The Japanese city of Hadano near Tokyo nestles in a kind of geological basin its suburbs edging up its surrounding
mountainous ridges. Nozomi Watanabe spent many childhood hours observing and drawing the shifting horizons she
experienced residing in an area half way up these slopes. Like the steep escarpments and sight lines often seen in
Japanese anime like those of Studio Ghibli, this was a world of shifting perspectives and associated parallax. Watanabe
would often contemplate these seismic connections between grounded light plans and rotating nighttime constellations
whose fluid relationships would vary according to her height in the hills, the whole visual field being held together and
observed as if within some large radio dish or held in an optical lens.
This rim, edged like a large celestial telescope, formatted the sky like a slowly rotating cosmic planetarium synchronized
with speeding streets, trains and flickering lights of the city below. The notion of ‘telescope’ is important here.
Telescopes perform a variety of acts. Bringing very distant objects into focus and making the invisible visible, they also
compress and flatten the space experienced. Things close are pushed away and while distant objects are compressed
and almost ‘married’ onto a single flat plane. The experience is one of allegory – describing without being the thing
The idea of the telescope underlines much of Nozomi’s work. Letting us see increasingly distant objects they condense
space bring proximity to both the distant and near. It is the ‘in reach’ allusiveness that excites wonder. Part of Nozomi’s
wish is to express the relationships and continuity between distant points – the pulses of energy emitted from the
cosmos – creating a kind of correlative map of stars and the land. Like the shifting parallax experienced while travelling
though the evening landscape of Hadano, these maps change with our position. Like telescopes, maps also flatten the
space and have a coincidental parallel to the flattened perspectives often found within the Japanese painting tradition.
Many of Nozomi’s works act like map locators such as ‘Observation Points’ from 2016. The spatial distribution of
illuminated balloons, while corresponding to a constellation, invite the viewer to look from these fixed points, suggesting
a subtle change like ‘viewing stations’ used in eighteenth century landscape gardens, each station opening up a new
vista or sightline to a point of interest. This however is also a landscape of natural phenomena where matrices are
divined between the sound patterns of rainfall or the falling of leaves; seemingly random phenomena containing
We use a map because we are lost. ‘Lostness’ and ‘aloneness’ are important metaphysical constituents in Mapping
Lost Territories. Taking text and editing the ‘I’s as a kind of empty space, these were mapped as holes punched on a
punch card - an emptiness of being or the space between words. Maurice Blanchot called it ‘the space in literature’.
Alone competes with the group for completion. A choir of solos. Like an immersive music of the spheres, the idea of
‘harmony’ begins to emerge as a concept.
Nozomi’s works like her most recent constellation of chewing gum remains, documented on the pavement, again allude
to star clusters and place her in a long tradition of star gazers from Nancy Holt, James Turrell and Vija Celmins to John
Russell and Adam Elsheimer. In 1894 the playwright August Strindberg in a text called ‘Chance in Artistic Creation’,
strangely foretold developments of the ‘automatic’ in twentieth century art. His Celestographs of the 1890’s used
cameraless photographic techniques and in the small specks of light that emerged he saw stars though they might
equally well have been specks of dust, dew or the weathering of atmospheric conditions and while these photographs
look like the stars, the spectator could just as easily see worn earth. Predicting Jean Dubuffet’s ‘texturologies’, what is
important is this double view where the cosmos and earth matter collide and interact. The motions play on a liminal
cosmic expanse balanced somewhat precariously against a kind of haphazard Brownian motion where Robert Brown’s
pollen particles were randomly moved by the collision of atoms and molecules.
Edward Chell (Artist/Curator). 2016