Natale Adgnot is a talented artist who recently relocated from Brooklyn to Tokyo. Learn below on how it has affected her studio practice and her life. And learn about the hidden (culinary) gems of Japan.
LIVES & WORKS IN Tokyo, Japan
ON THE CLOCK Every weekday is different. I alternate between working in my studio at home and a co-working space down the street, unless I'm holed up sketching in a café somewhere or massacring Japanese in my language class.
YOUR ART WEEKEND Openings on Friday nights, scouting out uncharted territory in Tokyo on Saturdays, art critique group or PauseDraw on Sundays.
ALBUM Seeds (TV on the Radio)
FILM It's not possible to choose between Memento and The Princess Bride. Because I'm actually two different people.
ARTIST Sol LeWitt
BOOK Far From the Tree (Andrew Solomon)
EATS Everyone expects the sushi and the soba to be superior here – and it is. But the surprise gems are persimmons, smoked tofu and this unbelievably good Tex-Mex place near my apartment in the Nakameguro neighborhood.
LATEST PURCHASE (Yet another) black and white article of clothing; this time a striped sweater. Oh, well – at least everything in my wardrobe goes together.
GUILTY PLEASURE Buying yet another black and white article of clothing.
GRADE IN ART CLASS Easiest A of all.
36 HOURS Watching a documentary on Netflix with my family, a craft project (like a square leather wallet for my business cards, a set of placemats, or a pair of black and white shoes, obviously). Then more smoked tofu.
You have been working on a mineral series for the past few years -- can you tell us a little about the inspiration for this series?
In 2013, I became infatuated with the technical illustrations of crystals that I found in a science book. Not the glossy, full-color photos of the stones, but the thumbnail wireframes in black and white. I'm really a non-fiction type of girl, so I dived into all the scientific literature on minerals that I could get my hands on, looking for a story to tell that was grounded in scientific fact. The more I learned about how minerals form – why they become what they do; how their environments determine whether they form into, say, diamonds or into graphite; how their properties are judged against a set of rigid scales – the more I began to think of them as metaphors for people. As it turns out, human specimens are not so different from mineral specimens. We are all products of the material that's in us as well as the environment around us. So I spent the last two years fleshing out a series that compares famous people to the characteristics of rocks (ie. hard = Clint Eastwood, dense = Paris Hilton, etc.). I then did the same thing using Japanese faces instead of American ones.
Over the past few months, I tackled the subject of siblings. Not many people know this, but there's such a thing as crystal twins. They're like conjoined human twins. There are also polymorphs; that is, minerals that are made of exactly the same stuff but turn out radically differently – like diamonds and graphite (and like some blood brothers and sisters).
You made a big move from Brooklyn to Japan -- how has your new environment influenced your studio practice?
I spent months researching Japanese cultural icons during a residency at Tokyo Wonder Site, and then producing the work at another residency at 3331 Arts Chiyoda. That was a real crash course! It helped underscore the extent to which Japanese culture is absolutely different from my own. I'm living on the moon by comparison to my earlier experience as an expat (I spent ten years in France). Suddenly, I understood that, in terms of cultural references and showing my work, I could take nothing for granted. It's been humbling and eye-opening as I question things I never would have before. The scale of my work has even started to get smaller, because people here don't have room for gigantic paintings!
Who are your biggest inspirations either in art history or today?
I was a graphic designer for many years, making a foray into fashion in the middle of my career. My last design job was at Christie's in New York where I was lucky enough to look at examples of amazing art and design every single day. My aesthetic can easily be traced back to the disciplines of fashion and graphic design. I guess it makes sense, then, that the artists whose work speaks to me the most share that same preoccupation with hard edges, frank colors and a need to communicate something concrete. I owe a debt of gratitude to the legendary designer Erik Nitsche as well as to Sol LeWitt. The contemporary artists I'm currently most intrigued by are Joanie Lemercier and Trevor Paglen.