1. Yoshitomo Nara, Untitled, Painted in 2009, acrylic on wood panel,
145.8 x 126.5 cm. (57 1/2 x 49 3/4 in.)
2. 575 ready-made plush toys
A Magnificent Masterpiece, The Pantheon of Artistic Creation
The subject matter within Yoshitomo Nara's art creation was never monotonous, whether it's the sweet girl that one can only dream of, a rebellious punk-rocker, a cute, anthropomorphized animal figure, or a evil-looking naughty child, they all, together, making him one of the most sought-after contemporary artist within the international contemporary art scene. However along the path of his career development, for more than 25 years, Nara found himself no longer have the devotion of only working with a flat, two-dimensional medium, he began to create a series of 3-dimensional sculptural works (in different medium), and finally, produced house-like magnificent installations which include countless miscellaneous details. Not Everything but / Green House (Lot 165) (referred as Green House) and Not Everything but / Orange House (Lot 166) (referred as Orange House) was created in 2009, with six meters and four meters high respectively, they are the ultimate incarnation of his House series installations. Within these structures, there is a wide range of works of Nara's of different genre, including large-scale paintings, nearly 20 drawings in various mediums, ready-made objects, etc. Such a huge variety makes the work a perfect fusion of different artistic concepts and medium, including painting, sculpture, performance art, and conceptual art, etc. They are the epitome of Nara's 25-year artistic career, at the same time, a benchmarking installation within the international contemporary art scene - it is truly a comprehensive, yet amusing art museum that speaks on its own.
One House, One World: the Beginning of a New Era
What greets our eyes in Not Everything but / Green House and Not Everything but / Orange House, from the inside, to the outset, covers all the possibilities of creativity one can imagine, which was never seen in Nara's previous artistic practice . Their shocking height and boldness in structure further demonstrates the artist's determination to breakthrough, as well as his ability to carry out such a huge project. Like artists who strive for the ultimate as they are approaching their career peaks, as is the case with Damien Hirst's The Kingdom, directly confronting with the truth of fear and death, or Jeff Koons' Balloon Dog (Orange), exploring the nature of celebration, or Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room - Gleaming Lights of the Souls, which places the viewer in house of mirrors with infinitely recurring reflections, Nara here, in his Green House and Orange House, is not merely looking back over his career to produce an admirable summary of his past work. Even more, as he invites viewers to explore and interact with his installations, he has made himself a prominent pioneer in the territory of contemporary art. The visual impact, the pulsations of one's hearing, and the stimulations of touch bring to us a holistic, multi-sensory experience of Green House and Orange House that combines internal and external, physical and psychological, and sensory and spiritual all at the same time. From these sealed spaces we freely immerse ourselves to this fresh and open world, stepping, together with Yoshitomo Nara, into a brand new era.
Do people look to my childhood for sources of my imagery?
In my lonely room, I would twist the radio dial to the American military base station, and out blasted rock and roll music. One of history's first man-made satellites revolved around me up in the night sky. There I was, in touch with the stars and radio waves.
- Yoshitomo Nara
Personal intuition is the starting point for Yoshitomo Nara's art, where the simplified forms of the Ukiyo-e genre from his own native Japan meet the brash directness of German Neo-expressionism.
A Half-Real Half-Illusory Fantasy World
In 2009, Nara once again broke through into new creative possibilities: One small green house, and one in orange, stand in front of viewers with their unbelievable physical presence. Seemingly separate and independent, they instead echoed each other and engaged in a silent dialogue across the air between them. Not Everything but / Green House and Not Everything but / Orange House, as a true construction of a two-dimensional idea, are great contributions and should be seen as two of Nara's classic works. Building on his previous work, with its emphasis on displaying the interior, the artist's meticulous design of these houses' exteriors now beautifully balances those interiors with exterior views, while at the same time, Nara better incorporates his concrete images of small houses into the surrounding environments. By so doing, he allows viewers to acquire deeper understanding of the motive behind his creativity. Standing in front of these two houses, viewers begin to feel they are floating somewhere between the true world and a fantasyland. Our bodies seem also to shrunk, and we fall into Nara's Lilliputian world. Lingering between these two houses, we shift from objective observers into a symbiosis in which we become aspects of the subjective world within this environment, part of the same dimension in which these houses and everything around them takes place. All the troubles of our daily world are pushed to the backs of our minds, and we tunnel back through time via this joining of dreams and reality, flying toward the vast and multi-dimensional world of children's tales constructed by Yoshitomo Nara.
