Like a child negotiating the confusing period of adolescence, Nara's work reflects an abundance of emotions and characteristics such as anxiety, fear, preciousness, insecurity, pleasure and confidence. Figures often exist in a dream-like world and appear to float or stand on clouds and water. Children challenge the viewer with aggressive glares and animals beckon with tender faces. Throughout Nara's varied practice, the viewer is reminded of the allure of youth as well as current adult preoccupations.
The visual vocabulary of Japanese manga and anime (cartoons and animations) and Nara's own childhood experiences mould his work. Western media culture, modernism and Rock 'n' Roll music also influence the artist. Far from naïve and illustrative, images which emerge in Nara's work tend to be based on the dark or painful side of life, tapping into our most personal and emotional thoughts. The work also inspires optimism and encourages the viewer to look for hope.
Yoshitomo Nara has exhibited extensively around the world. Recent solo exhibitions include Centre National de l'estampe et de l'arte imprime, Chatou, France in 2002; Nara Yoshitomo: in those days, Hakutosha, Nagoya, Japan and I don't mind if you forget me, Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, Japan (and touring) in 2001. Selected group exhibitions include Splat, Boom, Pow! The Influence of comics in Contemporary Art, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, USA in 2003; Drawing Now: Eight Propositions, MoMA QNS, Queens, New York, USA in 2002; Super flat, Museum Of Contemporary Art, Los Angels, USA in 2001. In 2003, Yoshitomo Nara will also have a solo show at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, USA, travelling to the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, USA and the Contemporary Art Museum St Louis, USA.