Jean Nagai and Kelly Ording Discuss Their New Show "In Time" at Pt. 2 Gallery

May 12, 2018Pt. 2 Gallery, Oakland

For Pt 2. Gallery's latest offering, they've paired two artists whose paintings explore ideas of color, space, shape, and what lies in between. In Time is a duo-exhibit between Jean Nagai and Kelly Ording, two California based artists, Nagai in Los Angeles and Ording in Oakland. They speak volumes in their work, so we reached out to them to get an idea of what pushes them, how they work, and why their work seems to click so well. Read the full interview below.

Juxtapoz: Is this your first time showing together? Had you seen each others' work much before, and did you consider each others' work to be aiming in a similar direction?
Jean Nagai: We were in a group show together a couple years ago at Athen B Gallery. Although our method of working is different, Kelly's work stood out to me because I could sense that we were painting from a similar mindset, working within the parameters of "landscape," while also pushing the idea of what a "landscape" could be. Her paintings also had a vibration to them, a mediation, and she is a much more focused painter than I could ever be.

I think this was the first time I had seen Kelly's work. I lived in a small town for many years and was hesitant to engage the world through the internet. I think I had been on Instagram for only a couple of years at that point so most contemporary art was new to me. My work used to be more minimal in terms of color, and movement. A year ago, I moved to Los Angeles, which is a very colorful place with lots of energy, and that has definitely affected my work. When I was working with two colors, I was also thinking ofthen in binary terms, and this world is non binary, everything exists on a spectrum and it is important to share. I use painting to share those ideas.

Kelly Ording: We were in a group show together about a year ago at Athen B Gallery, and the work actually hung next to each other. This was one of the first times I had seen Jean's work, and I loved it. I also own one of Jean's pieces so I am a big fan. I saw a lot of similarities in our work, and thought that we probably grappled with a lot of the same questions. Both bodies of work are methodical, meditative, play with foreground and background, and explore composition in seemingly minimal ways. I actually thought a lot about Jean's work when preparing for this show and used a lot more color than I usually do, which was great.

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Both of you have extensive experience with muralism, but this show is primarily indoor paintings. Do you feel like you're moving away from murals in recent years? How do you generally feel about muralism now?
Jean Nagai: I would really like to do more mural work, I just haven't found many opportunities to paint any lately. I love seeing murals, I like when I see large chunks of color on the walls and if a mural can contribute to community and create dialog or a better mood to a place I'm all for them even if I don't necessarily like the mural.

Kelly Ording: I don't feel like I am moving away from murals, although last year I did make a lot more studio work and focused more on exhibitions. Creating public work is really important to me because I think it's culturally vital to bring art out of the museum and gallery space, and provide an opportunity for a community to engage with and discuss art. I think it's amazing that there is a huge amount of excitement surrounding murals these days. I think we are living in a time when murals are at their height of greatness. Some of these walls people are painting are just insanely gigantic and so expertly executed. Plus, being a muralist is another way that artists can pay the bills and travel the world, so, I think it's great.

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How do each of you relate to the title of the show?
Jean Nagai: Some change can be instant, people dying, a baby coming into this world. As we get closer and closer to computers, our sense of time is distorted and we expect things to change instantly, but time in geological or space time is much much longer, it takes us a year to orbit the sun and that distance is so short when compared to the size of the universe. So life changes in time, we work with clocks creating a false measurement of this dimension that can be hard for me to navigate, if i'm not paying attention to the sun or my heart. We, as a species, are accelerating at a faster rate and for me, painting is a way to slow time down.

Kelly Ording: The works I created for the In Time exhibition focus on the use of color, shapes, and repetitive mark-making to show the passage of time and memory. In many of the pieces, the line becomes a marker of time, similar to the visual evidence of time seen in sedimentary rocks or old growth tree stumps. Besides showing the evidence of my own hand, I wanted to show evidence of nature's processes, particularly how the weather leaves its mark over time. All the works in the show underwent a dyeing process, but, a few were left outside for weeks in the sun and rain creating a unique surface.

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Who are some of each of your influences?
Jean Nagai: I'm influenced by people who are confronting white supremacy and environmental issues, whether it's artists, scientists or activists. There needs to be a change in the prevailing system of oppression and consumption. On the other hand, my favs are pretty normal. I love the Impressionist era of art, Monet, Matisse and Derain, I also love Georgia O'Keeffe, Yoko Ono, and Jenny Holzer, I can always learn something from them.

Kelly Ording: Frank Stella, Agnes Martin, Sol LeWitt, Lance Wyman

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Do each of you see these latest bodies of work pushing you in a new direction? Or do you want to continue to consolidate and grow this style more?
Jean Nagai: In some ways my work has become more colorful and wavy in the past year, but my work was also very colorful 10 years ago, maybe I'm working in cycles, thinking more about the possibilities of what it means to be an artist? I would like to incorporate more non -raditional medium into my paintings again. Also, I'd like to paint more murals, anywhere.

Kelly Ording:
Unfortunately, I tend to move along before completely exhausting an idea. But, I feel like there are a lot more interesting things to be explored based on the work in the show. I'm excited to continue to use color in new ways and I'll probably continue to play with shapes and geometry forever. I have also started to experiment with installation for the first time, which might be good or bad. We'll see... In Time.