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  • Provenance

    Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo
    Private Collection, Asia
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Tokyo, Taka Ishii Gallery, Holy Cow, 18 March - 15 April 2017

  • Catalogue Essay

    Tomoo Gokita’s signature black and white paintings typically draw upon an assortment of distinctive, kitschy pop-culture motifs ranging from cowboys and pin-up girls to Mexican wrestlers. Images appropriated from a variety of sources, including television, advertising and pornographic magazines, are deftly subverted by Gokita’s paintbrush with a series of smudges, distortions and gestures that render the faces and forms of his subjects unrecognisable, yet uncannily familiar. Considered an outsider by the Japanese art establishment, who has struggled to accept his often cryptic use of low-brow cultural imagery and background as a commercial illustrator, Gokita is described as “a polymath of drawing mediums and styles” by the renowned American critic Roberta Smith, whose “undeniably rich” paintings “pack an unsettling visual punch” (Roberta Smith, New York Times, 21 October 2016).

    Gokita’s breakthrough came in 2005 when a chance encounter with Gokita’s book Lingerie Wrestling (2000) in a museum shop led to a curator’s invitation to take part in the New York group show “Stranger Town”. Roberta Smith profiled the then-unknown Japanese artist in The New York Times: “One of the show’s high points is the stunning wall devoted to drawings in charcoal, ink or pencil by Tomoo Gokita […] Mr. Gokita’s vocabulary barrels across illustration, pornography, abstraction, children’s drawing, calligraphy and sign-painting, with a perfect control, velvety surfaces and tonal range that makes black-and-white feel like living colour” (Roberta Smith, New York Times, March 9 2005).

    Embrace was unveiled at the artist’s third solo show Holy Cow, held at Tokyo’s Taka Ishii Gallery in 2017. Exploiting the same rich visual language characteristic of Gokita’s work, Embrace seemingly brings out a more traditional, even sentimental, side of the artist. The embracing figures draw upon the enduring artistic motif of lovers enfolded in an eternal kiss. Whereas some of Gokita’s depictions of nude women are informed by soft-core erotica (in an interview with Art Asia Pacific he affectionately recalls his open-minded father, a designer working on advertising layouts for Playboy magazine, encouraging him to take a look at the Playboy magazines lying around the family home because “women are beautiful” (Elaine Ng, ‘One Thousand Shades of Gray’ in Art Asia Pacific, July/Aug 2015, online), here Gokita inserts himself firmly in the classical tradition with a nude subject conceivably borrowed from Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s masterpiece The Turkish Bath, a refined neoclassical portrait of idealised, submissive beauty. But a playfully subversive streak underpins Embrace, with the lovers’ tangled, amorphous limbs and Mexican wrestling boots injecting a surreal and disarming mix of imagery into the work.

    Like in many of his other works, Gokita tantalises the viewer with an emotional tension somewhere between the pull of the familiar and the lure of the otherworldly. This is a theme recurrent not only in his choice of subject, but also medium. When Gokita turned to painting in 2005, he took the decision to favour a palette of black, grey and white, an aesthetic which had been carefully cultivated in his early works on paper and various commercial projects. This decision has over the years led to a mastery of texture, contrast and tone which is demonstrated at its best in Embrace. The immediacy of Gokita’s bold, evocative draftsmanship is tempered by voluptuous monochrome gradations that blur the line between the abstract and the figurative. This invisible brushwork suffuses the surface of the canvas with a startlingly luminous, velvety quality, lending a sublime and rarefied air to the work. Embrace is at once contemporary and timeless, a testament to an artist who continues to defy the conventions of artistic practice today.

    Gokita’s work continues to gather critical and artistic acclaim. Today Gokita is represented by several prominent international art galleries, including Blum & Poe (New York), Bill Brady Gallery (Miami), and Taka Ishii Gallery (Tokyo). His work has gained further institutional recognition over the past five years, with important solo museum shows at the Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art (THE GREAT CIRCUS) in 2014 and Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery (PEEKABOO) in 2018.

