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Izumi Kato: Mirror of Surrealism

Johanna Lou 2016-11-30 11:57

Izumi Kato was born in 1969 in Shimane prefecture in western Japan. Longing for the city life, he went to live and study in Tokyo and eventually graduated from Japan's top art school - Musashino Art University. The artist originally never held any interest for the arts. In fact, he had wanted to become an athlete when he was younger, and only entered for an art degree because he thought it would be easier to get accepted into college. After he graduated, he worked at a construction site for several years. At the age of 30, he realized that there are people at the construction site who are able to do better work than himself, but there are few people creating good art. With that in mind, Kato started his art career.


In 2007, Kato was one of the Japanese artists invited to exhibit at the Venice Biennale and for the first time, his works were shown on the world stage. His works proved a hit and were completely sold out on the first day of the exhibition, not only setting a personal record but also making him a hot pursuit for collectors and galleries alike. The unique outlook and creative format that were shown in his art constantly question the existence of "human". Kato's recent show in Japan at Nizayama Art Park Power Plant Museum, titled "Living in Figures", investigates the faith of harmonious co-existence between human and nature.

Izumi Kato abandoned traditional painting tools and uses hands instead of brushes to draw the outline of "human". Occasionally he would use a rubber spatula to apply paint on the cloth to create almost primitive visual effects. He doesn't limit himself into certain colours, instead, letting the colours grow freely on his canvas by switching his gloves. In his mind, painting is the most natural expression of resistance of the real world, is the most important pigment of the imagination in a virtual world surpassing the real world. Those mysterious and puzzling images seem to open a door between ancient and modern, body and spirit. The vibrant colours contrasting with inner contemplation. The deep black pupils are like black holes sucking everything up into a vortex behind the images.


Kato's sculptures follow similar themes as his paintings; he uses camphor wood, toy plastics, and resin in his sculpture to present something original "human" such as a baby or embryo. They could be alone, in pairs, in groups, lying down, sitting, or simply standing. These "people" seem strange, alienated, and even frightening up close - souls locked in a transparent framework. The plastic and resin are emblems of modern civilization. They are so delicate that it appears fragile. The original wood colour and rough woodcarving suggests the relationship between human and nature. The totem-like forms exist to rouse dormant primitive emotions in its viewers.

Don't be deceived by the artist's seemingly simplistic aesthetic. Compared to many other Japanese artists' works that tend towards exaggerated cuteness or cartoonishness, Kato combines original images with a plainer aesthetic, using the quiet gaze to replace the noisy wash of colours. At the same time, he leaves all his works "untitled", giving free reign to the audience to project their own thoughts and interpretations. The artist believes that beauty should be personal and subjective; therefore the thoughts of artists should not have anything to do with the audience.


Within Izumi Kato's body of work, we may see reflected back at us a self that we have never noticed before… psychological and emotional rooms that we have never known existed. Even though we don't have the same physical body but we have the same process of growing which is leading everything in our lives. No matter which form we are in, no matter if you are walking fast on the street or standing in the woods on a mountain, if you listen, everything is in silence and you will hear the noise from the shaky jade mirror. 

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