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Izumi Kato: "Inspiration comes from all aspects of life, simply from being alive."


Izumi Kato: "Inspiration comes from all aspects of life, simply from being alive."

Born in 1969 in Shimane, Japan, Izumi Kato lives and works between Tokyo, Japan, Hong Kong and China. He is beloved for his paintings and sculptures of fetal-like features that seem to draw a certain harmonization of human and animal. These enigmatic creatures, whilst with penetrating dark eyes, seem to contrastingly evoke a certain loveable nature. His artistic technique is all the more fascinating, painting with his own hands in lieu of paintbrushes, allowing him more control and closeness to his works. We talk to him about why he paints such subjects, his rise in popularity in auction houses, and what mediums he’d like to work with next.

You’re extremely celebrated for your eerie canvases; tell us a little bit more about the subjects in the paintings, along with the choice to paint such haunting figures.

I try to paint pictures that only I can paint. I paint people because I feel particularly motivated by human subjects.

It wasn’t really intentional or pre-meditated, but in my quest to paint what only I can paint, I found myself painting in this style. In any case, other people can always paint cute or beautiful pictures.  

Image courtesy of Galerie Perrotin Hong Kong 

Having only started painting at the age of 30, what factors would you say contributed towards this shift towards fine art?

It took me a long time to realise that I was interested in art. It was only after I had had some experience of life after university, around the age of thirty, that I even came to the understanding that I love art. I also noticed that I couldn’t do as well as others did, in other things. That led me to pursue what I felt only I could do.

Regardless of how you took up art later in life, you have done exceptionally well in auction houses such as Christie’s. Was there then a sense of validation or reassurance that going into the field of art was the right choice?

No, not at all. I have never felt reassured, neither in the past nor presently. I’m always just surviving. The art world is vast; nothing is easy, and I don’t especially feel like I am doing well in it. However, I am clear that I want to spend the rest of my life in art. If that doesn’t work, to me that means life doesn’t work.

These methods of painting are just as unique as your story – you use latex gloves to directly apply oil paint to your canvases and works. How did you arrive at this method of painting and what are some technical elements that are involved with it?

Again, this is a solution I reached in my quest to paint what only I can. Approaching tools with an open mind, to find what is right for me, I discovered that using gloved fingertips worked well for my expression.

You graduated from the Department of Oil painting from Musashino Art University, which comes across as a rather traditional education with painting. Tell us about the artistic evolution from back then till your now contemporary African art and antiquity inspired works.

Well, I do like antiquities and African art, but it was never my intention to mimic any style. I have many things I love, and those are just two elements in my inspiration.

Many things are influenced by the way one chooses to live, including of course one’s art. To stop is to die, and just as life is in a constant state of change, so is art, whether intentional or not. In other words, my art is my life.

Image courtesy of Galerie Perrotin Hong Kong 

Your works include a large array of mediums, from camphor to canvas, to sofubi (a soft vinyl). What medium would you like to work with more or have yet to experiment with, and why?

I always love to try new things and encounter new challenges. I work with my intuition when it comes to choosing materials. It is deep and fascinating to work with a particular material without really knowing why I was drawn to it. I imagine when that becomes all clear, it will be the beginning of the end of the creative process. At the moment, though, the materials that I work with provide universes to explore, so I don’t feel any risk of that.

Canvas has a separate standing from other mediums that I use for sculpture. This is because essentially I make my sculptures for my paintings. I believe that the making of sculpture directly affects my painting.

Give us a little insight into the inspirations and motivations behind the works produced?

My motivation is purely to make good paintings. The sculptures are for the paintings too. Inspiration comes from all aspects of life, simply from being alive.

It’s been previously stated that you find it psychologically easier to paint non-human subjects. What has been a work that has been the most challenging to produce thus far and why?

The work that I am doing now is the most challenging. Because I am always trying to evolve and update my work, the current work will always be the most challenging.

Izumi Kato is represented by PERROTIN.
His solo exhibition 'Izumi Kato: Paintings and Sculptures' is currently on at PERROTIN Shanghai from 5 June until 17 August 2019
To find out more about Izumi Kato, click here

Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.

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