Bell Nakai

Pop culture portraits with a message.

Bell Nakai (she/her) was born in Thailand, and currently lives and works in Toyota, Aichi, Japan.

Education

Bell Nakai began her artistic career in 2019. She’s self taught, having not been to art school. Each colour is mixed individually to create the vivid palette that’s become her trademark.

Inspiration

Nakai is strongly influenced by iconic artworks from history. Van Gogh New Portrait (2022), for example, shows pixelated sunflowers. How to Become the King of Pop Art (2021) is based on Andy Warhol's portraits of Marilyn Monroe.

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Collaborations with this artist

Practice overview

Bell Nakai paints in hot-pinks and candy-hues to mask internal sadness. Painted with acrylics on linen, Nakai works in a fast, intuitive way. She does this intentionally to capture a sense of childlike wonder and joy. Japanese Shoujo manga cartoons have had a big impact on her work. This influence is particularly clear in the style of the character's facial features. Most are hidden. Long manga eyelashes hide eyes, noses and ears are obscured by oversized glasses. The downturned mouth is the smallest feature on the face, but the only hint of their true emotions.

Each work is overlaid with digital elements. Hashtags, pixels, emojis, phones and memes. As the figures are clearly sad, this marks the negative impact of social media on mental health. It’s a JK Life (2021) depicts a forlorn child. Her phone is clutched to her chest and her hat is decorated with emoji-shaped patches. One of them is a ‘no phones’ warning symbol – the irony is all too familiar to most of us. As such, Nakai subverts fun and play to comment on more sober themes of social anxiety and loneliness. Her work is a reminder to resist our ever-growing dependance on screens.

“My girls, they may be just little children but they are both you and me in reality.”Bell Nakai