Yoshitomo Nara is one of the leading voices in the history of contemporary art that represent a new generation of young artists, and his large-scale works have been broadly collected by international organizations and museums around the world. Only a very small number of works such as this exist which comprise sets of related house-themed installations in interaction with each other, and those only appeared in biennials and museum collections prior to the year 2010. Nara's collaboration with the architectural group graf+ has also concluded, and his large-scale installation works around the theme of the house may already be a thing of the past. We can surely say that Not Everything but / Green House and Not Everything but / Orange House not only figure prominently within the orbit of Nara's own works and career, but that they also possess irreplaceable value within the global context of contemporary art.
Life goes on; So honoured to meet you!
When the sunshine is splashing out its brightness, a tall and slender pinnacle, covered by layers of green, scale-shaped tiles suddenly came into our sight. Standing tall and straight, yet with its gradual change of colour shade on the roof, this green house looks like if it is a pine, standing among a wild, grand forest, resting peacefully, breathing. As we let our gaze fall from the crown of the upward-reaching spire down along its smooth arc, our sight come onto a structure made of wooden wall hidden underneath this verdant canopy, and it is enclosing a small, isolated space within. An iconic, dreamy figure that could only exist under Yoshitomo Nara's paint brush has now came into reality, transforming into Not Everything but / Green House.
Knocking at the door bolt, with curiosity and bunch of questions in our mind, we may wonder, is there anyone who actually lives inside? And at the time the doors are open, a dreamy fantasyland is finally revealing itself: countless cartoon figures, in the form of plushes, are pouring out from a stuffed pile within this tight space. Snoopy, Doraemon, Paddington Bear…, there are nearly 600 leading characters, all chosen by the artist, each with different cultural backgrounds and origin, have been brought together to live within one space. Communication and integration is now happening, regardless of their difference in race, language or generation - as if they could form a chorus. In facing all these, we, adults from the complex social world, are like Alice who fell down onto the other end of the twisted time-distorting tunnel, may wonder, if we have now flashed back to the childhood that we all have experienced, but never had a chance to go back.
Behind this heap of childhood memories, the large-scale work Untitled, depicting a typical "Nara girl" is standing quietly against the back wall. It is on a wooden panel by which the artist made himself by joining together several irregularly shaped wood plains he found. The uneven surface with the rough texture of wood add a touch of Neo-expressionist flavour into the works, which are often present in Nara's early works. The girl, eyes opened wide, is peacefully looking over all the happenings around, her sight has spread over the toy pile, looking through the window on the wall, and in touch with us, visitors from another world who have accentually stepped into her green cottage. Influenced by traditional style and flattening techniques of Ukiyo-e, the girl's face has been depicted like a silver plate, her skin white as snow, exuding a kind of unique character and flavour that have seemingly walked straight out of ancient Asian culture. While she is dressing in the simplest style, all peoples attention have been drawn deeply into her luminous, shining eyes, where the Milky Way seems to flash across those dark pupils-she seems capable of comprehending everything in this world with a power that embraces all and penetrates all. Nara has crafted a fine, arched frame for Untitled, that recalls the shape of altarpieces from the European middle ages. For that reason his subject almost takes on a spiritual, religious aura, as her untroubled, aloof gaze takes in her army of dolls. The scene mirrors that of a crowd looking up toward its religious idol, and, with these innocent childhood trappings, it reflects the artist's thinking on the subjects of the self and belief, the individual and the mass, and contemplation and serenity.
