If the passing of time were to be transformed into shapes, they’d probably look like the wooden work by Hiroto Nakanishi.
Be it the annual rings, the twisted trunks, or the wounds, Nakanishi deliberately preserves the signs and marks of the trees that signify the passing of time and make them an intrinsic part of his work. “I want to create something that allows people to see the most authentic side of the trees as if they are in nature.” To look back at the life of the trees via their death. Trees that are often neglected by us.
Born in Nagoya of Aichi Prefecture in Japan, Nakanishi has been exposed to woodworking since he was a teenager. Starting with making his own desks and bookshelves, Nakanishi slowly honed his skills and eventually opened his own workshop in 2008. Later on, when he got married, he decided to stay away from the hustle of the city and relocate to Shiga Prefecture, where he could be close to various kinds of unique wood.
In Japan, big, old trees are sacred, and most forests are owned by the government or private companies and managed by the Forestry Association with unauthorized harvesting and purchasing of timber being strictly prohibited. Yet, due to frequent occurrences of typhoons and heavy rains, numerous trees fall down each year. Nakanishi believes that, being a member of the community, he has the responsibility to take care of the environment and therefore joined the local force to maintain the forest. With an electric saw in his hand, Nakanishi cleared the forest with his team. “Healthy” wood would be sent to the market for sale, while the rotten and strange looking ones that are considered worthless are discarded.
“If I do nothing now, something will decay and die right before my eyes.”
Nakanishi creates without having an idea of the end product in his mind. His inspiration comes from the piece of wood in his hand. He never looks for materials to work on; instead, he lets the different materials that he encounters inspire him and lead the way. “There is a profound connection between my work and woods. I look at each piece of wood intensely and carefully to figure out what I can do with it.” Nakanishi is not a fan of the ready-to-use and easy-to-manage wood that is often neatly placed in the store. He loves searching for raw, unique pieces to work on. Their cracks and wounds that are shunned by others become the beauty of his works.
“Creating with your hands is both frightening and difficult because it reveals your personality and habits.”
When Nakanishi was still a furniture maker, he came to find that the tree branches bent into their various shapes based on the availability of sunlight and the surrounding environment, and he was inspired by that. From then on, his interest in wood intensified. “People are not really fond of curved and crooked trunks. But I am using more and more of them for my creations.” Using different types of wood, Nakanishi created some refined and delicate pieces of work that look like ropes, rusted iron plates with wavy texture, shells and chains, and even vases that look like pottery. Not only do we see the most authentic side of the trees from these works, we are also seeing the endless possibilities that wood can provide.
The decay and withering of trees, and the passing of time. Nakanishi transforms them into exquisite wood carving that embodies the traditional Japanese aesthetics of mourning.
Hiroto Nakanishi’s work is available at THE SHOPHOUSE.