“Flower Shower” by Nanami Cowdroy, 2009
Our artist of the week: Nanami Cowdroy
Some great artists have strong roots in one geographical area, allowing this to serve as a key driving force behind their work. Others, well, were cosmopolitan before they even got started, and it is certainly the latter category to which Australian artist Nanami Cowdroy belongs.
Nanami is one of the many significant artists whose greatness is in many ways linked to their comfort in today’s increasingly borderless world, with her own Japanese-European heritage having played a fundamental part in her creative vision and sense of place in the world. Indeed, even her name, Nanami, means ‘Seven Seas’ in Japanese.
An unmistakable visual language
In an art world in which it may have been reasonably presumed that ‘all styles have been done’, Nanami’s extremely fluid and intuitive, line-based and elaborate illustrations really are inimitable. Her monochromatic masterpieces exude fascinatingly precise detail for the viewer to get lost in, incorporating emblems of her rich cultural background such as the origami cranes for which she has long expressed great fondness.
“Cable Cranes” by Nanami Cowdroy, Image Source: nanamicowdroy.com
Such a truly hallmark style hasn’t just inspired many individual art lovers and galleries in the wide-ranging parts of the world in which she has exhibited – including the UK, US, Australia and Canada – but also such global brands as Smirnoff, for which she created one of its most captivating and memorable box designs.
“Start Pure” Campaign, Smirnoff No. 21, Collaboration with Smirnoff and advertising agency, Leo Burnett Sydney, 2012, Image Source: nanamicowdroy.com
Dream-like, delicate, watery, a tender juxtaposition of characters and elements both familiar and foreign… there are so many evocative ways to describe Nanami’s work. Her practice’s obvious authenticity is perhaps only further affirmed by her admission that “it was never really a conscious choice or decision for me to be an artist. It’s always been something I have done, and is a part of who I am at heart.”
“Imagination Cultivation” by Nanami Cowdroy, Image Source: nanamicowdroy.com
The story of an artist ‘at one’ with many cultures
So, what combination of circumstances exactly produces such an artist who – unlike many – really could be described as unique? Although Nanami Cowdroy was born and raised in Sydney, she frequently visited Tokyo to see her mother’s part of the family, which gave the youngster the early opportunity to immerse herself in multiple cultures and make comparisons.
“Geisha Yume” by Nanami Cowdroy, 2009
The artist continues to draw inspiration from what she refers to as the “big concrete mass” of Tokyo, elaborating: “What could be viewed as ‘ugly’ like tangled up power lines, cramped alleys and gritty streets, I feel has its own ‘raw’ appeal… as it’s not trying to cover up anything.” Sydney, of course, affords a drastically different experience, in which an artist so attuned to contrast can revel: “We’re lucky to have such great open spaces, and leafy areas in and around the city.”
“Drifter” by Nanami Cowdroy, Image Source: creoflick.net
Talk to Nanami about seemingly any element of her childhood, in fact, and she will launch into vibrant and intricate reminisces that mirror the depth and complexity of her art. She has spoken of her childhood home, for example, as representing “a total blend of both European and Japanese styles… it was filled with lots of objects and images (photos, books, art and crafty things) from both countries.”
Those items ranged from the floral sculptures created by her mother, a Japanese Ikebana (flower arrangement) teacher, to oil paintings of Australian bush landscapes, old Japanese Ukiyo-E woodblock prints and photos of Tokyo temples. It’s not difficult to begin to understand from where the fledgling Nanami came to source the many stimulating, spirited and quirky motifs that now make up her black-and-white inked creations.
A fascinating career – but even more enchanting art
Unsurprisingly given such a deep well of inspiration since her youth, Nanami has gone on to build one of the most critically celebrated and commercially successful careers of any Australian artist, with an exhibiting record encompassing such far-reaching parts of the world as Melbourne, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Berlin and New York. Scarcely any less astonishing is the seemingly never-ending roll call of media link-ups that the artist has enjoyed, including with Nissan, Rabbit Air, L’Oreal Fashion Week and Harper’s Bazaar andDazed & Confused magazines.
All such brands have turned to Nanami in the knowledge that no artist has shown such adeptness at intertwining disparate elements into her work that few other artists would even contemplate as a combination. Not only that, but she does so in a manner that brings an undeniably organic, fantastical and hypnotic result. Quite simply, absolutely no artist can be compared to Nanami Cowdroy and the artworks that represent the most wonderful manifestation of an artist with a truly singular vision.
She is, in other words, surely one of our most deserving ‘Artists of the Week’!
Nanami Cowdroy, Image Source: ufunk.net