We continue our series looking at some of the great living international artists. This week we feature the grande dame of the avant-garde, Yayoi Kusama, everyone’s favourite street artist, Banksy and one of Japan’s leading contemporary artists Kohei Nawa.
After studying and and exhibiting as a painter in her native Japan Yayoi Kusama moved to New York in 1957 where she would start to begin to accumulate a dizzying range of artistic endeavours and expression that would span several decades and cement her reputation as an important avant garde international artist. In 1960s New York, a thriving centre for contemporary art at the time, Kusama would mix with and influence the likes of Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg among others.
In later years she would collaborate with Marc Jacobs and Peter Gabriel. Often seen as a psychedelic artist her work has a deeply personal aspect with the roots in the hallucinations she suffered since childhood along with other psychological aspects. She is probably best known for her affinity nets and rooms and polka dot motifs but her capacity for reinventing her style and for innovation throughout her career means that Kusama’s work is not easily classifiable particularly when looking back at her impressive body of work as an artist.
Nabil Nahas has positioned himself as one of the most foremost and respected artists from Lebanon. His work encompasses his connection to the Lebanon and Egypt of his childhood which are evident in his landscapes of cedars, olive trees and palms. The complexities of Middle East culture are given expression by fusing rich textural works of nature with geometric patterns inspired by Islamic art.
The art critic and curator William Lawrence said that ‘When discussing his oeuvre, the importance of Nahas’ time at Yale cannot be underestimated. Coming into contact with significant artists and commentators, this is the backdrop against which his early paintings are set and to some extent informs much of his subsequent work.’
Not much is known publicly about the street artist called Banksy but his stencil graffiti drawings have made him one of the best known and iconic artists in the world. His works usually embodies a humorous political, social or ethical commentary and have been found in places from London to Palestine. He has also produced a number of books and also a documentary.
His first book was called Banging Your Head Against A Brick Wall in which he said: “You could say that graffiti is ugly, selfish and that it’s just the action of people who want some pathetic kind of fame. But if that’s true it’s only because graffiti writers are just like everyone else in this fucking country.” The brilliant and very funny ‘Exit Through The Gift‘ Shop’ was nominated for best documentary feature at the Oscars in 2010. He also produced a number of high profile statements in public places including A life-size replica of a Guantanamo Bay detainee in Disneyland and doctored versions of the Paris Hilton debut CD in different record stores across the UK. (Image evilomthai via Flickr)
Osaki born Kohei Nawa is one of the leading contemporary Japanese artists. His spectacular sculptures and installations have already won him many admirers and received critical acclaim. His first solo exhibition “Synthesis” was at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo in 2011 where he wowed visitors with his “PixCell” animals including his signature taxidermied deer and other objects adorned with beads of crystal glass. (Image dennis via Flickr)
At the relatively young age of 36 he had already built up an international reputation. Nawa’s Foam installation, which premiered at the Aichi Triennale 2013, gave visitors the feeling of literally walking in the clouds. Nawa is creative director at “SANDWICH” a renovated factory, in Fusimini, Tokyo, housing a staff of creatives collaborating on joint projects. SANDWICH was inspired by the studio of Jeppe Hein, in Berlin, and Studio Banana, a collective of autonomous creators in Madrid.
Art in a aesthetic or emotional sense is everywhere. Sometimes it’s the almost inexplicable human made apparently banal that can elevate to a deeper sense of appreciation by transcending its accepted cultural codes, in say the neon works of Dan Flavin or the confessional from Tracy Emin. The flip side is the great beauty and wonder of nature.
Bavarian environmental artist Nils-Udo has been working directly with nature for more than three decades. Using natural materials like leaves, berries, plants and twigs he has created his magical “utopias”. I suppose that’s one of the great beauties of environmental artists is to show how natural resources can be shaped and added to highlight an already beautiful landscape or aspect of nature in its purest form that we may sometimes take for granted – giving us that new perspective of our surroundings.
Great Living Artists – Richter, Hockney, Abramovic, le Parc, Serra
Great Living Artists – Sacco, Cerny, Johns, Weiwei
Great Living Artists – Holzer, Sherman, Kapoor, Ono
Great Living Artists – Lynch, Calle, Tuttle, de la Cruz
Great Living Artists – Miyazaki, Potrc, Marshall, Ikeda
Great Living Artists – Raza, Hirst, Kiefer, Barcelo