Yoshimoto Nara

[b. 1959 - ] View All Work

“The works I create are no longer self portraits, rather they are someone more like somebody’s child or friend.  It is my hope that they will belong to the audience, or eventually even hold a place within the history of art, even after my body is perished, and as long as human beings exist.”

— NARA Yoshitomo

Unforgettable at first sight… Such describes the children and animals that NARA Yoshitomo depicts.  They have a variety of deceptively simple expressions – some look defiant and aggressive while others seem melancholic or as if in contemplation.  But these children, who appear at first to be cute and even vulnerable, sometimes brandish weapons like knives and saws. Their wide eyes often hold accusatory looks that could be sleepy-eyed irritation at being awoken from a nap—or that could be undiluted expressions of hate.

Nara, however, does not see his weapon-wielding subjects as aggressors. "Look at them, they [the weapons] are so small, like toys. Do you think they could fight with those?" he says. "I don’t think so. Rather, I kind of see the children among other, bigger, bad people all around them, who are holding bigger knives

Lauded by art critics, Nara’s bizarrely intriguing works have gained him a cult following around the world.

Behind their cute appearance lies the suggestions of a strong will and inexplicable feelings, reminding us of the depth of human psychology in which opposite emotions can coexist, and stimulating our imagination.  Having captivated audiences all over the world with various works that include paintings, drawings and large-scale installations, Nara opens the door to a new world, exploring traditional printmaking techniques and creating print editions as well as fine works on paper.

Nara first came to the fore of the art world during Japan’s Pop art movement in the 1990s. The subject matter of his sculptures and paintings is deceptively simple: most works depict one seemingly innocuous subject (often pastel-hued children and animals drawn with confident, cartoonish lines) with little or no background.

NARA Yoshitomo was born in 1959 in Aomori, Japan.  In 1987 he completed a doctoral course in Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music.  In 1988 he went to Germany where he studies at the Staatliche Kunstakademie, Dusseldorf.  Since 2000, solo exhibitions of his works have been held in major museums around the world as well as major group shows and collaborative activities. It has been 11 years since the Yolohama Museum of Art presented Nara’s first large-scale solo show “I Don’t Mind if you Forget Me” in 2001.  Currently, the same establishment is showing “A Bit Like You and Me”, exploring the relationship between the artist and his works and between his works and the viewer.