Monday 23 May 2016

Contemporary Japanese art

Yoshitomo Nara at Stephen Friedman Gallery, Mayfair, London.

This work is very different to what I usually choose to go and see and I am still not sure what my response to it is, but I am glad we went as it's given me food for thought.

'Yoshito Nara is one of the leading artists of Japan's Neo Pop movement and is best known for his depictions of simultaneously cute and devilish children and animals. Informed by elements of popular culture ranging from manga and anime to punk rock, Nara fuses Japanese visual traditions and Western Modernism to create adorable but menacing characters that possess a startling emotional intensity'. (Text taken from here )

The work we saw is painting and drawing in picture-book style depicting children with staring eyes, with little or no background. But these  children who appear at first to be cute and even vulnerable, sometimes brandish weapons; their wide eyes often hold accusatory looks that could be sleepy-eyed irritation or could be undiluted expressions of hate. Nuanced depictions of alienation, anger and curiosity are expressed in each work. The apparent naivety of the characters Nara depicts are juxtaposed with slogans and often strong language. The contrast illustrates the angst of adolescent experience. The characters are at once cheeky, vulnerable and threatening.

The paintings are super flat.

Marching on the Butterbur Leaf, 2016 (acrylic on cotton mounted on wood panel)

Knife, 2015, (pencil on paper)

 I don't Want to Grow up, 2016, (acrylic on cotton mounted on wood panel)

Fuck U, 2016, (acrylic on cotton mounted on wood panel)

Miss Margaret, 2016, (acrylic on canvas)

Dead of Night, 2016, (acrylic on canvas)

Anxious, 2016, (acrylic on canvas)

Hey Girl, 2016, (ballpoint pen on paper)

I have to say that the Dylan lyrics made Ken very happy....

Younger Than Now, 2016 (ballpoint pen on paper)

How Many Words, 2016 (ballpoint pen on paper)

Below two of Nara's books that were also on display:

We then walked across the road to the second Stephen Friedman gallery: 'Horizon That Appears Out of the Sleepy Woods' , a group show of younger Japanese artists, all four selected by Yoshitomo Nara.

Takanobu Kobayashi:

'I want to depict existence. Everything has a characteristic attribute and that's where its meaning comes from. Once you take away the meaning, you get down to the essence. My idea is to paint vessels, people, pillows or trees, all in the same way as 'things'.'

Inverted Vessel, 2015 (oil on canvas)

Block, 2014, (oil on canvas)

Block, 2015, (oil on canvas)

Pillow, 2016, (oil on canvas)

Kuomo Murase:

'It seems as if I am depicting a moment, but the image includes multiple histories including times of doubt and uncertainty, which may indeed be a kind of entry into the work. Even if you enter the work, however, you may find that things are in flux, which can be simultaneously comforting and disturbing'.

Plant the Flowers (Two Girls), 2013 (gouache, coloured pencil on paper)

Sloop (Orange), 2014 (gouache and coloured pencil on paper)

Sandy, 2012 (oil, crayon on cotton).

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