Perrotin Shanghai is pleased to present the first gallery solo exhibition of Japanese artist Izumi Kato in mainland China. This exhibition showcases new paintings, drawings, and sculptures as well as fabric installations—the latest development of Kato's practice.
Kato's artistic output is monistic in scope. In Izumi Kato: Paintings and Sculptures, the artist is quoted to state the following: 'I am interested in the meaning of people's lives. I believe that this is where art is rooted and I realized afresh that to continue work could not be meaningless. There always comes a time when people need art. There comes a time when they realize that what they had thought to be useless becomes useful.' Like Dostoevsky who spent his waking moments getting to the bottom of the human soul, Kato has made the exploration of human lives and their significance his main endeavor.
For Kato, contemplation is done through the process of making art rather than analytical reasoning. Instead of having the overt aim of articulation, his paintings are produced based on physical sensibilities. Altogether, Kato's practice is a cultivation of the artworks and his person as well as an enquiry into the meaning of man's existence. It could be said that his creations constitute a kind of fūdo (a term indicating climate and culture grounded in local conditions, practices, and customs).
Japanese philosopher Tetsuro Watsuji stipulates that people invariably lead their lives on a given piece of land. Regardless of will, people are enclosed within the natural environment in which they find themselves. The human body—a medium nestled within nature through which we communicate with our habitat—consistently conditions our behavior. People also react in response to changes in their external environment, counteracting nature in the process. Such a system of interaction is what is meant by fūdo: self-discovery occurs within a set of local conditions, practices, and customs, and cannot be explained by a mere understanding of 'the subject'. 1
'Discovering the self within fūdo' is the quintessential attitude of Kato's practice, which gives expression to the signals arising from the interaction between the artist's surroundings and his own corporeal body. Kato's works are the result of his self-objectification, manifestations of the temporal changes in the spaces he inhabits. His works come into fruition within a cognitive cycle of perception, acceptance, expression, and reclamation.
Man at once refers to the individual and the integral whole, both of which make up the fundamental structure of human existence. For that reason, Kato's oeuvre goes beyond the scope of the individual, revealing a richer aspect of humanity by naturally invoking the state and problems man faces as a community.
In our current age, we are increasingly caught in simulacra and simulation as envisioned by Baudrillard. We fall into a pattern regulated by the code-dominated framework of the information age and its corresponding value structures. In this realm, 'any instance of reality is assimilated by a code-driven, simulated hyper-reality.' The Internet, having firm control over us at every moment, is the ultimate manifestation of a simulated world. Generated by code, this world encapsulates people in a vacuum state like a thin film, cutting them off from reality. Hence, 'all things that manage or intend to infiltrate the aimless space-time of code will have their ties to their very own purposes severed. They will be broken down and assimilated.' This causes us to disintegrate at the very core of our being. The more our consciousness indulges itself in a simulated world borne of code, the more oblivious we become to our corporeal bodies, which are rooted in the real world. Abstract functions are fragmenting and disintegrating us as we speak.
In recent years, clear-cutlines that carve up human shapes emerge as a crucial characteristic of Kato's fabrics and works on paper, bringing to mind the state of the modern man with body and soul separated. Yet, Kato's works are by no means symbolic of this phenomenon. Rather than demarcate the human body into pieces, the lines emphasize the connection between constituent parts, an exemplification of the richness of Kato's art—his works point out real predicaments while also highlighting our fundamental condition. They do not employ abstraction to symbolize the real world, for they embody the world itself.
The above premise contextualizes the changes seen in Kato's works over time. From his earliest embryonic figures with fins and the infants that appear to float in amniotic fluid to his 'adults' comprising heaven and earth, mountains and rivers, Kato's creations become new life forms carrying the burden of all things in existence. As Kato's anthropomorphic shapes develop, so too do their backdrops, moving from monotone palettes to multicolor composites, pointillism, and spiral shapes. The recent addition of elements including spheres and lines transforms previously planar surfaces into three-dimensional spaces, leading Kato's figures to dwell in more expansive universes.
With his sculptures and fabric works, Kato's figures are thrust into the real world; they are 'others' who coexist with 'us' on equal footing. Their existence is challenged and, as a result, gains even more formidable life force (which manifests itself in the compositions of Kato's exhibitions). None of this is subjective self-expression; it is fūdo being reflected through Kato.
Kato's works never represent an isolated state. Instead, they are closely intertwined with the life of the artist and the world in which we live. They are a direct reflection of Kato's individual sensibilities and his local environment, mediated by the conduit that is the artist's physical body. Kato's works stem from our lives and the actual world, but also serve as mysterious mirror reflections that impart penetrating insights into aspects of life gone obscure. From Kato's works we gauge a preordained state as well as guidelines for man's existence. With inexorable beauty, they allow spectators to grasp the meaning of their own lives amidst the inconstancy of the real world.
LIN Ye | Art critic
1 To quote Tetsuro Watsuji, 'Only when the mind becomes an entity capable of self-objectification, i.e. a mortal human body made of flesh and bones that possesses subjectivity, can the groundwork be laid for a history of self-development. Such a human body that possesses subjectivity is a kind of fūdo'; 'the spatio-temporal structures of man's existence are the cornerstones on which the subjectivity of the human body is founded. Hence, the subjective human body is not independent, but carries with it a mechanism of motion. At times, it is independent, and at others it is syncretic. As it moves, associations are developed, which in turn give way to history, to fūdo.' In other words, human subjectivity is predicated on spatio-temporal structures (fūdo). Only by objectifying oneself–meaning that feeling is generated within these spatio-temporal structures—and extricating oneself from this objectification, and returning to it later, can a person truly achieve self-discovery. Thus, 'the fūdo phenomenon is a reflection of how we discover our external selves.'
Press release courtesy Perrotin.