Yoshimoto Nara @ Dairy Art Centre

If the name Yoshimoto Nara is unfamiliar to you, then I am almost certain that you would at least recognise his cartoon like images, which are coincidentally, currently on display at the Dairy Art Centre.

The show comprises sculpture, drawings, painting and even a water fountain in a retrospective style set-up. Nara is a Japanese artist whose career spans over three decades. The show is huge and is dominated by moody looking characters in a variety of guises. Nara’s pastel coloured subjects are reminiscent to me of ‘Little My’ from Tove Jansson’s Moomins, and I later learned that Nara spent time in Scandinavia, as well as, somewhat randomly Afghanistan. I have not been able to find out why exactly the artist travelled to these locations but it would be interested to know what caused him to spend time there.

The drawings and paintings are numerous and indeed very entertaining, however, it was the sculpture that left a real impression on me. Despite the endearing qualities of the images on paper and canvas, they could easily blend into the work of countless other Asian artists and illustrators concerned with cartoon imagery and manga. Nara takes his images one step further by turning the two-dimensional into three-dimensional artworks. These sculptures are cast in bronze and remain uncoloured. In this respect the childish characters seem to grow up and become more serious. Sculpture is a new medium for the artist, having only taken it up in 2011; however, I sincerely hope that Nara continues to use it within his work.

My favourite piece in the exhibition was a water fountain comprising of three white figures piled on top of each other inside a large teacup. The teacup is then filled with water, which comes in the form of tears from the eyes of the characters within in. The large cup is reminiscent of the tea cup rides seen at western fairgrounds, bringing another dimension to something that is normally associated with joy. In fact, much of Nara’s work inserts scowls and serious expressions where one would expect to see smiles, though somehow he doesn’t inflect misery on his viewers.

I would strongly urge those interested in cartoons or Asian art in general to visit Nara’s characters before they leave London. If anything, they will take away your pained expression if you are having a bad day.

Yoshimoto Nara: Greetings from a Place in my Heart is on display at Dairy Art Centre until 7 December

Posted by

Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer and curator. She is the founder of Gallery Girl - a London-based curatorial platform and website dedicated to modern and contemporary art from across the globe. Her work is primarily focused on supporting emerging female artists from the Middle East and the Caucasus. She has written for Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed Magazine, Suitcase and Vice Arabia among other publications. Her exhibitions in London and Armenia have been featured in Vogue Arabia, The Art Newspaper, The Art Gorgeous and numerous other news outlets. Gallery Girl has also spoken in the UK, UAE and Belgium about the contemporary art scene in the MENA region, and is planning further events in London and Amman.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s