Celebrated as one of the main proponents in the revival of figurative painting and the popularization of a new Pop idiom, Yoshitomo Nara is best known for his paintings and drawings of seemingly innocent little girls, isolated against a stark field empty of any suggestion of context or narrative. Nara's compositions, characterized by strong intuitive lines, simple figures, and indeterminate backgrounds, share the same formal economy of manga (comic books) and anime (cartoons). Yet, Nara is quick to point out that animation imagery is not a direct influence but one facet of his childhood memories.
Nara's work also reveals an eccentric, hand-made touch and influences outside Japanese and pop traditions, ranging from the tranquil balance of Renaissance portraits to graffiti and punk rock. Indeed, Nara sees a kinship between his paintings and punk's tonal economy and celebration of independence: "I like punk rock but not only as music but as sign of independence. Or just their music, simple, straight. They use just what they need, not many elements. Like my paintings, maybe." (Nara in E. Nakamura, "Punk Art," Giant Robot, no. 20 (Spring, 2001), p. 27.)
Furthermore, the rebellious spirit of the punk movement in general, and that of the band The Ramones in particular, motivates Nara's depiction of childhood as a state outside social mores, somewhere between innocence and anarchy. In tribute to The Ramones, he has named his wide-eyed, cigarette smoking and potty-mouthed girls, "Ramonas." Deborah Harry, herself an icon of punk rock, has described them: "No cute, coy innocents these. No Keane paintings pleading for sympathy. These girls insisted on the truth. These girls had ideas, intentions. They knew the truth like art does." (D. Harry, Yoshitomo Nara: Nothing Ever Happens (Cleveland: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2003), p 81.)
The raging Ramona depicted in HEY HO LETS GO! appears to be performing on-stage, her left arm raised in defiance, her right arm rocking a microphone stand, her fanged mouth open as if screaming. Nara makes further allusion to punk music, with the title citing the refrain from a popular Ramones song, "Blitzkrieg Bop," and to rock culture with his use of metallic paint to draw his flat, simplistic lines. For Nara, music is a vital component to both his working practice and the psychological charge of his art.