The Optical Illusions of Kohei Nawa

Using crystal beads and prism sheets, artist Kohei Nawa manipulates the audience’s perceptions of the images. In his PixCell (Beads) series (2005-2009), taxidermy animals are covered in clear crystal beads, obstructing our perception of the surface, and thus, the true image of the animal. In his PixCell (Prism) series (2003-2009), Nawa encases objects in acrylic boxes, but, with an added layer of prism sheets, that cut the light travelling into the boxes in two, and creating the illusion of multiples of the object, much like a hologram. In the latter work, the sculptural pieces are placed in a room that optically flattens the space and the works; the artist is taking already three-dimensional objects, flattening them by playing with the configuration of the space to appear two-dimensional, then placing prism sheets in the acrylic boxes to render the images three-dimensional by playing with the configuration in the smaller spaces of the boxes.

Distortion is a key element in the artists’ work. The skin of the animals in the PixCell (Beads) series is altered, creating a different view of the structure of the animal as a whole, and through each individual bead. The artist himself described the animals as being “replaced by ‘a husk of light’, and the new vision ‘the cell of an image’ (PixCell) is shown”, where the beads become the new ‘biological’ make-up of the animal. The random grouping of some of the beads can be seen as a direct commentary on how we perceive images, especially how the public is fed information, and the fact that sometimes even seeing the whole picture, with all the information, can still obscure the original intent of a piece. It is all in perception; two people seeing a piece will go away from it with two different perspectives on its intention or meaning.

-Anna Paluch


Peter Erskine (American, b. 1941, New Haven, CT, USA) - 1: Spectrum of Time, Rainbow Sundial calendar, 1999 Permanent Installations.  2,3,4,5: New Light On Rome, 2000 Spectrum Sunlight on Aula Stairs.Trajan’s Markets, Rome 112 AD. 21.6.2000-1.1.2001. Materials: Sunlight, Laser Cut Prisms  6,7: Peter Erskine (American, b. 1941, New Haven, CT, USA) - Secrets Of The Sun (SOS), Photovoltaic Solar Electric Panels, 1991  8: Meridian Solar Spectrum Calendar. Porter Ranch Public Library Los Angeles, California, 1998

“A photographer in Finland was at the right place at the right time and got to experience a very rare sight. Most of us have seen sun pillars, or sundogs, or even a halo around the sun, well this man saw 13 different optical phenomena all at once. Ice crystals that create colored or white arcs/spots in the sky produce these types of atmospheric phenomena. Many are usually near the sun but others are scattered elsewhere. The particular shape and orientation of the crystals are responsible for the type of halo that is being observed. The crystals act like prisms and mirrors, refracting and reflecting sunlight and sending beams of light in different directions.”

source:  13 Weather Authority