‘My work is always growing, growing, growing, very organic and I don’t really know where to go and how it’s going to turn out …’
Chaco Kato, 1999, Talk – artists initiative – Conversation between Mary-Louise Edwards, Chaco Kato and Sandra Bridie
Chaco Kato’s creations are ephemeral, fragile and poetic, cognizant of precarious interdependencies between art, humanity and nature. Kato frequently recycles found materials.
To my mind Chaco Kato’s work very much reflects her background. Kato grew up in a Japanese city surrounded by mountains. It is not often one writes of artists’ backgrounds these days – the art world is a global world, artists are peripatetic, it almost seems small-minded to put one in a box of cultural ‘background’. However I first met Chaco in 1998, two years after she arrived in Australia and it seems to me that her thinking and her artwork remain very much influenced by her homeland, (and its spirit), and that this is not a bad thing given the contemporary homogenizing of art that seems more often than not to threaten or eradicate (what I feel are crucial) cultural origins.
While indulging in this ‘background business’, it is worth noting too that Kato’s initial tertiary studies were in creative writing and I think, if I recall correctly, her artwork developed from a desire to illustrate her writing, particularly that work written for children.
Kato’s studies and studios have spanned the world – from Japan to the US, to France to Australia. This global awareness of Kato’s is also a significant influence, in the sense that it seems, ironically, to have allowed her to stay closer to her origins, and yet to care about ‘the whole’. Or perhaps it is her Buddhist belief, carried everywhere, an indelible tie between life, death and rebirth, ‘the circulation of lives’, that endows her work with a significant sense of homage to the natural world and its care, and thus the universals in the local become the greater whole – spreading, ‘growing’, as she observed in 1999, organically.
This ‘circulation of lives’ very much embraces childhood – that purely instinctive place of great art – Kato notes:
The process of art making brings me back to my lost childhood. It provides me an extraordinary sense of pleasure and bliss. I hope my work can help take your mind to your childhood as well. (Artist’s website, artist’s notes – The Utopia of Childhood)
The simple impulse seems naturally to lead to Slow Art, a thinking, (or should that be an unconsciousness), that dovetails seamlessly with Kato’s creative ‘manner’. She recalls the observation of Robert Hughes, on the subject
‘What we need more of is slow art, art that holds time as a vase holds water: art that grows out of modes of perception. … It doesn’t get its message across in ten seconds, … that hooks onto something deep-running in our natures.’
And to that Kato adds her own precepts:
Focus on a process of art making rather than object making. The work always changes subtly, and grows like a living organism.
Create art works on site from zero, and use the gallery as a studio. Spend time on site to experience the space, physically and internally. When the exhibition finishes, go back to zero. Seek the meaning of artwork that doesn’t last.
Use simple materials and methodology, choose materials that connect with my life.
Blur the border between artist and audience. Also try to involve other people in the process of art making.
(Artist’s notes, artist’s website: Art and sustainability) chacokato.com
I read, write and let’s face it, CUT and PASTE (at least some of this), in Beeac, a place my 30+ y.o. sons find hard to visit – it is a backwater, off the map, odd. Personally I find it the perfect place to tap into the energy that is Chaco Kato’s: work on site from zero; experience the space – physically and internally; use simple materials; blur the BORDER between artist and audience; involve other people; focus on the process of making, just making.
This WINDOWSPACE exhibit is a photographic record of the work Chaco Kato created in 2014 for the Lorne Sculpture Biennale, uncannily it is also the very foreshore location that Carolyn Cardinet (WINDOWSPACE, 2015), will explore for the Biennale in 2016. Exciting.