Tomoo Gokita

Stylised figures, distorted identites.

artist Tomoo Gokita sat in a chair in his studio with his legs crossed
artist Tomoo Gokita sat at a desk in his studio
Tomoo Gokita's studio with shelves and music records
6 images

Tomoo Gokita (he/him) is a Japanese artist born in Tokyo in 1969, where he continues to live and work.

At auction

Original painting Be Just Like Family (2015) sold for over 1 million USD in 2019 at Phillip’s New York, around three times its upper estimate.

Museum shows

In the summer of 2021 Gokita opened Get Down at Dallas Contemporary, his first solo museum show outside of Japan. He created works for the show during the pandemic, with painting providing a refuge from current events – “What can I do in this pandemic? What will become of humanity? Ignoring such questions, I simply focused on painting.”

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Practice overview

Tomoo Gokita’s eerie paintings exist on the periphery of figuration and abstraction. Exploring the depths of human psychology, his works typically depict figures made unrecognisable by abstract brush strokes and smears of paint. These faceless protagonists, often sourced from vintage magazines and newspapers, include celebrities, pro wrestlers and lingerie models. Gokita chooses to impartially obscure these figures rather than indulge their cultural cachet - using a film noir, monochromatic palette to heighten psychological undertones. The artist draws inspiration from movements including Surrealism, German figuration and Neo-Expressionism, as well as his own background in fashion, illustration and music. These diverse references and experiences have instilled both playfulness and perfectionism in his creative process.

Although Gokita’s most famous paintings are grayscale gouache, works created during the COVID-19 pandemic see him return to colour. “I got bored of working in just black and white. Switching back to colour required some courage, of course. I wanted to change and to transform myself.” Rendered in soft pastels, the works express the fragility and absurdity of the pandemic as a collection of surreal objects and abstracted human subjects. Contrasting light and dark, they maintain the spirit of the artist’s thoughtful practice while offering a timely stylistic evolution. Across an expanding oeuvre of psychologically-charged portraiture, Gokita continues to invite his viewers to explore the mysteries of their own subconsciousness.

“I want to throw away my skill; however, it's impossible to be entirely rid of something that’s deeply engraved within you.”Tomoo Gokita