in Tokyo / Japan
22.06.2024 - 20.07.2024 00:00
Mika Kato

Tomio Koyama Gallery Roppongi is pleased to present Mika Kato’s first solo exhibition with the gallery in 18 years. In this exhibition, new photographic works, which have evolved in line with changes in the artist’s lifestyle and emotions, as well as paintings, are presented on tables of her own design and making.

Mika Kato held her first solo exhibition with Tomio Koyama Gallery in 2000, while she was a second-year student at the Graduate School of Fine Arts, Aichi University of the Arts. Evanescent yet powerful, and rendered in oil through astonishingly meticulous brushstrokes, Kato made an impressive debut as an artist with her portraits of young girls, which were based on photographs of clay dolls that she had handcrafted herself.

Since then, she has participated in numerous exhibitions both in Japan and abroad, including solo exhibitions at Art Tower Mito (2001) and at White Cube/Jay Jopling in London (2005). In her solo exhibition at Tomio Koyama Gallery in 2006, she demonstrated a shift towards new forms of expression following the death of her beloved cat, after which she temporarily suspended her artistic practice.

However, over time, she continued to ruminate over the experiences of what she had seen and felt in her everyday life as she lived in a small forest in the Mie Prefecture with her family and dog. From the osmanthus tree by her studio where the grave of her beloved cat is located to the lichen on the surface of the trees that she sees every day on her morning walks, the cross-section of a potato cut in half, a pancake in the frying pan, her child’s fingertips, or the clouds adrift in the sky — Kato envisioned herself painting on these scenes as she gazed upon them.

The wooden object is covered in layers of shell chips and studded with the bones and shells of foraminifera as well as sea urchin fossils that the artist carefully collected from a local beach over the past 30 years, upon which layers of medium have been delicately applied as if gently covering it with a blanket. The work “A Blanket for All of Us” are a series of photographs that capture this object from various different angles.

The glass balls at the tips of the branches, crafted through the artist’s own method, shimmer and reflect the light, as if conveying the mystical moment of the birth of some form of life. The osmanthus tree where her cat is buried, which served as the source of inspiration for this work, produces small flower blossoms in autumn. It is symbolic of a place where a loved one rests, and also reflects a cycle in which the dead and new life are connected.

In “We call it Tiger’s Tail River, not that we’ve ever seen a real tiger,” a series of small works depicting trivial scenes of everyday life, using materials such as stone, wood, and glass as supports, are dotted around a large wooden mosaic table that snakes like a tiger’s tail. Almost reminiscent of a calm river landscape on a slightly overcast day, the work unfolds expansively across the back space of the gallery.

“I would be happy if someone could think of something from their daily life and project it onto one of the plain stones with no image on it, which appear like fallen leaves floating on the surface of water. For example, that someone could be a person from some time ago — someone who can get excited talking about tigers even if they have never actually seen a tiger before. The river is that tiger’s tail.” (Mika Kato)

The stones were collected by the artist from the upper reaches of a river over a period of 10 years, washed, dried, and then gradually coated with layers of gesso and polished, in a manner reminiscent of growing lichen. From mayonnaise squeezed out onto a boiled egg in a way that looks cool to her son cutting his toenails in the shape of a cat, and her dog earnestly spinning around in circles, the everyday scenes depicted on supports of natural objects seem to harbor a timeless and universal depth to them that connects to the sense of each viewer.

The wooden blocks used to make the table were originally her son’s crafting materials. “What is the opposite of war?” This question that her young son had once asked, is something that has remained with her to this day.

With a love for nature, living things, and her family, Mika Kato has for long continued to poetically nurture her compassionate perspective. As she returns to her artistic practice, she strives to put a stop to the tendency that threatens to turn her into an imitation of her past self, and with her own hands, once again moves forward with a world and vision that seems to represent the origins of life.

Gallery hours 11 pm – 7 pm, closed Sun, Mon, National Holidays

Exhibition Duration 22.06. – 20.07.2024


Tomio Koyama Gallery Roppongi
complex665 2F, 6-5-24, Minato-ku
106-0032 Tokyo


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