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'Yoshitomo Nara Greetings from a Place in My Heart' opens at Dairy Art Centre, London
Yoshitomo Nara, Waiting for your blood, 2013© Yoshitomo Nara. Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe Photo: Sam Kahn.

LONDON.- Dairy Art Centre presents a major solo exhibition by Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara. The largest and most comprehensive exhibition in the UK to date, Greetings from a Place in My Heart features seminal pieces by the artist, many of which have never been shown before in the UK. Comprising a large body of recent and previously unreleased works, the exhibition includes painting, sculpture, and a unique retrospective of Nara’s drawings spanning 30 years.

One of the most renowned Japanese contemporary artists of his generation, Nara is best known for his paintings of children and animals sporting fiendish expressions and provocative stances, isolated against pastel-coloured backdrops. Exploring the psychological universe of childhood experience, Nara’s world straddles the make-believe of infantile imagination, adult anxiety, and rebellion. His paintings are diligently layered with luminescent colour, making each textured brushstroke and gesture visible, revealing a broad range of artistic and cultural influences from modernist Japanese and Western paintings, literature, illustrated children’s books, and music (folk, rock, and punk).

The exhibition explores an important development in Nara’s artistic practice, where he becomes more concerned with the approachability of his subject matter through the use of a softer, more vivid colour palette, as exemplified in paintings such as Midnight Silence (2014) and I wanna be. (2013). The serene and wide-eyed gazes of the children he portrays in these works are a striking contrast to the more familiar, menacing characters seen in paintings such as Midnight Vampire (2014), depicted in more solid colours.

Dating from 1984 to 2014, the drawing survey provides a rare opportunity to see over 200 individual pieces of Nara’s extensive collection of works on paper, brought together for the first time. Drawing has always played a key role in Nara’s creative process, with a number of these serving as the artist’s visual diaries. Rendered in pencil, acrylic, and coloured pencil, the drawings are composed on a variety of paper, such as found envelopes, stationery, and inexpensive lined sheets. Offering an unprecedented insight into the artist’s personal archive, these drawings combine Japanese visual traditions and Western modernism.

Another highlight of the exhibition includes a series of Nara’s large-scale bronze sculptures. Although a relatively new medium for the artist, which he began to use in 2011, the sculptures’ subjects of childlike heads and busts are familiar motifs that have continuously run throughout his career. The casts were produced from clay models Nara sculpted, giving their surfaces a rough, textured appearance.

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