Yoshitomo Nara, Shinro Ohtake & Yayoi Kusama exhibitions

Posted on November 17, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

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Yoshitomo Nara at the Dairy Art centre


This autumn/winter, lucky Londoners have the opportunity to see the solo exhibitions of two internationally renowned Japanese contemporary artists Yoshitomo Nara and Shinro Ohtake. The artists were both in town to talk about their work, and I was especially interested in hearing from Yoshitomo Nara, so I booked for my friend and I to the preview and talk at the Dairy Art Centre last month.

My friend arrived before me and warned me about the long queue outside of the gallery. I was gobsmacked upon arrival because I had not expected the queue to go round the block! We had to wait about half an hour before we were let in (not a good initial sign), then we were told to sit on the hard floor because of limited seating. For the next hour and a half, hundreds of people (some dressed in suits) were squashed together in a hot room while the artist showed us his holiday snaps! My friend and were not impressed by this overbooked and disorganised event, and we left not long after the artist finally decided to talk about his work ( which was an hour into the event). There was nothing wrong with the artist showing us his holiday snaps ( in fact, he is seem quite funny), but it would have been preferable if we were in more comfortable condition.


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Luckily, the art work in the gallery made up for the frustration and discomfort we felt during the talk. The exhibition is a retrospective of Nara’s work spanning 30 years including drawings, paintings and sculptures. It is not hard to see why the event attracted so many people because the artist's work has a global appeal and it has the ability to evoke emotions within us. Nara's drawings of innocuous ( though at times monstrous and creepy) children and animals are cartoon-like; they are simple, imaginative and have a 'dreamy' quality to them. However, his work also has a darker and complex side to it, feelings of loneliness, helplessness, rebellion and boredom are also depicted in some of his work.

The artist is hugely influenced by music, and at the talk, he also revealed that he prefers cats over dogs, which probably surprised many as dogs appear to be a popular subject in his work. Distraught by the tsunami event in 2011, the artist took up a residency at the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music in Nagakute and began to work collaboratively with students to produce new large-scale bronze sculptures of childlike heads and busts, which can be viewed at the exhibition.


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I think many adults are constantly seeking the innocence or even the rebellion streak we had when we were younger. Most of us don't want to grow up, and so we struggle with conflicts that we created for ourselves as we age. Nara's work captures our imagination, reminds us of our younger selves, but most importantly, it encourages us to cherish our ability to dream no matter the age.

Yoshitomo Nara's 'Greetings from a place in my heart' is showing until 7th December at Dairy Art Centre, 7a Wakefield St, London, WC1N 1PG.


Shinro Ohtake

Shinro Ohtake's installation at Parasol unit. Courtesy of the artist and Parasol Unit. Photo: Stephen White.


Unfortunately, I missed Shinro Ohtake's talk with Mark Rappolt from ArtReview at The Japan Foundation last month, which I am sure was a fascinating one. Although both Shinro Ohtake and Yoshitomo Nara are from the same generation and music lovers, the contrast between their work is immense. Ohtake is rather like an obsessive hoarder who has been collecting and collaging scraps, found materials and personal memento for over 35 years. In 1977, he began his ongoing series of ‘Scrapbooks’, and has to date completed more than sixty. Some of them were shown at the Venice Biennale 2013 as part of the ‘encyclopedic palace’ exhibition.

The exhibition at Parasol Unit showcases work by the artist's early, recent and new works including drawing, pasted works, painting, sculpture, and photography, as well as experimental music and videos. I was particularly intrigued by his series inspired by his trip to Tangiers; these cut and paste pieces contain cutouts from Arabic newspaper and one of them even has a faint sound recording installed in it ( a trick that the artist likes to employ and experiment on). Another rather playful installation is a robot like statue 'Radio Head Surfer' - an exploration on scraps, art and sound. On the surface, Ohtake's work is chaotic, compulsive and surreal, yet it is also original and quite mesmersising. Don't miss this chance to see one of Japan's leading artist of today.

Shinro Ohtake's exhibition is showing until 11th December at Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, 14 Wharf Road, London, N1 7RW.


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Top left: Parasol unit & Victoria Miro; Top right: James Clar's 'All everything' light sculpture; 2nd & bottom rows: Yayoi Kusama's bronze pumpkins and the Narcissus Garden at Victoria Miro garden


The highlight of the visit though was the Victoria Miro garden, a joint landscape garden at the back of the building. I had not realised that another renowned Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama's bronze 'Pumpkins' are currently on display at the garden until 19th December; hence, it was a very pleasant surprise. I have never seen her iconic permanent 'Narcissus Garden' before, and I was amazed by the sight of the impressive stainless steel sphere installation in the water. I love the tranquility of the garden and Kusama's installations make it even more special, so I highly recommend a visit before the exhibition ends next month.


This post was posted in London, Exhibitions, Art, Anything Japanese, Japanese art and was tagged with London, art and design exhibitions, Japanese art, Yoshitomo Nara, Yayoi Kusama