Goro Nagashima solo exhibition “Thick Layer”

Goro Nagashima solo exhibition “Thick Layer”

2022.08.04(Thu) – 2022.08.09(Tue)

YUGEN Gallery hosted a solo exhibition by illustrator Goro Nagashima called Thick Layer from Thursday, August 4 through Tuesday, August 9.

A return to oil painting after 20 years


This is the first oil painting exhibition in 20 years for Goro Nagashima, a popular illustrator who has worked on the covers of POPEYE magazine and FM NACK5's free paper AIR SCHEDULE, as well as on books and advertisements. His work depicts items reminiscent of the 1980s American West Coast culture that influenced him, with motifs of hamburgers, hot dogs, and cartoon characters. Around 20 newly painted works will be on display.

Nagashima, born in Tokyo in 1973, was influenced by his art-teacher father to become interested in art from an early age. Although he enjoyed making 50 figures representing pro-wrestling moves for his summer homework one year, he says that his earliest experience with art was almost traumatic. His father took him to see Japanese art, especially works from the Showa period (1926-1989), and in it he sensed an atmosphere that was "dark and conveyed through a kind of war-time education."

Although art was not yet attracting his interest, his mother gave him a book of paintings by Shinro Ohtake, and that inspired him to enroll in Musashino Art University Junior College of Art and Design and study oil painting. It was then that he became aware that his painting style had an unintended shadowy quality to it that imbued his work with a dark tone, so that when he painted a portrait, viewers would comment that the subject looked sickly. He says that the fragmented view of things he's loved, like American movies, junk food, old clothing, and heavy metal all have a certain kind of inherent eeriness that has influenced his style. That has manifested itself in a kind of longing for America precipitated by a post-war complex.

Overlaying fragmentary personal memories and emotions


What if, as life goes on in this supremely irrational world, we slather thick layers of paint on the canvas as if folding in our own indelible emotions? That is what brings us this show title, Thick Layer.

Nagashima has created acrylic, watercolor, and pencil works with the ethic of a true craftsman of illustration. He has come to the conclusion that, "Rather than paint for someone else, I want to paint my own life as it moves forward though all that happens in the world, adding layers of emotion organically."

He adds, "Lately, I've been getting better at sketching plaster casts, and find it really interesting. Lots of people who studied art have bad memories of plaster sketching, and gave it up, but just recently I thought I'd give it another try. That actually showed how things I'd learned purely academically helped shore up the realistic expression of my illustrator work." That led him to reconsider the potential of oil paints, which he had studied in college but considered too troublesome, and with that the possibilities for his own artistic expression.

"When I was a kid, my teacher used to get after me for applying paint straight from the tube or applying too much glue when we were pasting paper for arts and crafts projects!" (laughs) Nagashima says, which might well hint at a natural tendency towards thick layers from an early age. While he has worked at illustration for the past 20 years, he always peeked out of the corner of his eye at a world of painting different from his daily work. Now, Nagashima is feeling the nostalgia of oil paints.

Russian-American cultural theorist Svetlana Boym made a distinction between two types of nostalgia: restorative, which seeks after reconstructing a lost home, and reflective, which basks in the individual cultural memory itself. The former refers to a return to a nation, religion, or other base of authority, while the latter is an attempt to question authority through individual feelings and acts of love for details, and to view the past in terms of diverse possibilities. Nagashima's work, which folds together attraction to and complexes about the object, can be understood as an expression of reflective nostalgia as well as an example of the kind of fetishism found in Japanese magazines and subcultures devoted to things like sneaker stock numbers and details of blue jeans.

In his Mountain series, which debuted at a 2011 solo exhibition at Little More Gallery, he began drawings of mountains with "Yoohoo Mountain Range." Nagashima approached the mountains he saw out train windows as "triangle shapes in a rectangular frame," and so celebrates them not as sacred places but as countless fragments, shifting entities.

The depth of living in an incomplete world


Nagashima says that when he picked up his oil paints and palette knife to layer colors after such a long absence, "I felt like a new door was opening." He also tries to express the transformation of meaning by painting something between motif-based figurative works and abstracts which deviate from the motif, while also saying that he wants to "do something ridiculous with all my might," such as painting a common theme of hamburgers on a size 30 canvas, almost a meter wide.

He seeks to shift conventional drawing methods, sizes, and motifs with a "go for broke" mentality. The reflective nostalgia that Nagashima brings helps confirm that the world is in the midst of generative transformation. Layering colors over each other is the way we live in an imperfect world, and the thickness of the color represents the depth of life being lived right now.

Highlight works:

Day off man

Silver mountains

Double cheese burger

Note: Some works on display may change. We appreciate your understanding.

Regarding sales:

At the same time as the exhibition is held, it will be possible to view and purchase the works on the YUGEN Gallery official online store.



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2022 Group exhibition POWER SPOT Exhibition- Travel is a companion∞The world is fate (Goen) at Shop & Space goen°in Tokyo

See also:

The Future of Nostalgia, Svetlana Boym (Basic Books, 2001)

Goro Nagashima


After graduating from the Musashino Art University Junior College of Art and Design, Nagashima worked as an illustrator for magazines like Brutus, Cyzo, and the in-flight magazine Tsubasa Global Wings, as well as in advertising, apparel, the music industry, and television programming. His first private exhibition was in 2010 PROM HEARTS c/w 10SEC.TILL LOVE at No.12 gallery.

Go to author page


2022.08.04(Thur) - 2022.08.09(Tue)


YUGEN Gallery


Totate International Building 3F, 2-12-19 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0002



Weekdays: 14:00-19:00
Weekends: 13:00-19:00
Note: will close at 17:00 on the last day


Artist appearance:


August 4 (Thur) - 7 (Sun)) All day
August 9 (Tue) All day




Entrance fee:



Please note that the exhibition period and opening hours are subject to change without notice depending on circumstances.