Yoshitomo Nara JP, b. 1959
Yoshitomo Nara is a central figure within contemporary Japanese art. He is closely associated with the rise of Superflat art, a term coined by Nara's contemporary Takashi Murakami to describe a movement that blends a two-dimensional (flat) graphic design with the more contemplative interests of fine art.
Superflat art is now considered a staple of postmodern art. The movement's primary conception is rooted in Japan's post-war obsession with anime and manga comic books. However, Nara's more outward-looking worldview has done much to promote the reputation of the so-called Japanese 'Pop art' in mainstream Western culture.
While Nara's illustrative approach has drawn parallels with the work of Keith Haring, Nara's figures are more archetypal and play around much more with the Japanese tradition of the kawaii: the idea that we might feel empathy with feeble and helpless creatures.
Nara's deceptively simple art uses animated-like imagery to express conflicting emotions and anxieties within a single figure. His subjects are frequently depicted in a spirit of resistance and rebellion or, sometimes, in a more tranquil or contemplative state. The figures in Nara's paintings result from the artist facing the deepest part of his soul. His colours and composition stem from theories of painting, repeatedly layering and erasing different hues from the canvas so that what remains, in the end, is only the most earnest impressions that remain, pared away from superfluous flourishes.
In contrast, the drawings are distanced from pictorial theory; instead, he calls upon materials with which he feels familiar - such as torn-off note paper or used envelopes - he bares his emotions and thoughts.
In his three-dimensional sculptural works, for which he has varied his media over the years, Nara gives everyday items new life through a meditative dialogue with the materials.
His photography has begun to have fully-fledged presentations in recent years. For these photographic works, he discovers raw beauty in everyday landscapes and moments from his work or travels that may easily be overlooked and records them as something precious.
Nara's artistic works contain everything that he encompasses. Memories etched into the depths of his soul and the music, paintings, and literature he encountered organically by following his curiosity that inspired his spirit and sensibilities - are all accumulated in countless layers.
Nara creates his works directly and freely, bound by nothing. His works transcend barriers of language, cultural backgrounds, and eras; they are beloved by many people. The artist confronts the essence of people and objects, resulting in works that are mirrors that reflect the viewer and society at large.
Born in 1959, Nara was raised in the Aomori prefecture of Japan. In 1987, he completed master's degree program at Aichi University of the Arts. He then moved to Germany in 1988 and enrolled at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. After residing in Cologne, Nara returned to Japan in 2000. The artist has exhibited in various places in Europe, the United States, Japan, and Asia since the late 1990s.
Yoshitomo NaraPeace Dog (Blue), 2022screenprint on cotton53 x 53 cm
63 x 63 cm (Framed)
Yoshitomo NaraPeace Dog (Red), 2022screenprint on cotton53 x 53 cm
63 x 63 cm (Framed)
Yoshitomo NaraIt's Five to Two, 2021Fine bone china26.7 cm
Edition of 250
Yoshitomo NaraLove from the Sea, 2021Fine bone china26.7 cmEdition of 250
Yoshitomo NaraMiss Spring, 2021Digital pigment print on Takeo Deep PV Hakou paper and hardback book.27.9 x 22.9 cm
Edition of 100 + 5 APs
Yoshitomo NaraBanging the Drum, 2020Offset lithograph68.6 x 43.2 cm
27.00 x 17.00 in
Yoshitomo NaraReal One, 2020Offset lithograph25.00 x 29.00 in
63.5 x 73.7 cmEdition of 1000
Yoshitomo NaraMarching on a butterbur leaf, 2019Offset lithograph
24.02 x 17.99 in
61 x 45.7 cmOpen editon
Yoshitomo NaraBroken Treasure, 2012Ukiyo-e woodcut on Japan paper16 1/2 × 11 1/2 in
41.9 × 29.2 cmEdition of 50