Bookmarked Article

The cautiously optimistic art of Yoshitomo Nara

Yoshitomo Nara, one of the world's most respected and popular visual artists, has recently opened his first Australian solo exhibition at The Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA). The exhibition, entitled "Yoshitomo Nara: Reach Out to The Moon, Even If We Can't," showcases Nara's major sculptural works alongside his paintings, drawings, ceramics, and photography.

Nara's works are known for their instantly recognizable portraits of sweet and vicious big-headed figures, as well as melancholic figurative sculptures. His innovative distillation of a broad range of references and inspirations, including memories of growing up in rural Northern Japan and political events of the 1960s and 1970s, has made him an international sensation.


"Yoshitomo Nara: Reach Out to The Moon, Even If We Can't" covers Nara's works from 2011-2022, a time when he was processing the devastating impact of the Fukushima disaster of 11 March 2011. Nara found himself unable to make art until he started making clay sculptures that physically engaged him. This intuitive process led to a renewed focus on three-dimensional forms that then expanded in scale and stretched across other mediums.


On view in AGWA's largest gallery space, the sculptural works form a series of interrelated islands that span a range of feeling states. Individually and collectively, they demonstrate Nara's unsurpassed ability to convey emotional nuance with clarity and moving intensity. The feeling of these works is echoed by surrounding drawings, paintings, and ceramics in Nara's distinctive style, such as Girl with Eyepatch and Peace in Your Heart.


In addition to his captivating art, Nara has had an extensive career. 


Born in 1959 in Hirosaki, Aomori prefecture, in Japan's north, he moved to Germany in 1988 where he studied under A.R. Penck at the Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf. Nara held his first solo exhibition in 1984 and since that time has risen to be one of the world's most respected and popular visual artists, where his works are held by the world's most important institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. 




Yoshitomo Nara: Reach Out to The Moon, Even If We Can't

February 26 – June 25, 2023 


The Art Gallery of Western Australia

Perth Cultural Centre, Perth WA 6000