During the mid-1950s, Nakamura worked simultaneously on abstract landscapes, Inner Structure paintings, Block Structure paintings, and the quietly powerful, monochromatic String paintings. In each series, Nakamura strove to render in aesthetic form his lifelong study of the interconnectedness of science and art. In his own words, “There’s a sort of fundamental universal pattern in all art and nature … In a sense, scientists and artists are doing the same thing. This world of pattern is a world we are discovering together” (Hill and Sakamoto, Kazuo Nakamura: A Human Measure, Art Gallery of Ontario, 2004). In direct opposition to his Painters Eleven abstract contemporaries, Nakamura’s work should be viewed as an extreme form of representational realism. His entire aesthetic and conceptual practice was based on the conviction that art should progress from the portrayal of the physical world as it is perceived by our immediate senses to the representation of that which exists within the new realms discovered by science. “Cézanne broke nature down into cones, spheres,” Nakamura explains, “but we are living in an age where we can see a structure, a structure based on atomic structure and motion” (Ibid.).
The composition of the String paintings varies: the strings might be arranged horizontally or vertically across the entire surface of the support, or they may involve a combination of vertical and horizontal planes, as can be seen in Untitled from 1957. A beautiful example of Nakamura’s String paintings, its subtly nuanced tones and slightly irregular composition portray at once the mesmerizing complexity of the patterns that make up the universe and a carefully ordered simplicity. Reid writes that, in retrospect, “it is now clear that his radically yet infinitely expansive minimalist string paintings … were more significant than any objects produced in the 1950s by his Painter 11 colleagues and were among the most important works produced by any Canadian artist during that decade” (Ibid.). Their significance lies not only in their silent aesthetic force and sense of building intensity, but also in the contribution that they make to our scientific understanding of the world.