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Yoshitomo Nara (B. 1959) & Hiroshi Sugito (B. 1970)
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
Yoshitomo Nara (B. 1959) & Hiroshi Sugito (B. 1970)

Deeper than a puddle

Details
Yoshitomo Nara (B. 1959) & Hiroshi Sugito (B. 1970)
Deeper than a puddle
signed and dated 'Nara 2004 Sugito' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
102 3/8 x 110 ¼ in. (260 x 280cm.)
Painted in 2004
Provenance
Galerie Zink & Gegner, Munich.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Literature
Y. Nara, Yoshitomo Nara: The Complete Works, Volume 1, New York 2011, cat.no. PC-2004-002 (illustrated in colour, p. 221).
Exhibited
Helsinki, Helsinki City Art Museum, Japan Pop, 2005 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Munich, Pinakothek der Moderne, Over the Rainbow: Yoshitomo Nara and Hiroshi Sugito, 2005 (illustrated in colour on the cover, p. 13). This exhibition later travelled to Düsseldorf, K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.
Essen, Museum Folkwang, Rockers Island, 2007 (illustrated in colour, p. 206).
Hamburg, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, Zwei Sammler. Thomas Olbricht und Harald Falckenberg, 2011.

Lot Essay

'It is hard to tell whether the child is climbing out of the water or getting into it… the ambivalence between being lost and thoughts of escape remains tangible, and the defiance of bracing oneself against the existing situation with all one’s might and imagination alternates with the wish to submerge into another world and disappear.’ DORIS KRYSTOF

In the summer of 2004, two of Japan’s finest contemporary artists, Yoshitomo Nara and Hiroshi Sugito, left their native hometowns of Tokyo and Nagoya (respectively), journeying to Vienna to collaborate on a project that would produce thirty-five paintings before the end of the year. Deeper than a puddle is the technicolor centrepiece of the resulting series, Over the Rainbow, inspired by the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musical The Wizard of Oz. A girl with Dorothy-like pigtails appears to emerge from a pool of water laced with psychedelic colour, her descriptively disparate eyes unfixed in expression and her mouth concealed by the liquid. We are asked to question the reason for the character’s immersion – is she sinking, rising or interlocked with the aquatic abyss? Doris Krystof has assessed this mysterious encounter in her catalogue notes on the painting, arguing that ‘she seems to sit motionless; movement seems impossible. It is hard to tell whether the child is climbing out of the water or getting into it… the ambivalence between being lost and thoughts of escape remains tangible, and the defiance of bracing oneself against the existing situation with all one’s might and imagination alternates with the wish to submerge into another world and disappear’ (D. Krystof, ‘If you are lucky, you are hit by the window’, in Yoshitomo Nara/Hiroshi Sugito: Over the Rainbow, exh. cat., Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, 2004, p. 78).

The hallucinatory existentialism embedded in the piece resonates with the otherworldly misplacement of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, the two works both delving deep into nostalgic visions of childhood, reflecting a temporal passage of time filled with absent belonging. Both Nara and Sugito are consistently moved and inspired by the theme of childhood, conjuring melancholia in their figures and landscapes. The strange emotional juxtaposition encapsulated by the girl’s eyes in Deeper than a puddle seemingly reflects her physical and emotional stasis; she is suspended between the present and an innocent but irretrievable past. This melancholic poeticism is prevalent in the work of both artists. Nara, for example, often isolates his typically mischievous child-figures in enclosed compositions, where they stand brazenly alone and disgruntled. His uncanny physiognomic and psychological inventions, presented from an adult viewpoint, are grounded in a corruption of innocence and an acceptance of progression and change.

Nara’s complex figures are contextualised, in this series, by Sugito’s fantastical and surrealistic landscapes. In Deeper than a puddle, the dotted refraction of a rainbow brilliantly tints the water’s surface, awakening its volume in a glorious whirlpool of bright colour. Rainbow spectrums started to emerge in Sugito’s previous work in both title and content; for him ‘everything starts to connect better if there was no shadow, like the rainbow’ (H. Sugito, quoted in 8th International Instanbul Biennial: Poetic Justice, exh. cat., Istanbul, 2003, pp. 214-5). In particular, the explosive aqueous chromatics lodged in Deeper than a puddle model the forms of the ripples and secure Sugito’s figure in their encirclement. Whilst this compositional marriage is the product of both artists adapting to the technicalities of their counterpart, the fusion of visual substance spectacularly captures two artists working in thematic and stylistic harmony.

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