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  • Yoshitomo Nara’s Multimedia Masterpiece, Culmination to His Graphic Creations

     

    Standing over three meters tall, Untitled (2007) is currently Yoshitomo Nara’s largest artwork on the auction market. In this painting, the long-haired, starry-eyed girl stands in a rippling puddle, a recurrent motif found often in Nara’s oeuvre. Puddles serve as one of the most iconic symbols of Nara’s creations, as evidenced by the title of his breakthrough exhibition at Scai the Bathhouse gallery in 1995, In the Deepest Puddle. While retaining the unique texture of the wood, the artist creates a distinct graphic aesthetic, different to his earlier works on wood boards, through his masterful use of striking bright colours and clarity of line, containing areas of sensitively rendered tonality as seen in the girl’s hair and her eyes in particular. Rich in details, Untitled returns to the exploration of two-dimensionality, infused with new insight gained through the artist’s three-dimensional installation project with the design group, graf. He brings together the commonalities and singularities of these two differing approaches in this painting, diversifying the direction of his work. Indeed, Untitled encapsulates decades of significant breakthroughs achieved by Nara.

     

    Layout of where the present work was exhibited during Gateshead, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Yoshitomo Nara + graf, 12 June - 26 October 2008
    Layout of where the present work was exhibited during Gateshead, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Yoshitomo Nara + graf, 12 June - 26 October 2008

     

    The present work exhibited during Gateshead, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Yoshitomo Nara + graf, 12 June - 26 October 2008
    The present work exhibited during Gateshead, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Yoshitomo Nara + graf, 12 June - 26 October 2008
  • A Dream on a Dark, Lonely Night
    "I woke up lying in an alien wasteland
    with arms and legs spread out
    starry night sky mirrored in my eyes
    It was a night neither hot nor cold
    From unknown sources gushed water
    forming puddles here and there
    Unseen constellations enveloped me
    adrift in an immense ocean unawares."
    —Yoshitomo Nara

    The artist, Yoshitomo Nara, in front of his work. Photography by Ryoichi Kawajiri © Yoshitomo Nara
    The artist, Yoshitomo Nara, in front of his work. Photography by Ryoichi Kawajiri © Yoshitomo Nara

     

    A Magnificent Cascade of Glorious Morning Sunshine

     

    A closer look at the little girl in Untitled reveals that the multiple shades of her lustrous golden hair consist of countless intertwining circles of similar tones. From the mellow yellow at the top of the girl’s hair to the dark brown at its ends, Nara employs a palette of gradient colours to simulate the visual effect of light being poured over an object - like a magnificent cascade of golden sunshine spilling over the girl’s head. As claimed by Mika Kuraya, Nara 'makes conscious effort to leave visible traces of accumulated colour and brushtouches in the girls’ hair, eyes, and clothes.'i During this period, the artist would retain the traces of colour stacking and highlight the density disparities between different layers to create an illusion of shimmery natural light. Nara presents the process of the work’s production, deliberately depicting countless overlapping circles. This shows his discontent with a rigid, static painterly expression of colour, and further exhibits his attempt to capture the ever-changing flow of lights and shadows. Transcending the limitations of time in graphic creations, Yoshitomo Nara effectively delivers a non-static visual experience while introducing a new technique of expression.

     

    The Mirror of the Soul – A New Interpretation of Portraiture

     

    In 2000, amid his painstaking preparations for his first large-scale solo exhibition at Yokohama Museum of Art in the Japanese city of Yokohama, Yoshitomo Nara left Germany, where he had spent 12 years, and moved back to Japan. The phenomenal success of this exhibition catapulted Nara onto the art scene, and from 2001 onwards, his creations underwent marked changes. For starters, Nara used less symbolic objects in his work, such as knives and plant seedlings. In addition, full-body portraits have evolved to mostly portrait busts. With fewer and simpler elements, Yoshitomo Nara began to focus his attention on portraying the intricate details of his main figures. Instead of relying on symbolic objects to convey emotions, he unleashed his complex sentiments brewed over years of reflections on life by focusing on the unpretentious depiction of emotion through the eyes of his figures. As he once stated, 'They say human eyes are the mirror of the soul, and I used to draw them too carelessly. Say, to express the anger, I just drew some triangular eyes. I drew obviously angry eyes, projected my anger there, and somehow released my pent up emotions. About ten years ago, however, I became more interested in expressing complex feelings through more complex methods. I began to stop and think, to take a breath before letting everything out.'ii

  • i Mika Kuraya, ‘The Figure, the Ground, and the War: Yoshimoto Nara’s Paintings’, Yoshitomo Nara Self-selected Works Paintings, 2015, Kyoto, p.149

    ii Yoshitomo Nara, quoted in Hideo Furukawa, ‘An interview with Yoshitomo Nara’, Asymptote Journal, November 2013, online

    iii Yeewan Koon, Yoshitomo Nara, London, 2020, p.113

    iv Yeewan Koon, Yoshitomo Nara, London, 2020, p.153

    v Yeewan Koon, Yoshitomo Nara, London, 2020

    • Provenance

      Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      The Hague, GEM Museum of Contemporary Art, Yoshitomo Nara + graf, 2 June - 28 October 2007
      Gateshead, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Yoshitomo Nara + graf, 12 June - 26 October 2008

    • Literature

      Noriko Miyamura and Shinko Suzuki, eds., Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works Volume 1: Paintings, Sculptures, Editions, Photographs 1984-2010, Tokyo, 2011, no. P-2007-012, p. 212 (illustrated)

Property from a Distinguished Private Collection

Ο ✱6

Untitled

2007
acrylic on wood, in artist’s frame
work 286 x 241 cm. (112 5/8 x 94 7/8 in.)
frame 310 x 265 cm. (122 x 104 3/8 in.)

Painted in 2007.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
HK$24,000,000 - 36,000,000 
€2,580,000-3,880,000
$3,080,000-4,620,000

Sold for HK$29,290,000

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 3 December 2020