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b. 1969, Japan

Izumi Kato Biography

Izumi Kato is a leading Japanese contemporary painter and sculptor. He creates surreal embryonic-looking humanoid figures inspired by Japanese culture through unconventional finger-painting and hand-chiseled softwood sculpture.

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Working for several years as a manual labourer, Izumi Kato launched his artistic career around the age of 30. His distinctive child-like painting technique evolved initially from an act of rebellion against the strict attitude towards painting at the Musashino Art University of Tokyo, from which he graduated in 1992.

Echoing the Gutai artists of the 1950s, particularly Kazuo Shiraga, Izumi Kato rejects the conventional painter's brush. Instead, he applies paint by hand, wearing latex gloves for protection and easy changes. Focusing on form rather than gestural expression, the smooth, uninterrupted lines and contours in Kato's paintings do not suggest the artist's (literal) hand in their creation.

Basic elements like dots, lines, and circles have been core to Kato's style since the beginning, though his early works are more abstract than his later surreal figurative works. His painted figures are often solitary, though sometimes they form a disjointed group or bizarrely conjoined single entity. Their faces and bodies are often marked by contrasting shapes and colours in a Frankenstein-like collage. Posed in a surreal simplified landscape or floating against a neutral background, they are surrounded by pulsating auras of colour.

Kato turned to sculpture in 2005 to work through creative blocks. It is now central to his practice. Like his paintings, Kato sculptures present surreal humanoids made of patched-together elements. The style and material used for the heads and bodies of one individual will often differ. Leaving a stronger trace of his physical efforts in his sculptures, the soft camphor wood from which Kato hand-chisels his works bears visible tool marks and cracks.

Izumi Kato's playful, otherworldly creatures reflect the aesthetics of Japanese popular culture like Hayao Miyazaki's films. Also resembling the mythical creatures and ancestor figures found in Shinto shrines, the artist's creations reflect his upbringing in Japan's coastal Shimane prefecture—an area rich in local myths, legends, and Shinto tradition.

Over the years as his practice has broadened, Izumi Kato has developed a 'supernatural pantheon' of figures, as described by Matthieu Lelièvre in relation to Kato's 2020 solo exhibition at Perrotin, Paris. This pantheon allows the artist to explore a great range of emotions with depth and resonance.

Garnering attention for his broadening practice, Kato's work has been exhibited in galleries, art fairs, and biennials around the world. His work also features in several major public collections, including the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Long Museum, Shanghai; Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo; and The National Museum of Art, Osaka.

Besides his gallery-based activity, Izumi Kato also plays drums for Japanese artist-formed band Tetorapotz. He currently lives and works in Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Izumi Kato Solo Exhibitions include:

Izumi Kato, Perrotin, Paris (2020); LIKE A ROLLING SNOWBALL, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2019); Izumi Kato, Red Brick Art Museum, Beijing (2018); Izumi Kato, Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong (2014); Journeying into Each Day, The Hakone Open-Air Museum, Kanagawa (2010); The Riverhead, The Ueno Royal Museum Gallery, Tokyo (2008); Izumi Kato, SCAI THE BATHHOUSE, Tokyo, (2005).

Izumi Kato Group Exhibitions include:

Garden of Life: Eight Contemporary Artists Venture into Nature, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, (2020); Unconstrained Textiles: Stitching Methods, Crossing Ideas, Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile, Hong Kong (2020); Japanorama: New vision on art since 1970, Centre Pompidou-Metz, France (2017); Double Vision: Contemporary Art from Japan, Moscow Museum of Modern Art (2012).

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2019

Izumi Kato Featured Artworks

LIKE A ROLLING SNOWBALL by Izumi Kato contemporary artwork print
Izumi KatoLIKE A ROLLING SNOWBALL, 2019Lithograph
44.5 x 35 cm
Gin Huang Gallery
Untitled 23 by Izumi Kato contemporary artwork print
Izumi KatoUntitled 23, 2018Lithograph, embroidery, Japanese paper
92 x 45.5 cm
Gin Huang Gallery

Izumi Kato Recent Exhibitions

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Izumi Kato Represented By

Perrotin contemporary art gallery in Paris, France Perrotin Hong Kong, New York, Paris, Seoul, Shanghai, Tokyo

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