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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.

  • Artist Biography

    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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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