Asia’s Master Students
Ryo Kato & Yoon Chung Kim
A gloomy mood marks the paintings of Japanese-born Ryo Kato. The artist, who studied under Wolfgang Petrick at the Berlin University of the Arts from 2001 to 2005 and completed his artistic training in 2006 as a Meisterschüler (Masterclass student) under Daniel Richter, covers a range of themes which display the clear influence of his teachers.
The art historian Eberhard Roters described Petrick’s underlying subject matter since the 1960’s as the “alienation of man from his environment through his own self-created material world”. This view is defined more precisely by Kato in the way he perceives man and his relationship to nature: shrinking forests, the minimization of lush green pastures, a growing domination of electronic gadgets and, equally, the destructive thirst for power of industrial nations are examples of this hopeless divisiveness.
However, the deeply socio-critical concerns expressed by Kato’s paintings fail at first to register with the viewer. Instead, one is gradually drawn into his complex pictorial patterns. At first, seemingly abstract structures from a palette of garish Pop Art colors take center ground. With the successive discovery of the figurative elements, this life-affirming association is overturned in favor of an apocalyptic aggressiveness crying out for attention. The superimposed forms are consolidated into collages which appear to crowd toward to the edges, revealing pictorial motifs which in part are like drawings and in part are based on photographic models. On closer inspection one observes how not only extremes are suddenly juxtaposed – industrialized man and pristine, unspoiled nature, but also two completely different painting styles: The one, strong and dynamic like a cry that expresses itself in a strong handling of the brush; the other, bordering on photo-wallpaper realism, so exaggerated in terms of color that the depicted image verges on the dream-like, unreal. Finally, in this balancing of strength and calm, light and dark, aggression and idyll are mixed a pinch of East Asian artistic influence, which manifests itself above all in the drawing.
The viewer gains a vague understanding of how the young artist Ryo Kato from the small village in Okayama Prefecture went to the major cities of Tokyo, later Paris and Berlin, and how the irrevocable loss of nature became a matter close to his heart.
The viewer gains a vague understanding of how the young artist Ryo Kato came from a small village in the middle of Okayama Prefecture to the big cities of Tokyo, then later Paris and Berlin and how the irretrievable loss of nature became a concern of the heart.