A Pair of Lungs – Julia McKinlay and Hiroko Nakajima

A Pair of Lungs explores the artistic collaboration between Julia McKinlay (UK) and Hiroko Nakajima (Japan).

Over twelve months and despite the physical distance, the two artists have responded to each other’s practice through virtual studio visits — sometimes shadowing each other’s processes — to culminate in a residency in Nakanojo that materialises this exchange. At the core of their creations was the exploration of the energy, friction, negotiation, and tension that arise when two entities merge into a unified whole.

The exhibition showcases an unexpected convergence of materials like shells and leather, materials that would not naturally coexist. The resulting sculptures consider the meeting of 'you' and 'I,' unravelling hidden narratives within human relationships and emotions, and questioning the boundaries between nature and the human-made.

A Pair of Lungs is part of the Nakanojo Biennale 2023, an international contemporary art festival held every two years in Nakanojo Town, Gunma Prefecture, Japan.

The exhibition was also supported by The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and the University of Leeds

Find out more about A Pair of Lungs.

About the artists

Julia McKinlay is an artist based in Leeds, UK and works across print, sculpture and drawing. She uses material processes that mimic nature such as chemical reactions, heat and pressure to create installations that represent semi-fictional environments and question the boundaries between nature and the human-made. Previous works have represented the back of a snail's shell, obscure gardens and the edge of the world. McKinlay works primarily with metal and its byproducts such as magma or slag, a form of man-made rock produced by the foundry furnace. Julia is a Lecturer in Fine Art in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds.

Hiroko Nakajima is interested in how materials, colour, surface and form translate our inner experience into a physical reality. The transformation is often a journey of uncovering the experience, 'processing the unprocessed' by creating a form for a lingering experience which remains unresolved . The resulting work is a material record of a moment, each work capturing a fragment of the experience, and together they create an inner-scape.


Iwamoto Silk Worm Farm


Julia McKinlay and Hiroko Nakajima, A Pair of Lungs, Nakanojo Biennale 2023. Photograph by Hiroko Nakajima.