In 2014, Yoshitomo Nara published Nara 48 Girls, which he selected 48 girls of his previous works, and for each, he drafted a poem, it seem like a soliloquy spoken on behalf of this girl: This colourful, swarming cluster of figures at her feet already embraces practically the alpha and omega of all things in the kingdom of comics, yet it causes hardly a ripple of emotion in the girl; perhaps her mind was set on the even greater unknowns waiting for her in that other dimension, just outside this sealed-off space... But a genuine strong soul and an unbending pursuit cannot be imprisoned by any external physical elements: "freedom" and "courage" have always been the core lying just beneath the distressed faces of all the children Nara portrays. Perhaps beyond our sight, this girl's desire for freedom has already mounted up, climbing upwards together with the spire, her spirit has floated out of a window, where it extends its invisible hands to embrace the vast universe and the sky full of stars, and she is now without fear, being strong and courageous.
Freedom comes when you desire nothing.
- Yoshitomo Nara
Where is that place where your heart belongs?
Not Everything but / Orange House in fact seems much like a genuine portrait of Nara's precious memories of his time living alone. In contrast with the degree of perfection created in the Green House, this showcases a small,lively residential place. The artist has incorporated multiple tiny details in the Orange House to suggest traces of wear and tear, due to passage of time. Small holes can be found on the walls, and there is a wrecked wooden door, opening to one side. Through a big rough-edged hole in the upper part of the door, we glimpse the artifacts of a private life: on a small wooden table by the window rest several figures of unknown origin, in the styles of different regions, with a bunch of coloured pencils at one side; and scattered across the table and on the floor below are several hand drawings. Looking closely, we see that those 'random' papers are actually printed with different addresses and were stamped with post-marks - they are used envelops that might have been thrown away by the receiver. After a long world trip, these small 'travelers' are finally collected by the artist, who left a layer of his personal touch - by doodling on them. We see a number of little figures: some playing guitar, some standing on the clouds, etc…their unruly expressions and slightly provocative body language depict a rebellious spiritual world in which the heart tries to break free from their tiny body. Quickly sketching out any inspirational flash on any medium at hand is a habit that Nara keeps till today, and by so doing, he straightforwardly presents his true self to viewers in very relaxed manner, in a highly intimate and sincere form of emotional expression.
On a small stool next to the desk sits an radio-cassette deck, seemingly dated, which immediately fills this quiet space with the extra vividness of rhythm and music. Like a trouble-making kid, the artist has smeared the radio with a red marker, modifying its personality so that if it could speak, in a voice of Nara "welcome to Yoshitomo's personal radio broadcast" Several oil paintings on wood hang on the wall next to the desk and the radio, differing in size, content, and emotional coloration, yet in them we see those familiar tropes so signature of Yoshitomo Nara: A boy who have turned into a treehouse, a pensive girl with eyes opened wide, another child with a calm and composed expression, a house with the word "home" written on it, and a girl in red with both arms thrown up… WIthin this scene, all these seemingly independent, unconnected occurrences produce a kind of electrical flow. Taken together, they provide a real, visual, and holistic scene representative of the artist's creative process.
Orange House is full of the individual attitude that informs the artist's emotional expression as he sets down the traces of his life. It highlights the uniquely personal characteristic of Nara's, the warmth and tenderness with an added touch of rebelliousness: In Orange House, hot flames lick up through the layers of details in each work of art; they converge, emotions heat up and the temperature gradually rises; their power gathers and releases its energy as it shoots out through the roof. The roof cover has been burned from the inside and been broken into two sections, and the top of the spire has fallen through onto an empty space, beside which there stands a giant sign, symbolizing freedom, emphasizing once again the artist's call for liberation of the self and emancipation from all the shackles of life. The outer surface of the roof, originally encased in green, has faded due to the heat, and all that remains is a dark green precipitate deposited at the bottom edge of the roof. A bright, flame-like orange has replaced the green on the upper part, and this might represents heat of the sun, the warm feeling of hope, and the blazing heat of eruption and rebirth.
I don't wanna make the beignner's spirit just a front. Even if I need to destroy everything. I want to live by the feeling of that time.
- Yoshitomo Nara