Spotlight on Faris Nakamura: Sovereign Asian Art Prize Artist Highlights

A closer look at the finalists for The 2023 Sovereign Asian Art Prize.

What first interested you about architecture and the tectonics of space?

My interest in the survey of spaces and architecture started with me not having my own room at home while growing up. I’ve always shared a room with my two brothers (up until now), and I got rather intrigued by the polarising feelings that I had towards the room; feelings of attachment and detachment to the room at the same time. I then started to seek out spaces outside of home to do personal things like study, play the guitar, or hang out with a special someone, but was often told off by either building management or fellow residents, “you can’t do that here!” – even when the space was vacant and not utilized by anyone or for anything.

That made me take a contemplative look at the negotiation of public spaces by people alike who were simply without the luxury of their own space and how architecture and its building sites i.e., stairwells, void decks and other nooks and crannies have become safe spaces for these people. What used to simply be a yearning and searching for a personal space of comfort and freedom became an in-depth study into the properties of spaces and how architecture plays a part in the development of the variable functional uses of building sites and the impact it has on the people who use them.

Where do you see the intersection between art and mathematics?

Mathematics plays a crucial role in art, I feel. We artists instinctively apply math even in our early sketches. We mentally calculate the length and height of our drawings to the size of the paper to get the correct ratio. And more so for object-makers and sculptors when bringing our sketches to life in a three-dimensional form.

Much like how artists would use fundamental formulas to get proportions and perspectives right, and to achieve the right balance, I use geometric principles to plan the shapes and the spatial forms of my works. It is important for me to get definitive, precise measurements that can only be obtained through mathematics in order to achieve seamless joints and clean lines in my artworks.

In what way has art positively impacted your life?

To start talking about serious matters has always been quite difficult for me, especially when they are too close to the heart, sensitive or confrontational. Art has been the tool that I use to start these conversations. Art has become my impetus in life.

As an introvert, a minority race and queer in Singapore, I struggled with expressing myself. Finding a healthy and non-confrontational outlet to speak my truth, share my experiences and advocate for the things that I am passionate about was necessary – and I found it in art. With art, it also allows me to deeper understand my emotions as I share them with others, and it fosters self-awareness.

My art documents my thoughts, my reflections, and my relationship with the world that I live in and that allows me to look back at my life chronologically to help me understand my growth and my strength as a person. Through the conversations that I have had about art, I am able to connect with people in a manner that cannot be achieved through other means, and I am reminded that I am not alone.


This interview with Faris Nakamura is part of a series of interviews highlighting the shortlisted artists for The 2023 Sovereign Asian Art Prize – the 19th edition of Asia’s most prestigious prize for contemporary artists.