A few years ago in Basel, I loved the pure innocence of Yoshitomo Nara. Last year, in June 2013, I happened to be in New York to see his solo show at Pace, and I was enchanted by his milky flavoured pastel brushes. This time, as I entered the Dairy Art Centre in London and saw the cute big eyes of a short haired little girl with nothing but a blue background, I was moved by a conflicting feeling: as if they were my long lost friends, or somebody that lived inside me that was a stranger to me.
幾年前在巴塞爾看奈良美智，覺得娃娃們很傻很天真；去年剛好在紐約看到他的個展，已經開始在他的彩色牛奶味顏料裏遊離。今天在倫敦Dairy Art Center進門看到第一副淺藍背景，齊耳短發的大眼美智娃娃，有些感動，想哭的感覺。像是許久不見的朋友，也像是和自己過不去的自己。
Throughout the galleries we are surrounded by oil paintings with different colourful backgrounds featuring unique little girls, with blonde, red and black hair and wide eyes. In some, their eyes are lit with different coloured fire, others have one little fang hiding between their lips. They each indulge in their own toys, ignoring each other as if they each have their own miseries, and do not know how to, or have the will to communicate to the world. Some of the girls reminded me of the little girls of Yayoi Kusama: red shoulder length hair, shiny big eyes, and all of them are doing nothing but displaying the stubborn ideas planted deep in their hearts.
In the centre room of the gallery, stand bronze sculptures of different colour and sizes, magnifying the details of each small and subtle line of a face. The lines mix the reflection of the outside and inner world of the little girls, presenting their emotions directly to the viewer. In a small room there was one unique installation, a big white tea cup on top of a white saucer, with light blue tears inside the tea cup. Five toddlers are climbing inside; two of the toddlers are swimming in the tears, while three of them were floating on top of one another. They have their eyes closed, facing different directions in the room, as if they are the inner child of the Three Graces. Toddlers of pure white have their eyes naturally closed, tears dropping gently into the tea cup, only to be absorbed in their body, and to come out of their eye lid again. Almost like a repeating, sad song, showing that tears are unavoidable in the journey of growing up. The room is especially pure and clear with the interaction of light blue and pure white. When I first entered the room it had an aura of melancholy but after a while, a true serenity enveloped me.
Apart from new oil paintings and sculptures, the exhibition also shows a large retrospective collection of Yoshitomo Nara drawings from the ‘80s of different geographic locations with a timeline of the years. We can see many sketches and free drawing, showing little scenes from life as well as images from his dreams and imagination, and shades of politics.
Yoshitomo Nara spends a lot of time on every work, thinking and re-thinking, painting and re-painting. Although his artwork is carefully planned and executed, they are simple and powerful. Since the Japanese pop art movements in the 90s, the little girls and the dogs playing in their rooms, or playground, have not encountered a cultural or age gap.
Find out more:
Yoshitomo Nara: Greetings from a Place in My Heart
Dairy Art Centre
3 October – 7 December 2014