KATO was born in 1969 in Shimane Prefecture, graduated from Musashino Art Univer sity, where he studied oil painting, then embarked on a career in art after a blank period of a few years. He began depicting living beings that are almost primordial looking, neither fetuses nor larvae, which were then slowly nurtured on canvas through the interaction between the artist and his subject. KATO describes this process: "The relationship between the painting and me is an equal one. I do all I can, with everything I have, to make sure it's always fresh." As the shapes that KATO depicts are arranged on the canvas, metamorphosize and begin to take on human form, they appear to be almost floating in amniotic fluid. Sometimes expressed in uncertain colors with no clear boundaries, sometimes in dazzlingly bright colors, KATO's paintings evoke ominousness, endearingness, emptiness, violence, and much else. Beyond all of these, however, lies an intensity that KATO directs at the observer and which can only be described as existence itself.
In recent years KATO has also been producing sculptures in wood that complement his paintings. The sculpture that he showed at the "Lonely Planet" exhibition (Art Tower Mito, 2004) and the "Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture" exhibition (Japan Society Gallery, New York, 2005) -the giant sculpture of a baby-like creature with a huge head, standing unsteadily - has the directness of primitive art; but its pow-
erful presence simultaneously transcends the label of primitive art to remain a fresh, powerful, and representative work for this artist. Commenting on "Dear Humans," the title of his new exhibition in Tokyo, KATO says, "Broadly speaking, art exists for humans and is something that humans involve themselves in voluntarily. I'm a human being too, and I'm interested
in, have hopes for and expectations of people. It is as if I'm writing a letter to that bundle of beings we call humans." This explains why KATO's organisms have such an endearing quality, capturing the observer like a mirror, and enabling us to intuitively sense the essential existence of humans. (Arataniurano, Tokyo, Japan)
2001, 2004, 2006 Murata and Friends, Berlin
2001 Art Tower Mito Gallery, Japan
2005 Scai the Bathhouse, Tokyo
2005 Galerie Cornelius Pleser, München
Galeria Astuni, Pietrasanta, Italia
2007 La Biennale di Venezia
Why did you decide to become a painter in an age when every artist can use every mean or artist tool?
I thought that the paintings have more information than something else. I also thought painting suited me.
Having painting as an informational tool - in the era of media - probably means that you - as an artist, as a man - still rely a huge confidence on the man and on his mental power, am I right?
Who were the other artists that were your idols at the beginning?
Children’s paintings, handicapped persons’ paintings and primitive art. However recently it’s changed a bit.
No one in particular? No names?
I cannot tell you because they are unknown and/or things which I saw that were in historical museums.
What other interest - beside art - did you have at that time?
Music and the human world which is including myself.
Do you consider painting capable of creating seductive images?
As I answered to the first question, the paintings have so many information. The paintings have a sort of the information which connect to the nerve directly. Although I am not sure whether it is seductive or not, there is a possibility for it.
Since your early paintings the character has been someone that looks like an embryo, also in your recent paintings the human figure is not really accomplished, it is always an idea of a human form. What is your idea about these characters?
From the beginning when I started painting, I painted human beings’ faces with circles and lines as children did. This work was symbolic. At that time there was no consciousness about it but I think I wanted to do the work over again for my painting. It has been 10 years since then. I now think I am growing up as a person with my paintings but I don’t think I am an accomplished person and there is no accomplished person in this world. If there is one, he or she should be boring. Perhaps those ways of my thinking would appear in my paintings.
Why is there “no accomplished person” in the world?
Because we cannot control our emotion and instinct, and also make mistakes. I could say that is typically human though. An accomplished person means a person who understands everything and it never happens.
Do you think the psychological aspect is more important than a formal one?
For me both of them are equally important because I need all my ability, alll the ability that I have. Everything is important for me equally.
Your images do not look representational in traditional terms, it does not seem that you mimic reality and yet there is a primary energy that you attempt to represent, is that true?
When I paint, there is a part in my impulse. This impulse takes root from my instinct just like babies crying for things. This is one of the important reasons why I, who live now in this era, paint.
Have you been studying at the Academy of Fine Arts?
Although I went to an Academy of Fine Arts, at that time I was not so interested in Art. I was interested in music and belonged to a band.
What was your perception of European art while you were a student? What is that perception now?
When I was a student, I think I had a complex towards European Art a little bit. I don’t have it anymore. (I think I became an adult person.)
Your works have already been exhibited in Europe, specially in Germany. Do you think there is a difference in the way the audience look at your work?
I feel that there is not much difference.
What is the most banal comment you have ever heard about your work?
Scary, dark and pretty.
Do you live near your studio? Can you describe your typical day?
It takes 30 minutes by car form my house to my studio, where I paint. I go to my studio at 9 o’clock. During the morning, I play football, have something to think on my mind and prepare for the painting. From midday to 5 p.m. I paint. After all, I go back home, have dinner with my family, take a bath with my son. From 8 p.m. to midnight I relax with reading Japanese comics, watch TV and then go to bed.
In the last 20 years Japan and Korea have spent huge amounts of money for contemporary art building museums, promoting biennials, creating a new way of collecting. What is your opinion about this tendency? The same thing is happening in China right now...
I don’t know the details about those situations, so I cannot tell you my opinion. I don’t even know about the situation in China. However I think, this is not about art, this is a matter about capitalism.
What would your next exhibition be like?
I don’t have any concrete ideas, but I can tell you that I prefer solo shows to group shows.
Izumi Kato interviewed by Gianni Romano, 2006
Izumi Kato was born in 1969 in Shimane Prefecture, graduated from Musashino Art University, where he studied oil painting, then embarked on a career in art after a blank period of a few years. He began depicting living beings that are almost primordial-looking, neither fetuses nor larvae, which were then slowly nurtured on canvas through the interaction between the artist and his subject.
Izumi Kato takes part at The 52nd International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia June 10 - November 21, 2007. Italian Pavilion, Giardini.