Japanese painter, sculptor and draughtsman. He studied at the Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music (1985–7) and then continued his studies at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf (1988–93). Nara was born and raised in a rural area of Japan and, as a child of working parents, he spent much of his time alone with only his imagination, comic books and family pets as company. The paintings, drawings and sculptures of seemingly innocent, wide-eyed children and dogs that have become his trademark are an attempt to capture this childhood sense of boredom and frustration and recapture the fierce independence natural to children. His paintings and drawings have a childlike simplicity that is reminiscent of traditional book illustration, but the works also have a restlessness and tension that is influenced, in part, by Nara’s love of punk rock.
Nara’s paintings evolved until his subject-matter was reduced to its essentials—simplified child and animal figures, with piercing gazes, staring out at the viewer from an otherwise empty canvas. His sculptures, usually made out of fibreglass, share this same economy of form. Nara—a father of the Tokyo Pop movement—is one of a generation of artists who grew up during the post-World War II economic boom in Japan that was characterized by, among other things, an influx of popular culture from the West, including the animation of Warner Bros and Walt Disney. The influence of these American cartoons, as well as Manga, Japanese comics, and Anime, animated television shows, are often cited in discussions of his work.
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