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Charlotte Chang. Exhibition Review: ‘Life is Only One: Yoshitomo Nara’

Few people with an interest in Asian contemporary art would be unfamiliar with Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara’s (b. 1959) characteristic portraits of a large-headed, doe-eyed, almost cartoonish girl staring straight at viewers from a plain background. Stepping into the first exhibition hall of ‘Life is Only One’, Nara’s retrospective at the Asia Society Hong Kong Center, one is immediately confronted by this iconic character—her large eyes wide apart and lips turned subtly downwards. The painting one first encounters, titled White Night, aligns the viewer’s sight with the girl’s forceful stare. As one contemplates the work, the ambiguity in the girl’s expression slowly becomes more apparent, and her wistfulness turns into something much harder to articulate. This sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition, which offers a layered and varied glimpse into the artist’s oeuvre and practice over the past two decades.

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