20 May–13 June, 2021
Piccadilly Circus
Underground Station

Curated by Kate Wong

Soft Opening is pleased to announce a solo presentation by Japanese-Nigerian artist, Narumi Nekpenekpen. Part 1 of Intra-action, a series of three individual but interrelated exhibitions curated by Kate Wong, Nekpenekpen’s show is formed of five glazed ceramic sculptures that employ vulnerability as a mode of refusal and world-building.

Nekpenekpen’s figures are small in relation to the human form, but gargantuan relative to the stars we see in the night sky, or the flecks of earthen elements that constitute the clay from which they have been formed. With their big doe eyes, heart-shaped pouty lips and cobby bodies, they gesture with a quiet but visceral urgency.

Inspired by the poetry of dreams and daydreams, and also by the language of film, Nekpenekpen’s work traverses questions of mistranslation, identity and belonging. In their innocence and playfulness, the sculptures protest against the binary of low and high art, and the Western commodification of different aesthetic forms. Drawing from wide-ranging pop-cultural references, Nekpenekpen’s figures come together in a liminal place. Here at the boundary of diverse perspectives, untethered from preexisting ways of seeing and making, her characters come to life.

In her process, slab porcelain clay is pushed and pulled into a central foundation onto which, like armour, the artist affixes a head, chunky limbs and highly textured garments, chains and other accessories. Nekpenekpen is interested both in what clay wants to do on its own, as well as what can emerge from their imminent relation. This method of handbuilding is honest, informed both by incongruity and imperfection. The result is a small, fierce army of lovers, produced from Nekpenekpen’s care and a dynamism of intra-acting forces. In this interstitial place, a dependency on others is essential to existence; love reigns supreme.

Accompanying text by Kate Wong

Intra-action brings together the work of Narumi Nekpenekpen, Michael and Chiyan Ho and Viktor Briestensky. Presented as a series of three individual but interrelated exhibitions, the project confronts individualist metaphysics through the proposal that there is no independent or self-contained existence, but rather, that entanglement is a precondition for being and our ability to act in the world. For the duration of the project, participating artists will be activating a live blog. This digital zone is where research in the form of images, videos, music and text can come together in a constant stream of exchange, influencing one another and working inseparably:

Born in 1998 in Kashiwa, Japan, Narumi Nekpenekpen lives and works in Los Angeles. Recent exhibitions include Toothache, a solo exhibition at Oddark, Los Angeles (2019), as well as groups shows including HU at Real Pain Fine Arts, Los Angeles (2020); Terra Firma: Foreign Lands at Murmurs, Los Angeles (2020); Centre Of the Core at Deli Gallery, New York (2020); Speech Sounds at More Pain, New York (2020); VIVID curated by Sonya Sombreuil as part of Made in L.A. 2020 at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2020); The Struggle for Change, Murmurs, Los Angeles (2020); Transmissions at Insect Gallery, Los Angeles (2019). Nekpenekpen recently completed a BFA at California State University, Long Beach in Ceramics, and forthcoming projects include a solo exhibition at More Pain, New York in September 2021.

Kate Wong is a Chinese-Canadian writer and curator living in London, UK. Interested in discursive approaches to art and knowledge production she works as the programme curator at V.O Curations, a not-for-profit arts organisation, and is the founder of low theory, a digital journal and curatorial project that focuses on creativity as decolonial praxis. Kate holds a BA from McGill University in Art History and International Development, and an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from the Visual Cultures Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her academic, curatorial and creative work is driven by an interest in political philosophy, focusing on the body, labour and virtuality. Kate’s writing on contemporary art and culture has appeared in Yishu Journal, TANK Magazine, Heichi Magazine, Another Gaze Journal and Frieze Magazine, among others.