Nara’s Life Gone Wrong

Yoshitomo Nara Wounded, 2014 Acrylic and collage on canvas H120 x W110 cm Photo: Keizo Kioku Artist Collection © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy of the artist
Yoshitomo Nara
Life Is Only One!, 2007
Acrylic on wood
H194 x W410 x D7 cm
Photo: José Luis Gutiérrez
Private Collection © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy of the artist
Yoshitomo Nara
Wounded, 2014
Acrylic and collage on canvas
H120 x W110 cm
Photo: Keizo Kioku
Artist Collection © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy of the artist
Yoshitomo Nara
Black Eyed, 2014
Acrylic on canvas
H194 x W162 cm
Photo: Keizo Kioku
Artist Collection © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy of the artist
Yoshitomo Nara
White Night, 2006
Acrylic on canvas
H162.5 x W130 cm
Photo: Yoshitaka Uchida
Private Collection © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy of the artist
TOP
4411
179
1
 
31
Jul
31
Jul
CoBo Social Design and Architecture

Nara Exhibition: Life is Only One in Hong Kong has come to an end, and before closure, to celebrate its success, the Hong Kong Jockey Club decided to extend it for one day on 27th July with additional docent-led tours.  An event called SayoNARA including an informal lunch with special performance was held to celebrate the conclusion of the well-received exhibition. On that day, the National Youth Orchestra of USA made their debut in Hong Kong with the renowned pianist Yundi Li. Although the scale of this exhibition was much smaller than Nara’s solo exhibition in Japan, the exhibition covered a wide range of Nara’s art works, including a rich selection of paintings, sketches, photographs, sculptures and multimedia installations. Most of the works exhibited there were created after 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. The disaster made him rethink life, thus resulting in a change in style. Nara used to convey meanings through girls’ cheeky expressions, but now girls in his painting often appear to be lost in thoughts. He doesn’t only create those either fiendish or innocent figures, but he creates complex and angst-ridden figures for us to contemplate and interpret as well.

Text: Qiuyi Wang

Yoshitomo Nara Life Is Only One!, 2007 Acrylic on wood H194 x W410 x D7 cm Photo: José Luis Gutiérrez Private Collection © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy of the artist
Yoshitomo Nara
Life Is Only One!, 2007
Acrylic on wood
H194 x W410 x D7 cm
Photo: José Luis Gutiérrez
Private Collection © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy of the artist

The title of this exhibition comes from one of Nara’s paintings, Life is Only One. In this painting, you can see a girl with an innocent look holding a skull. It seems that the girl has an insight into the dark side in life, but she doesn’t care. If we know life could be short and in vain why should we care so much and struggle. The artist conveys a philosophical issue to all through the eyes of a little girl.  His never before seen personal photo album was also shown as part of this exhibition.

Yoshitomo Nara Wounded, 2014 Acrylic and collage on canvas H120 x W110 cm Photo: Keizo Kioku Artist Collection © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy of the artist
Yoshitomo Nara
Wounded, 2014
Acrylic and collage on canvas
H120 x W110 cm
Photo: Keizo Kioku
Artist Collection © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy of the artist

Nara captured international attention in 2001 and became one of most widely recognized Japanese contemporary artists. The popularity of Japanese contemporary art has been on the rise of late. For instance, Yayoi Kusama was named world’s most popular artist according to a survey of museum attendance in 2014. Her unique dot-patterned works are so iconic that two million visitors flaunted to her Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Obsessions exhibition from all over the world. She even spanned her art to the fashion industry by her successful collaborations with Louis Vuitton. Takashi Murakami is another big name in Japanese contemporary art.  He founded a postmodern art movement called “superflat”, which is influenced by manga and anime. He also extended his world recognition by working with commercial media such as fashion, merchandise and animation. His collaboration with Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton helped him gain widespread recognition. Compared to them, Nara’s art is more personal. Drawing on his childhood memories and imagination, he created his signature portraits featuring wide-eyed children and animals, with their over-sized heads. His pieces are often manga-like, presenting an important part of Japanese pop culture.  Moreover, he found a way to balance between pop culture and fine art. You can see a combination of pop art and minimalism; you can even sense the influence of Renaissance painting in his works. By straddling the line between fine art and illustrator, he gained a wide range of fans from serious art collectors to young audiences.

Yoshitomo Nara Black Eyed, 2014 Acrylic on canvas H194 x W162 cm Photo: Keizo Kioku Artist Collection © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy of the artist
Yoshitomo Nara
Black Eyed, 2014
Acrylic on canvas
H194 x W162 cm
Photo: Keizo Kioku
Artist Collection © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy of the artist

However, I guess Nara is still craving for more buzz in the globe. His market attraction in the Asian world is no doubt much bigger than that in the rest of the world.  Compared with the big crowd at Nara’s Life is Only One exhibition in Hong Kong, his solo exhibition Yoshimoto Nara: Greetings from a Place in my Heart at the Dairy Art Centre in London last year received much less applause. I remember that the scale of that exhibition was much bigger than the one in Hong Kong. With four or five large installations and sculptures, about ten pieces giant paintings that each of them occupied a whole wall, and enormous collection of his sketches, Nara made efforts to bring his art to the fore in the art capital London. Interestingly, visitors were allowed to takes picture of all these works, whilst in his Hong Kong exhibition photography are strictly forbidden. Nevertheless, Nara’s solo exhibition in London received less visitors, the number of visitors were even countable on the weekend according to my experience and most of them were Asians. Even if an Asian artist is well established in the art domain, it is still hard for them to obtain further recognition among visitors. On one hand, London offers a lot of opportunities for art lovers to interact with arts from the art works of old masters to emerging artists, visitors are overwhelmed with choices. On the other hand, even though Nara’s works are quite iconic, his work is still difficult to distinguish among countless other cartoon and manga of Asian artists. Thus, it isn’t surprising that unlike in Hong Kong, Nara’s Solo exhibition in London obtained good reviews but not a crowd.

Yoshitomo Nara White Night, 2006 Acrylic on canvas H162.5 x W130 cm Photo: Yoshitaka Uchida Private Collection © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy of the artist
Yoshitomo Nara
White Night, 2006
Acrylic on canvas
H162.5 x W130 cm
Photo: Yoshitaka Uchida
Private Collection © Yoshitomo Nara, courtesy of the artist

Since we know that Yayoi Kusama took more than seventy years to gain global popularity, Nara still has a chance of becoming more popular in the future.  Maybe one day, people from the western world can tell difference between “Snoopy” from Nara’s iconic big-eye dogs, finally cementing Nara’s position in the global art world.

—–

Qiuyi: currently a master student in Arts and Cultural Management at King’s College London; Arts and travel fanatic, illustrator, blogger (Presenting arts information for Chinese readers in WeChat Public Platform, a/c: wildmushroomart).

 
1 Comment

Leave a Reply

One thought on “Nara’s Life Gone Wrong”