Sometimes I like to go to art shows by myself and sometimes I like to go with other people. For the Yoshitomo Nara show at the Dairy Art Centre, it was a sociable outing with regular visitor to this blog Yannick and new Twitter friend Allie. Which means I can share their perspective on the show with you as well as mine – some interesting insights to come.
The Dairy is a rather nice new gallery just round the corner from the Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury. It’s one of those bigger-on-the-inside kind of places, all huge white spaces like aircraft hangers. It was opened in April 2013 as a public space for contemporary visual art by Frank Cohen and Nicolai Frahm and is a private, non commercial, organisation committed to increasing access to the visual arts through free exhibitions.
Yoshitomo Nara is of the best-known Japanese contemporary artists of his generation, noted for his superficially simple paintings of children and animals with fiendish expressions staring challengingly out at you from pastel-coloured backdrops.
There were plenty of pictures exemplifying Nara’s characteristic cute but menacing, innocent but mischievous vibe. It’s the largest and most comprehensive exhibition of his work in the UK to date.
We were surprised to find not just paintings but huge sculptured heads dotting the main gallery.
In a side room all to itself with walls painted a fetching shade of blue we found the sculpture that for me was best thing in the show. Titled Fountain of Life, it had an edge of bitterness to it.
We were also drawn to the scribbled collages. ‘I remember people at school like that,’ said Allie. ‘Ones who were always drawing.’ Yannick voted the collages his favourite works, while Allie went for one of the giant sculptured heads.
The show includes painting, sculpture, and a retrospective of over two hundred of Nara’s drawings from the last 30 years. (Nara has scribbled a helpful timeline on the walls below the pictures).
Another insight from Allie: ‘I keep thinking the artist is a woman.’ She’s right. There’s something very feminine about Nara’s work. It’s (deliberately) like art done by schoolgirls.
Anyway, full marks to the Dairy for a fascinating exhibition and great exhibition space. If you want to see it, it’s on until 7th December and the Dairy is open Wednesday to Friday 10 am to 5 pm, Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays 11 am to 5 pm.