Yoshimoto Nara

Yoshimoto Nara Google Images

Yoshimoto Nara Slash with A Knife – a book I bought in Tokyo

edited from Wikipedia

Yoshitomo Nara (奈良 美智 Nara Yoshitomo?, born 5 December 1959 lives and works in Tokyo. Nara grew up in a time when Japan was experiencing an inundation of Western pop culture; comic books, Walt Disney animation and Western rock music. He first came to the attention of the art world in the 1990s during Japan’s Pop art movement. Since then he has achieved a worldwide cult status. In June, 2005, Nara’s artwork was featured in the album titled “Suspended Animation” by experimental band Fantômas. Other commercial products (including videos, books, magazines, catalogues and monographs) have been dedicated to Nara’s work. Recently, a two-volume catalogue raisonné of all his sculptures, paintings, and drawings was completed.

The fiercely independent subjects that populate so much of his artwork may be a reaction to Nara’s own largely independent childhood. 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.

Nara, however, does not see his weapon-wielding subjects as aggressors. “Look at them, they [the weapons] are so small, like toys. Do you think they could fight with those?” he says. “I don’t think so. Rather, I kind of see the children among other, bigger, bad people all around them, who are holding bigger knives…”

The manga and anime of his 1960s childhood are both clear influences on Nara’s stylized, large-eyed figures. Nara subverts these typically cute 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. He has been influenced by punk rock music – a similar – if more unsettling – image of rebellious, violent youth, Nara’s art embraces the punk ethos. Nara has  cited other traditions as varied  Renaissance painting, literature, illustration, ukiyo-e and graffiti as further inspiration.

Yoshimoto Nara

Satirical Illustration

There is a rich history of satirical illustration and political cartooning in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, especially from the eighteenth century onwards.

Research point
Steve Bell, the contemporary political satirist who produces the If… cartoon strip and other editorial pieces for The Guardian, regularly makes reference to the political satire of earlier times by re-working it with a contemporary twist. By doing this he’s also making satirical references to the past – making a link between the contemporary moment and a similar (or different) historical one.
Look at the work of William Hogarth, James Gillray, George Cruikshank or other eighteenthcentury political satirists and pick out examples you think could be successfully re-worked for a contemporary audience. Strip away the layers of eighteenth-century meaning to establish the core symbolism and metaphors that make the satire work. Identify what would you replace with what to make this work for a contemporary setting.

William Hogarth

James Gillray: The Loss of the Faro Bank, Lady Buckinghamshire is told by her cowed husband that a theft of money has taken place; Charles James Fox (1749–1806), a prominent Whig politician of the time, is seated at the card table hoping not to be found out. Replace the protagonists of The Loss of the Faro Bank, or The Rook’s Pigeon’d, with those of recent financial scandals and the satire still works – it’s the people on the inside that have caused the problem, not those locked out. The enduring quality of this piece lies in the visual metaphors and symbolism Gillray has used: the locks on the door and the visual contrast between the opulence and gambling inside and the panic-stricken husband outside.

George Cruikshank

Steve Bell

 

Collage

William Hogarth

Research Point Project 3.1

The 1751 satirical engravings of Beer Street and Gin Lane were part of a campaign to curb gin drinking among the poor in London.

William Hogarth : Beer Street and Gin Lane 1751
William Hogarth : Beer Street and Gin Lane 1751
Research Point Questions

How has Hogarth has used denotation and connotation? What has he shown literally through denotation to support his anti-gin/pro-beer argument and what is implied through connotation? Think about the visual language and symbolic structure he has used to construct meaning – for example, the use of buildings in good repair or disuse, what’s in the foreground and what’s in the distance. What about the pawnbroker’s symbol and the symbolism in the physical language of the human body – the gestures, poses, sizes? There’s even a dead body in there somewhere. How does Hogarth use these to construct meaning?

In the anti-gin image the eye is drawn particularly to the drunkennes of the woman in the centre and her falling baby – one assumes this is more shocking than the wasted thin man in the bottom right (who probably also has a neglected baby at home). The line of the woman’s body leads the eye to the brawling and coffin in the background. In the middle ground are three figures one of whom is eating bones – this is emphasised through contrasting the white figure against his black hat. The pawnbroker’s shop seems to be doing a brisk trade.

In contrast most of the figures in the beer image are jolly portly men. The woman has a fish trade and is only stopping off temporarily – it seems she is even reading – with her husband? The pawnbroker’s sign is broken and the door shut. The background is festive and orderly.

Further research on Hogarth