Yoshitomo Nara's career as an artist began with his childhood experiences and stories which today are presented in polished and unpolished manners. From sculptures, mere sketches on scraps of paper to paintings on canvas, Nara's works have attracted a diverse audience who are equally enthralled and pleasantly surprised at the familiarity of his works. Despite Nara's formal painting training in Japan, an extended education in Koln, Germany and a ceaselessly impressive list of monumental institutions and venues which held his exhibitions and lectures, Nara's undemanding compositions are humble and approachable. Embracing foreign music and its cult like culture in the West and formal artistic movements as inspiration, Nara's works are rambunctious yet sweet and elicit compassion for the single child.
Like the many works of Nara, the child of Chinese Girl on Dish (lot 834) stands full alone, arms by her dish, full of conviction and solitude. Her oversized head is flanked with two neat side buns; her red militant outfit is reminiscent of a child in costume or uniform. She seems to take herself incredibly seriously as if on duty or an adult despite her young age, much like a teenager aspiring to be a punk or a rebellion. The composition of having the girl stand on a small porcelain plate is significant to address the psychological aspect of Nara's works and reflect the artist's lonely childhood. The Chinese girl however stoic, is simply a child with a larger than life spirit and attitude that overwhelms her small frame. Though she stands proud, her position is fragile as the small white plate may crack momentarily to plunge perhaps beyond the edge of the canvas, as the absence of a compositional ground line insinuates that the plate is in fact suspended in thin air. This child like all children gazes quietly upon the audience as if pleading comfort and supervision, a moment to stand down, relax and be the vivacious child she deserves to be.
Nara's work though provocative and psychologically complex is not one that is too strongly influenced by abstract high art and alternatively reflective of an inner realism. The pragmatic source of true for artistic inspiration is inadvertently portrayed in the rough and unpolished surface quality of Nara's painting. The paint is not evenly applied but varied in tone and thickness, conveying a sense of indifference, yet ironically the visual effect achieved by the patch like green is a deliberate artistic choice as the lack of adherence to formal artistic techniques. Paint drips around the side of the figure and the seemingly hastily painted hair on the girl summons parallels to the impatience of children captured in carelessly coloured pictures, an association to which Nara aspires and enjoys.
The emergence of his artwork, whether in the context of popular culture or high art, has given all viewers common grounding to associate with his paintings, sketches and sculptures. While a great number of his admirers are of the younger generations who perhaps draw an immediate connection to the anguished moments depicted in the paintings, curators and critics alike are equally drawn to the complex and technical characteristics of his works.