Forty new mixed-media artworks by Japanese artist Izumi Kato, including paintings done on Onitsuka Tiger shoe boxes as well as sculptures, are unveiled in a new London art exhibition. ‘Parasitic: Onitsuka’ is the latest show at Tiger Gallery (until 22 September 2023), the space established in 2022 by the sports-inspired fashion brand at its London flagship store.
Kato is known for his mysterious signature ‘humanoid’ sculptures and paintings. He is also a long-time wearer of Onitsuka Tiger trainers. Following on from his previous Parasitic Plastic Models series, the new artworks were created in what he calls a ‘consultation’ process. He studied the materials and quality of Onitsuka Tiger trainers, which resulted in a project that has a natural connection to the artist and the brand. ‘I visited their headquarters last year and saw all the great things they’ve created. I was inspired by the Onitsuka Tiger shoe boxes and [Tiger Gallery] itself.’
Izumi Kato, ‘Parasitic: Onitsuka’
You can sense the relationship when viewing the exhibition. The objects sync seamlessly with the space, the craftsmanship of the brand and Kato’s artistic vision.
Paintings are created as a composition of the brand’s shoe boxes, giving them a second life. In other works, Kato stitched a canvas material to the tops of shoe boxes, and painted his otherworldly, human-like figures on top of it. He repurposed Onitsuka Tiger canvas bags, stitching the tiger head to the artwork.
Miniature sculptures, a Kato signature, are made out of bronze and aluminium, and placed in trainers ranging from adult to children's sizes across the floor of the exhibition space. With protruding eyes and circular mouths, they have a carved hair detail that differentiates the gender.
The works have a prehistoric, almost spiritual essence; they resemble figures of deities that might protect and watch over us. ‘I’m inspired by the world around me, nature and space,’ Kato says, who grew up surrounded by mystic folklore, Shinto and animism beliefs. His artworks seem to have a life of their own – just as in animism, objects, natural materials and creatures are believed to be inhabited by mystical beings.
‘I believe I’m an artist who is pursuing academic art and my works of art are very much reflected by it,’ Kato says.
‘Parasitic: Onitsuka’ is on view until 22 September 2023 at Onitsuka Tiger London’s space, Tiger Gallery, onitsukatiger.com
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