As Nara described "overcome pain and sadness, becoming strong - but it' suffering to have weak emotions drink up strength. But I won't forget my spirit when I began. I want to keep the feeling of that time close by me" (Yoshitomo Nara cited in Kyoko Wada, in Birth and Present: A Studio Portrait of Yoshitomo Nara, Corte Madera 2003, p. 90) Following his education at the University of Tokyo and Aichi University, Nara took up temporary residence in Germany to study at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1988. Nara’s homecoming to Japan in 2000 mirrored a subtle stylistic variation, which welcomed the disintegration of sharp lines and warming of his palette with pastel colors. Enchantingly enigmatic, the figure of the little girl is reflective of iterations in Japanese visual culture: the comics and graphic novels of manga and its video form, anime, and the absorption of Pop culture all powerfully colliding with Nara’s unique mindscape. Ultimately, the mischievous gaze and defiant twist of the little girl’s hand from view makes her the singular most iconic figure in Nara’s overall output.
Right Hand in Back acts as a powerful point of entry for psychological engagement whereby viewers can both identify with the imagination of children and engage in a complex process of self-examination. The young girl is not only a significant contribution to the re-evaluation of figurative painting in the 21st century, but also a window for viewers to excavate their memories to evoke the immediacy of children’s feelings that have been long forgotten. The installation of Yoshitomo Nara’s solo exhibition Thinker at Pace, New York in the spring of 2017 further demonstrates his ongoing fascination with the contradictory expressions of innocence and experience, anger and compassion, life in this world and the afterlife – as splendidly captured by the single figure of the little girl who quietly, yet firmly returns our gaze.
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