Naoki Koide’s subjects are himself and his family, and creates sculptures of charming yet somewhat ominous characters with FRP, ceramic or wood. His main theme is a family that would never disappear. The characters that appear, however, are not limited to his family members. There are creatures from “another world”, including deceased family members in altered figures, spooks of clouds and skulls along with them. In an alter with a glitzy and rather tawdry structure, even his daughter at her cutest age shows demon like expressions. The world Koide creates is rather charged and chaotic, yet liberating, than simply seen as “family portrait”. An art critic Madoka Moriguchi remarks on Koide’s work:
It has become a standard move for many of today’s artists, not just Koide, to look to their familiar everyday environment and their own inner life for ideas. If the artist’s attitude toward life is lukewarm and half-hearted, however, he will not be able to create art with sufficient strength by simply giving visual form to his everyday reality. Koide directly depicts events in the life of his family or intimate acquaintances, but he avoids sentimentality and has a capacity for bold insight into the essence of things. These are the qualities that form the core of his art.（Madoka Moriguchi “The Relevance to the Present of Naoki Koide’s Art” Maternity Leave, Tomio Koyama Gallery, 2012）
In his first solo exhibition “A Couple in the Bathroom” at Tomio Koyama Gallery in 2004, Koide presented an installation depicted a couple placed in symbolically intimate spaces such as bedroom and bathroom. In “Marriage” in 2006, he exhibited the sculptures of the couple dressed as bride and groom, as well as the photographs of them in the family portraits that were actually shot in the wedding chapel. “In These Days” in 2008 featured the couple’s moving to a new house, and the deceased family as the motifs. In “Maternity Leave” in 2010, which was themed on his child’s birth, Koide’s pure wonder and warm gaze at an event of his wife’s giving birth embraced the overall exhibition.
Having an opportunity to work in the artist-in-residence at the Shigaraki Cultural Ceramic Park, Koide changed his main material from FRP to ceramic in 2009. In working with ceramic the artist often encounters changes in the process of firing. Koide talks about this unexpectedness as follows:
A new father cannot imagine what life will be like after a child is born and finally comes to understand what birth means only after it happens. This is very similar to the situation of creating art. Through the works that appear here [in the catalogue], I believe that I have come to understand the meaning of making art just a little more than before.（Naoki Koide “The Subject” Maternity Leave, Tomio Koyama Gallery, 2012）
Koide has encountered the most comfortable material for himself at the moment, and it inspired the artist. Koide’s work is created as if they were continuation of child’s naive, yet earnest play. It’s poetic and autobiographical, but also strongly evokes memories of the viewer.
The exhibition “Read Me a Story, Daddy”, features ceramic sculptures including three large pieces, wood sculptures and a video work. The work titled “tree (house)” is about 140cm, and has a face resembling the artist. Through the holes of its eyes, life of funny creatures inside can be seen. Koide continues his exploration of his family’s life with a new member, following his last solo show “Maternity Leave”. He introduces a new medium, a video, which he shot his own work at home with a voice reading picture books.