Galerie Perrotin is pleased to present the first solo exhibition in Paris by Japanese artist Izumi Kato, gathering a selection of recent paintings, drawings and sculptures.
Children with disturbing faces, embryos with fully developed limbs or ancestor spirits locked up in bodies with imprecise forms – the creatures summoned by Izumi Kato are as fascinating as they are enigmatic. Their anonymous silhouettes and strange faces with absent features are above all simple forms and strong colours. Their elementary representation, an oval head with two big, fathomlessly deep eyes shows no more than a crudely figured nose and mouth. Bringing to mind primitive arts, their expressions evoke totems and the animist belief that a spriritual force runs through living and mineral worlds alike. The aura that they exude seems to manifest the first movement of life while the intensity of their expression gives us access to a knowledge of man founded less on reason than on intuition. Embodying a primal, universal form of humanity, these magical beings invite viewers to identify themselves as if looking in a mirror.
Kato uses rubber spatulas to paint the motifs and swathes of colour for his grounds. He also uses his fingers, clad in vinyl gloves, to trace the fragile contours of his figures. For Kato, painting is an extra-natural form of expression that competes with the real world and allows him to create a separate universe in which the imaginary matters as much as reality. In Kato’s work, where ancient and modern times merge, as do intuition and intellect, body and mind are joined in the fluctuating forms and bursts of colour that punctuate these mysteriously human forms. The same goes for his sculptures, originally carved in wood but here, for the first time, made from supple plastic, a material that allows the artist to paint, cut and twist as his work progresses. Representing beings that are sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs or groups, reclining, gathering, or simply standing, these creatures whose protuberant eyes draw in the viewer with their silent speech, seem to float in space – naked bodies stuck on supports or simple heads staring at us from a wooden stool, inviting us to interact with them. The colour and crude elementary forms of the material manifest our bond to earth and to nature, but also, by the quality of their plasticity, our inscription in today’s world. The refuges of spirits whose chiseled and painted expressions remain ambiguous, serve as a medium for the beholder to explore his or her own instincts.
Going beyond the classic opposition between abstraction and figuration, symbolism and realism, Kato founds the simple features of primitive, ancestral arts in the forms of contemporary art by creating modern fetishes capable of linking us to our deep, universal nature, and at the same time to our deepest individual emotions. Thus the singular evolution of his figures reproduces that of art itself, by following, not time’s straight arrow, but the closed loop of the cycle of life, uniting ages and souls in the human condition.
Izumi Kato was born in 1969, in Shimane, Japan. He graduated from the Department of Oil Painting at Musashino University in 1992. He now lives and works in Tokyo. Since 2000’s, Kato has garnered attention as an innovative artist through exhibitions held in Japan and across the world. In 2007, he was invited to the 52nd Venice Biennale International Exhibition, curated by Robert Storr.