One of the most famed and iconic artists from Japan, Yoshitomo Nara just opened a new solo show of older works, "Drawings : 1988~2018 Last 30 years" at Takashi Murakami's Kaikai Kiki Gallery in Tokyo this past weekend. The show is full of experiments and early sketch ideas of his now signature characters that are normally expanded onto canvas or sculpture, and in some cases, products and merchandise.
The gallery got a full statement from the 2x Juxtapoz cover artist, Nara, which is quite interesting to read and understand his practice:
Okay then, let me write a bit about drawing.
Looking back to when I was little, I recall myself preferring to draw with a single pencil. I think I was able to draw whatever I wanted with a pencil. Maybe all children are like that. It didn’t matter where I drew. I did it during classes, on the side of a street on my way home from school, and of course at home. Drawing, for me, was different from other things like watercolor we were made to paint at school in that I drew things I thought of or wanted to say as though I were putting them in words or letters. Sometimes I did add some words as well, but they weren’t exactly what you’d call a picture diary, either. In any case, for me, these turned out to be the point of origin for my drawing, the practice that I continue to this day.
In this show, I am going to survey the panoramic view of my past thirty years, from when I was a student up to the present, contemplating the relationship between drawing and myself, or how I have been getting along with it over time. There are pieces that capture my feelings and thoughts at a given time or momentary ideas I’ve had. Some are accumulations of drawings accompanied by words, and others are simply traces of my hand’s motion holding a pencil. These drawings are done with a pencil or a ball point pen that happened to be there in that moment, in varying techniques, as casually as breathing itself.
This is a little, no, quite a bit different from the modes of expressions you learn at art schools; it’s an artistic expression that is an extension of what I have been doing since childhood. Perhaps I wasn’t able to adequately express myself in words. But no, these drawings are filled with smug confidence that a drawing can better convey my feelings than any words can. This exhibition presents such drawings made in the span of thirty years.
What kind of place will I end up occupying in art history, I wonder? Perhaps I may leave no mark in history, or maybe my drawings are what I create somewhere removed from such concerns. They are so matter-of-factly private, an “idiotic discharge of emotion” as a certain famous critic once pointed out (what’s wrong with that, anyway?), yet at times they unflappably capture what I had intended to.
Yes, that is it. I have been drawing as though I were breathing. Or taking notes. Or thinking. That’s been my past thirty years. And I assume I will continue to do the same on the thirty-first year, thirty-second year, and so forth… yet actually, I also feel that perhaps I am walking, taking photos, or writing increasingly more than drawing these days. That’s why this exhibition, which exposes my thirty years’ worth of sighs and forces me to acknowledge them myself, is extremely meaningful.
Whether it’s a sigh or a gasp, a scream, or a yawn, I think I’ll greet my various selves in these drawings as though encountering them on a time machine.
“Been a while, my frozen feelings! But I’m not defrosting you guys! I’m just going to keep adding to your buddies!”