Portrait of an Insomniac Junior-High Student

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Aliceday, Brussels
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Brussels, Galerie Aliceday, Funland, 11 September - 23 October 2010

  • Catalogue Essay

    Working almost exclusively in black and white, Tokyo born artist Gokita is a master manipulator of monotone. He finesses tonal ranges and ups contrasts to produce lurid grayscale pieces, often sourcing imagery from popular culture to create noir portraits of pin-up girls, cowboys, and gangsters, amongst others. His subjects, taken from film, television, advertising and pornography, typically have their faces and parts of their bodies obliterated by splashes, twists and smudges of paint. “Painting, to me, is like sports” (Elaine Ng, ‘One Thousand Shades of Gray: Tomoo Gokita’ in Art Asia Pacific, Jul-Aug 2015), Gokita says in regards to his intuitive approach. Instead of methodically planning out a composition, Gokita allows forms and motifs to lead his creative process- taking particular inspiration from social archetypes and contemporary personae.

    Having shown at a few galleries in Tokyo, Gokita’s career breakthrough came in 2005 when New York-based artist Taylor McKimens discovered a book of his work Lingerie Wrestling (2000) in the New Museum bookshop and invited him to take part in Stranger Town, a group show at Dinter Fine Art in New York. The exhibition presented eight American and Japanese artists whose work traversed painting, comics, illustration and music. Following the success of the exhibition, many galleries approached him and Gokita started exhibiting solo shows in New York’s ATM Gallery, Tokyo’s Taka Ishii Gallery and Los Angeles’ Honor Fraser Gallery. Portrait of an Insomniac Junior-High Student was included in the first European solo show for the artist at Aliceday gallery in Brussels in 2010. Titled Funland, the exhibition consisted of hundreds of drawings and a dozen of paintings- the present work one of the only two close-up portraits that were exhibited.

    In Portrait of an Insomniac Junior-High Student, Gokita tackles one of the most representative and iconic subjects of contemporary Japanese society: the student. Presented in the format of a school ID or yearbook photo, a Japanese boy is outlined by a sliver of white negative space. Gokita removes the typifying features of a face and replaces them with terse, painterly gestures. Subtle shifts in tonality form the murky shadow of a nose, and two downward curving black strokes emerge in place of eyes and eyebrows. The viewer is given the framework of a familiar subject but denied the assurance of knowing his identity. There is an undeniable sense of illumination, but shadows and highlights do not appear from any logically perceivable source of light, resulting in a colourless fluorescence perhaps describable as neo-chiaroscuro. In the creation of the portrait, with clean crisp lines of the collar of his school uniform juxtaposed by a bold, black, bowl-cut hairstyle, Gokita takes an iconographic archetype, wipes out his face and abstracts it— a unique characteristic that separates his earlier body of works up until 2015 to more recent ones when he progressed to painting facial features.

    The artist’s allegiance to monotone quickly became a trademark. The lack of colour in his paintings provides for more direct and simple communication, allowing other formal qualities to shine. Some critics have labelled his work post-conceptual, due to its lack of readily visible concept or idea. Yet quite precisely, the fantastical dreamscape energy of Gokita’s works is thanks to his focus on formal techniques, fluidly merging neo-expressionist gestures, surrealist aesthetics, and pop graphics to create direct, yet emotionally complex portraits.

  • Catalogue Essay

    日本藝術家五木田智央在東京出生,對單色畫掌握自如,其作品幾乎僅限黑白二色,以純熟的技巧運用色調和對比,繪出令人感傷的灰階作品,圖像有時源自流行文化,以黑色藝術手法呈現海報女郎、牛仔、黑社會等人物肖像。其畫作主角來自於電影、電視、廣告和色情業,通常主角的臉部或身體其他部分會由顏料潑濺、扭曲和淤積所遮掩。「對我而言,作畫就像是運動」(Elaine Ng,<一千種灰調子:五木田智央 >,《亞洲藝術文獻庫》,2015年7-8月)這是五木田智央針對其直觀性作畫手法而談。他並不按部就班計劃出每一幅構圖,而是隨著某些造形和圖案自然引領其創作,亦從社會原型和當代人物中提取靈感。

    五木田智央曾在東京幾家畫廊辦展,但其事業的突破在2005年,當時駐紐約藝術家泰勒·麥齊曼在紐約新美術館書店發現一本五木田智央作品集《內衣摔角》(2000年),繼而邀請他參加在紐約 Dinter Fine Art 畫廊舉辦的藝術家群展「陌生城市」,該展展出八位美國和日本藝術家作品,展品包括繪畫、漫畫、插畫和音樂。此展覽甚為成功,隨後便有許多畫廊聯繫五木田智央洽談,他先後在紐約 ATM 畫廊、東京石井孝之畫廊和洛杉磯 Honor Fraser 畫廊舉行個展。《失眠初中學生的肖像》於2010年藝術家在布魯塞爾 Aliceday 畫廊之個展中展出,該展覽為藝術家在歐洲首次個展,名為「樂園」,包括了數百張素描和十多幅畫作,本次上拍之作是當中僅有的兩幅特寫肖像中的一幅。

    透過《失眠初中學生的肖像》,五木田智央呈現出最能代表當代日本社會的標誌性人物之一:學生。以學生證或年報照片形式,畫中刻板被動的日本男孩以白色負面空間勾勒出輪廓。與一般肖像不同,藝術家並沒有描繪臉龐,而是以精煉突出的筆觸畫出各種姿態。以色調的微妙轉變,形成鼻樑的陰影,兩個向下的黑色弧線取代眼睛和眉毛。觀者所面對的是一個熟悉的主題框架,但卻無法知道其確實身份。畫面不乏光影效果,但各處的影子和高光似乎並非來自一個合乎邏輯的光線角度,形成一種無色的熒光性,或許可稱其為「新明暗對比法」。畫中人物的校服領子線條乾淨利落,加上黑亮的蘑菇頭造型,本是一個典型的學生形象, 但卻抹去了臉龐,以抽象形式表現,這是其2015年以前的早期作品之獨有特徵,2015年之後的作品逐漸開始包含臉部描繪。


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Portrait of an Insomniac Junior-High Student

signed, titled and dated '"Portrait of an Insomniac Junior-High Student" Tomoo Gokita, 2010' on the reverse
acrylic and gouache on linen
80.1 x 80.1 cm. (31 1/2 x 31 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2010.

HK$400,000 - 600,000 

sold for HK$1,500,000

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20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 November 2018