In Conversation with – Nao Matsunaga

Above pictured : Falling still 2012 series – ceramic, wood 70cm

An artist that has been at the forefront of my research, aesthetic and conceptual development has been the artist Nao Matsunaga. Matsunaga creates bold, large organic natural forms from ceramic and wood to push the boundaries of what we perceive to be ‘ traditional ceramics’ and primitive form.Luckily I had the opportunity to get in touch with the artist through email and ask a few questions.

Emails –

 Dear Nao matsunaga
I am a 3rd year studying Fine Art at Cardiff Metropolitan University and I am a massive fan of your work, your sculptures have been incredibly helpful for me with my project so far !.I wanted to know a little bit more about the concepts that surround your work and the inspiration for the aesthetics ?

In your exhibition primal memory you talk about how your dual national identity has effected your art work and i wanted to know a little bit more about this ? I Personally have been using the primitive as an almost vestige, as my own personal culture as no culture can really adopt primal or early art as there own as it has no distinguishable identity. I also wanted to know a little bit more about your series of work ‘ 2013 we are here now’ and ‘stones and bones’ and the drive behind those series?

Kind regards,


‘Dear Nathan,

Thank you for the email.
It is nice to know that somehow my piece have been inspirational to you, thanks!

I first got really interested in my cultural identity and my identity in general. I guess most artists and creative people go through this. My interest stemmed from being a Japanese person in the UK.I found it useful to strip down layers of my identity and question whether it was indeed my identity I had since birth or something that I had acquired through various media, (TV, Newspaper, internet) It is useful to somehow find what makes you the person you are.

My interest in primitive cultures and anything primal really came out of this kind of activity. I often heard of diversity, celebrating diversity and such. But I found that I was more interested in similarity of people/culture/things. I thought this was an important realisation for me and worth exploring.

I started to look for similarities in history and found that a stone axe head made in Japan 5000 years ago is very similar to the same thing made in Europe or Africa. I liked this connection and I guess I am still on that ride.

This is one layer of why I do what I do but there are lots of other influences, references, reason that make up what I do. It is hard to explain it really.. but I really enjoy doing it making stuff, looking and finding and thinking. Its all fun really.

So you should have fun with it too.’I found receiving the email from Nao incredibly important and found it incredibly intersting how both myself and nao come from diverse backgrounds and both have a profound interest within cultural identity. Maybe there is a link to cross cultural indenity and primtive art ?, to strip down ones identity back to the bare foundatrions of humanity. Within my art work so far i have been absorbed with the seperation of identitys and how these specific identies create my own. Nao has made me consider the concept of not neccisarily looking for the differences between the cultures and identies that allude myself but the similarities and the influences, how is germanic, hungarian and british cultures similar; how do i aesthetically comprehend this as a form ?, or forms ?.


Proud – 2013 series – glazed ceramic, wood, rope, acrylic paint – 150cm

I always perceived Naos forms to be that of simple primitive gesture from subconscious to representation.But I understand now, it is much more than that, it is the fact that by being so individual yet so similar they become unique ( they are cut from the same cloth), it is not their differences that are important yet their similarities. From one email I have gained a better understanding of why Matsunaga’s forms are the way they are, to express primitive culture through similarity rather than difference.



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