Izumi Kato - 20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction Hong Kong Thursday, December 3, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Japanese artist Izumi Kato’s often untitled, enigmatic representations of otherworldly beings evoke ancient totems and animist beliefs that all objects, places, creatures - even human-made works of art - possess a distinct spiritual essence. Incorporating the Shinto legends and folklore of his native home in Shimane prefecture, a coastal town in western Japan known as ‘the land of gods and myths’, Kato’s creations speak to the fluid boundaries between the natural, human and spiritual realms. 


    Conceived somewhere between abstraction and figuration, the deep, fathomless eyes and impossible features of Kato’s mysterious subjects emerge firmly from the realm of the subconscious. ‘If I understand what I am doing, I will lose my motivation to make it and the purpose of creation will be lost’, the artist has explained.i


    Exhibition view: Unconstrained Textiles: Stitching Methods, Crossing Ideas, CHAT (Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textile), Hong Kong, 2020

    A master of multiple media and formats, from full-length paintings and small portraits to softwood sculptures and even fabric and flower installations, Kato chooses to work with materials sourced locally and used by native populations, from canvas to camphor wood and sofubi (a soft vinyl). A relative latecomer to the art world, Kato made his debut at the age of thirty having worked as a manual labourer for a number of years. Embracing the Japanese concept of en (or fate) in his life and working methods, Kato adopts intuitive - even primitive - modes of production, using latex gloves to rub oil paint to his creations and hand-chiseling his softwood sculptures to leave visible marks and cracks in the organic forms. He works directly onto his chosen medium, eschewing models, drafts or sketches. 


    Kato brings his subjects to life with bold, simple outlines and bright jewel tones, deviating from the tidy and meticulous art language of his contemporaries and instead producing expressive, emotive inquiries into human relationships and the originality of life in society today. He chooses not to give titles to his creations, which encourages the viewer to engage with the work directly rather than to fixate on labels. Untitled (lot 149) is a large-scale portrait of a humanoid with hypnotic, bejewelled eyes, whilst the full-length portrait Untitled (lot 148) depicts a vulnerable, boy-like creature floating atop a glowing orb. Untitled (lot 157) is reminiscent of a traditional Western religious icon, the haloed Buddha-esque figure sweeping dramatically across the small picture space. Kato’s sculpture Untitled (lot 150) is a whimsical translucent humanoid head with flowering stalks growing out of its eyes and ears, whilst Untitled (lot 147) is a full length seated figure daubed in shades of inky-blue, 3 tiny white creatures perched atop its head and one between its hands. Enigmatic and inscrutable, these works radiate a primordial aura that transcends the physical nature of each object. 


    Exhibition view: Venice Biennale 52nd International Art Exhibition ‘Think with the Senses - Feel with the Mind. Art in the Present Tense’ curated by Robert Storr, 2007
    Courtesy Izumi Kato and Gallery Perrotin
    Photograph: Giovanni Pancino

    Kato’s inclusion in the 2007 Venice Biennale exhibition ‘Think with the Senses – Feel with the Mind’ propelled his career onto the international stage, and he continues to garner critical attention around the world. The artist has recently been honoured with solo shows at Galerie Perrotin in Paris and Hong Kong (2020) and a major institutional show at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2019).


    i Izumi Kato, quoted in Centre for Heritage Arts and Textile, CHAT with Artist: Kato Izumi, 11 June 2020, online


    • Provenance

      Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



signed and dated ‘2010 KATO [in English and Kanji]' on the reverse
oil on linen
45.5 x 53 cm. (17 7/8 x 20 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2010.

Full Cataloguing

HK$120,000 - 220,000 

Sold for HK$756,000

Contact Specialist

Danielle So
Associate Specialist, Head of Day Sale

20th Century & Contemporary Art & Design Day Sale in Association with Poly Auction

Hong Kong Auction 4 December 2020