Ocula MagazineContentsView All
Featured ContentView All
‘An Opera for Animals’ at Rockbund Art Museum Ocula Report ‘An Opera for Animals’ at Rockbund Art Museum 19 Jul 2019 : Penny Liu for Ocula

An Opera for Animals was first staged at Para Site in Hong Kong between 23 March and 2 June 2019, with works by over 48 artists and collectives that use opera as a metaphor for modes of contemporary, cross-disciplinary art-making. The exhibition's second iteration takes up a large portion of the Rockbund Art Museum (RAM) in Shanghai (22 June–25...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Mandy El-Sayegh: Productive Ambiguity Ocula Conversation Mandy El-Sayegh: Productive Ambiguity

Moving across installation, painting, drawing, and writing, Malaysia-born and London-based artist Mandy El-Sayegh explores the political, social, and economic complexities of humanity, using a mosaic of information—from advertising slogans and pornographic imagery to newspaper articles—that she subjects to processes of layering,...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House Ocula Report Get Up, Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House 5 Jul 2019 : Jareh Das for Ocula

Get Up Stand Up Now: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers at Somerset House in London (12 June–15 September 2019) surveys more than half a century of black creativity in Britain and beyond across the fields of art, film, photography, music, design, fashion, and literature.Curated by Zak Ové, works by approximately 100 intergenerational black...

Fade out copy.
Read More

Yoshitomo Nara

b. 1959, Japan

Yoshitomo Nara is a leading global contemporary artist whose practice first came to the fore in the context of Japan's influential Pop art movement. He is best known for sculptures, drawing, and paintings of cute children and animals that on closer inspection appear menacing. The style of his artwork is often associated with popular culture, from manga and anime to the graphics on music album covers, but it equally engages with Japanese visual traditions and Western Modernism.

Nara was born in 1959 in Hirosaki, a rural town in northern Japan. It was at school taking a figure drawing class that he first became interested in art. From 1979 to 1981, he took art classes at the Musashino Art University. He then went on to study at the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music in Nagakute, Japan, earning his BFA in 1985 and his MFA in 1987. He subsequently moved to Germany, graduating in 1993 from the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and setting up his studio in Köln. After serving as a Guest Professor for a graduate course in painting at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1998, Nara returned to Tokyo from Germany in 2000.

It was in Germany that Nara began to craft a visual vocabulary influenced by his fascination with Neo-Expressionism and punk rock. During this time, he also painted his first portraits of the child that has become the most recognisable motif in his practice. The child, who Nara noted in an interview with Ocula, is neither boy nor girl, usually appears a sole figure against a plain background, dressed simply. While the figure's cartoon-like features can give it an innocent and 'cute' appearance, it's action often suggest underlying subversiveness to the child: Nara has painted the figure smoking a cigarette, brandishing a knife or crucifix, sporting vampire fangs, or simply staring directly and insolently at the viewer.

Nara's portraits present a fusion of old and new traditions. The child's facial features—widely spaced eyes, stubby nose, slit mouth—are adopted from traditional Japanese Otafuku and Okame theatrical masks, while the poses are associated with anime and manga, and the overall compositions are reminiscent of Edo period ukiyo-e woodblock prints. The artist's sculptures, which for the most part present the child in three-dimensional form, are often coated in a liquid metal that cracks like the glaze on Song dynasty Chinese ceramics.

In 2001, Nara's figures achieved global acclaim and recognition with I Don't Mind, If You Forget Me, his first solo exhibition in a public museum, co-organised by the Yokohama Museum of Art, Ashiya city Museum Of Art & History, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hokkaido Asahikawa Museum of Art, and Hirosaki's Yoshii Brick Brewhouse. This exhibition galvanised the artist's large fan following and also attracted critical attention from the art world. Around this time the artist came to be loosely associated with an avantgarde group of Japanese artists who gathered together under a newly coined art term: superflat. Other superflat artists include Takashi Murakami and Chiho Aoshima. Superflat came to be associated with the use of bright colours, patterns, Japanese cartoon motifs, and a critique of the country's hyper-consumerist culture. However, Nara has always distanced his work from political or moral purpose, noting it remains first and foremost an expression of his inner feelings.

In 2010, the Asia Society Museum presented Yoshitomo Nara: Nobody's Fool, the first major New York exhibition of Nara's work, featuring more than 100 pieces, ranging from his early career in the 1980s to his most recent paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, and large-scale installations. The Museum of Modern Art acquired a number of the artist's artworks and now holds over 130 of his pieces in its collection. In 2011, deeply affected by the Fukushima earthquake and its aftermath, the artist found himself temporarily unable to work. He subsequently did return to work, and in 2016 the Asia Society recognised the artist by awarding him one of three prestigious Asia Arts Game Changer awards. On the occasion of receiving this award, Nara spoke to Ocula Magazine about his work and the award, noting that 'I know the general public like me but I was always unsure if professionals in the art world appreciate what I do.'

