. Normally, one would feel disheartened after an event like this, but Mr. Nakamura thought he could use this to start something new. "When I lost the brushes and painting tools that I had used for so long, a mysterious, almost refreshing feeling came over me. It was as if this were a sign from heaven, telling me that if I only used the tools that I felt comfortable with, I could never start anything new." He went on to draw Mt. Ararat with a ballpoint pen and copier paper he received at the hotel. He is now using that sketch as a base for his work on Mesopotamia at his studio, Atelier.

"From now on, I want to try and live more for others." Up until now, Mr. Nakamura had only been pursuing his own works, but now he'd like to try to draw out the "love for art" found in all people. You may even find him painting together with the children playing near his studio.

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