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  • Video

    Tomoo Gokita, 'Caroline', Lot 6

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 2 October 2019

  • Provenance

    ATM Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in 2007, shortly after Tomoo Gokita had decided to pivot from illustration to painting, Caroline is an early example of the Japanese artist’s atmospheric painterly oeuvre. Doubtlessly informed by Gokita’s twenty-year experimentation with graphic illustration prior to becoming a painter in 2005, the composition depicts a faceless woman sitting on an invisible support, set against a seemingly boundless landscape of whites and grays. It quotes from an array of visual influences, including vintage photography, black and white film stills, and Playboy magazines – all of which have contributed in enriching Gokita’s body of work over time. A potent demonstration of Gokita’s talent in building a scene dislocated from time and space, and of propelling the genre of portraiture into the realm of the surreal, the present work draws the viewer into its pervasive, and impossible, centre of gravity, spanning stylistic iterations of Pop, Surrealism, Cubism, Japanese graphic design and neo-expressionist fervour.

    Though Gokita primarily paints people – groups, duos, or individuals – he seldom designates them or endows them with an identity. Caroline stands out as a named character within his opus, a feat which contrasts with the paradoxical masking of her face in thick layers of acrylic. With her outsized chin resting on one hand and her left arm reaching over her thigh, Caroline is reminiscent of Auguste Rodin’s Penseur from 1882, whose meditative pose is similarly embodied within an expressive posture. Yet unlike her sculptural predecessor, she seems to be directing her imperceptible gaze at the viewer straight-on, her round, obscured face positioned frontally with slim streaks of hair suggested on either side of her cheeks. At once familiar and elusive, noble and disquieting, Caroline draws from a pantheon of art historical references that together provide a context for her enigmatic portrait.

  • 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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Property of an Important American Collector



signed, titled and dated '"Caroline" Tomoo Gokita 2007' on the reverse
acrylic on linen
145.4 x 111.8 cm (57 1/4 x 44 in.)
Painted in 2007.

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £181,250

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Senior Director
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099
[email protected]


Rosanna Widén
Director, Senior Specialist
+44 20 7318 4060
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 2 October 2019