Yoshitomo Nara is a Japanese artist. He lives and works in Tokyo, though his artwork has been exhibited worldwide. Nara has had nearly 40 solo exhibitions since 1984.
Yoshitomo Nara first came to the fore of the art world during Japan’s Pop art movement in the 1990s. The subject matter of his sculptures and paintings is deceptively simple: most works depict one seemingly innocuous subject (often pastel-hued children and animals drawn with confident, cartoonish lines) with little or no background. But these children, who appear at first to be cute and even vulnerable, sometimes brandish weapons like knives and saws. Their wide eyes often hold accusatory looks that could be sleepy-eyed irritation at being awoken from a nap—or that could be undiluted expressions of hate.
Though Nara claims to have never said that he was influenced by manga, the imagery of manga and anime of his 1960s childhood is often cited when discussing Nara’s stylised, large-eyed figures. Nara subverts these images, however, by infusing his works with horror-like imagery. This juxtaposition of human evil with the innocent child may be a reaction to Japan’s rigid social conventions.