Since 2005, Nara has been based in Tochigi Prefecture in Japan, where he feels that, isolated away from urban life, he is better able to focus on his practice.

Anna Dickie | Ocula | 2019
Fade out copy.
Read More

Featured Artworks

When You Feel So Sad by Yoshitomo Nara contemporary artwork
Yoshitomo NaraWhen You Feel So Sad, 2012 Bronze
162.2 x 90.2 x 90.2 cm
Pace Gallery
TAIWAN by Yoshitomo Nara contemporary artwork
Yoshitomo NaraTAIWAN, 2016/2018 Pigment print
Taka Ishii Gallery
days 2014-2018 by Yoshitomo Nara contemporary artwork
Yoshitomo Naradays 2014-2018, 2018 55 pigment prints, wooden table
180 x 90 x 76.5 cm
Taka Ishii Gallery
SAKHALIN by Yoshitomo Nara contemporary artwork
Yoshitomo NaraSAKHALIN, 2014 Pigment print
Taka Ishii Gallery
TAIWAN by Yoshitomo Nara contemporary artwork
Yoshitomo NaraTAIWAN, 2016 Pigment print
Taka Ishii Gallery
Otsuka, Tokyo, 2016 by Yoshitomo Nara contemporary artwork
Yoshitomo NaraOtsuka, Tokyo, 2016, 2018 C-print
16 x 16 cm
Taka Ishii Gallery

Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Yoshitomo Nara, Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone—Take your time, it won’t be long now at Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo
Closed
7 July–10 August 2018 Yoshitomo Nara Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone—Take your time, it won’t be long now Taka Ishii Gallery, Photography / Film, Tokyo
Contemporary art exhibition, Yoshitomo Nara, Shallow Puddles at Blum & Poe, Tokyo
Closed
2 October–14 November 2015 Yoshitomo Nara Shallow Puddles Blum & Poe, Tokyo
Contemporary art exhibition, Yoshitomo Nara, Stars at Pace Gallery, Hong Kong
Closed
13 March–25 April 2015 Yoshitomo Nara Stars Pace Gallery, H Queen's, Hong Kong

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Yoshitomo Nara Ocula Conversation Yoshitomo Nara Artist, Japan

In Hong Kong, during April, to receive one of three prestigious Asia Arts Game Changer awards from the Asia Society, Yoshitomo Nara spoke to Ocula about his work, and how he finds the solitude he needs to create, by living in the small and distant city of Aomori, in northern Japan.Born in 1959, Nara studied at the Aichi Prefectural...

Fade out copy.
Read More

In Related Press

View All (18)
Yoshitomo Nara’s Lessons in Clay Related Press Yoshitomo Nara’s Lessons in Clay Elephant Magazine : 17 August 2018

Yoshitomo Nara loves mountains—a lingering fixation stemming from his birthplace in mountainous northern Japan. But it is at his own gallery space, N's YARD in Nasushiobara, where I meet with the artist after an hour-long train ride from Tokyo back in April.Built with locally sourced materials, N's YARD is cradled by beautiful trees that are...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Hong Kong's Art Central Fair Won't Shy Away From Controversial Commentary Related Press Hong Kong's Art Central Fair Won't Shy Away From Controversial Commentary Forbes : 28 February 2018

Donald Trump will make an appearance of sorts at this year’s Art Central fair in Hong Kong. Visitors will find him in a 1930s-style living room hidden among the gallery booths filled with abstract paintings and polished sculptures. When people enter the homely space, they'll be asked to sit down, make themselves comfortable and turn on the vintage...

Fade out copy.
Read More
ARTISTS ‘I Was Really Unthinking Before’: Yoshitomo Nara on His Recent Work and His Show at Pace Gallery in New York Related Press ARTISTS ‘I Was Really Unthinking Before’: Yoshitomo Nara on His Recent Work and His Show at Pace Gallery in New York ARTNEWS : 14 April 2017

The cartoonish children and animals featured in Yoshitomo Nara's drawings, paintings, and sculptures enjoy widespread appeal because of their very adult bad attitudes. Whether the characters wield guitars or outsize knives, they have made Nara a genuine crossover artist, taken seriously by the commercial, critical, and academic branches of the art...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Highlights from the seventh edition of Art Stage Singapore Related Press Highlights from the seventh edition of Art Stage Singapore The National : 18 January 2017

‘Contemporary art is not a decoration, it is a statement. It is a wonderful ­seismograph of our societies and realities.'These words were part of the opening speech given last week by founder Lorenzo Rudolf at the seventh edition of Art Stage Singapore in the South-east Asian island city.Rudolf, from Switzerland, has made it his mission to...

Fade out copy.
Read More

Sign up to be notified when new artworks and exhibitions by Yoshitomo Nara are added to Ocula.

WeChat

Scan the QR Code via WeChat to follow Ocula's official account.

Scan to follow Ocula on WeChat.
iCal GoogleYahooOutlook