  • Catalogue Essay

    五木田智央(Tomoo Gokita)其標誌性黑白繪畫的選材通常來自各種鮮明、豔俗的流行文化中之圖案,其中包括牛仔、海報女郎,以及墨西哥摔角手等。通過挪用了包括電視、廣告,以及色情雜誌等各種來源的圖像,五木田熟練地將其畫筆下人物的面孔與身形進行一系列的模糊、變形、姿態扭轉,使他們難以辨識,卻又讓人覺得不可思議的似曾相識。儘管由於日本藝術界難以接受他隱諱地使用通俗文化圖像,以及他曾作為商業插畫師的背景,而將他視為一個局外人,然而美國著名的藝評人Roberta Smith則稱之為「繪畫媒介和風格上的博學家」,其繪畫作品具有「無可否認的豐富性和另人不安的視覺衝擊」(《紐約時報》2016年10月21日)。

    五木田藝術生涯上的突破來自2005年的一次偶然事件,他在一家美術館商店出售的書籍《內衣摔角》( Lingerie Wrestling)(2000)引發了一位策展人邀請他參加紐約的群展〈陌生人之城〉。Roberta Smith在《紐約時報》上提及這位當時不為人知的日本藝術家:「展示五木田智央的碳筆、水墨和鉛筆繪畫作品的牆面讓人驚艷,為展覽的亮點之一 […]五木田先生的繪畫語匯涵蓋了插畫、色情、抽象、兒童畫、書法以及看板廣告,通過完美的控制力、天鵝絨般光滑柔軟的表面,以及色調範圍,讓黑白充滿了色彩的鮮活感」(2005年3月9日)。

    《抱擁》在藝術家2017年於東京的石井孝之畫廊舉辦的第三次個展〈Holy Cow〉中首次亮相。擁有著五木田作品中慣常的豐富視覺語言特徵的同時,《抱擁》似乎展現了藝術家更為傳統、甚至多愁善感的一面。擁抱著的人體借鑒了戀人相擁而吻這一永恆的藝術主題。而五木田對其他裸女的描繪則是充斥著軟調色情的特徵(在《Art Asia Pacific》雜誌的一篇採訪中他感懷地回憶起自己開明的父親:一位為《花花公子》雜誌做廣告排版的設計師,曾鼓勵他翻閱家中的《花花公子》雜誌,因為「女人是美麗的」(Elaine Ng, <千道不同的灰>, Art Asia Pacific 雜誌, 7/8月號, 2015年),而這裏,五木田堅定地將自己置身古典傳統中,可想而知地借鑒了安格爾(Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres)精緻的新古典主義傑作《土耳其浴》中所描繪的理想化的、溫順的美女形象。然而,《抱擁》同時又充斥著俏皮的顛覆性,戀人交纏、輪廓不明的肢體,以及墨西哥摔角靴都為作品注入了一股既超現實又迷人的混合圖像。


    五木田智央的作品不斷獲得評論上與藝術上的讚譽。如今,五木田智央由幾家著名的國際藝術畫廊代理,其中包括Blum & Poe(紐約), Bill Brady 畫廊(邁阿密),以及石井孝之畫廊 (東京)。他的作品在過去五年中得到藝術機構的進一步認可,舉辦過二次重要的個人博物館展覽:包括2014年在DIC川村紀念美術館〈偉大的馬戲團〉和2018年在東京歌劇城美術館〈躲貓貓〉都舉辦了的重要的個人博物館展覽。

  • Artist Bio

    Tomoo Gokita

    Japanese • 1969

    Best known for grey-scale paintings that combine abstract and figurative elements, Tomoo Gokita is one of the most internationally prominent contemporary Japanese artists. His signature works feature archetypal figures or groups with their faces obscured, evoking haunting film stills or magazine spreads. Gokita enrolled in a local art school in 1988, but dropped out two years later to pursue a career in graphic design. Though he found success as a designer in the Japanese music industry, he felt creatively stifled and returned to painting full-time in the mid 1990s. 

    Similar to the way Gerhard Richter used photographs as a starting point for abstraction, Gokita combines visual references from found imagery with his stylized approach, creating portraits that are both rooted in memory and rich in painterly expression. His precise technique, often characterized by abstract flourishes and gestural swipes, can be traced to influence from New York’s Neo-Expressionists. In this playful manipulation of form, Gokita injects a sense of humor into his work, warping the archetypal into the absurd. Gokita has been the subject of multiple solo exhibitions at many prominent museums and galleries, including the Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art in Sakura, Japan. The artist continues to live and work in Tokyo.

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Property from an Important Private Collection


signed, titled and dated '"Embrace" [in Kanji] Tomoo Gokita 2017' on the reverse
acrylic gouache on canvas
194 x 194 cm. (76 3/8 x 76 3/8 in.)
Executed in 2017.

HK$2,200,000 - 3,200,000 

sold for HK$4,230,000

Contact Specialist

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019