Kazuo Katase was born in 1947 in Shizuoka, Japan.
He began his artistic training in 1967 to 1969 with preparatory studies in oil painting in Tokyo. He then decided to go his own independent way as an artist without further academic education. He became a member of the artists collective Group 361° + Intersection. In the context of the artists group, he developed an interest in European phenomenology, namely the works of Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau Ponty. He became interested in the connection between existence and the world and the discrepancy between imagination and reality; these themes have influenced his artistic practice to this day. He completed photographs, performances, installations and photo-silkscreens. Katases first solo exhibitions with installations were presented at the Tamura Gallery in 1973 and one year later at the Muramatsu Gallery, both in Tokyo.
He was looking for a way to encounter contemporary Western art, minimal and conceptual art in a direct way. In 1974 he met Klaus Hoffmann, the then-director of the Städtische Galerie Wolfsburg, in Tokyo. He was invited by Klaus Hoffmann and went to Wolfsburg for a six-month residency, where he had his first European solo exhibition in 1975. He has lived and worked in Germany ever since.
He moved to Kassel in 1976 in order to participate in the workgroup Fotoforum led by Floris M. Neusüss at the Gesamthochschule Kassel, where he enrolled in free art and visual communication. His main area of study was experimental photography. At the same time, he also pursued his own artistic path. His interest in photography as art had already begun in Japan; however, it deepened in the following years. He was particularly interested in conceptual photography. In his works of this time he sought to visualise the act of seeing; he illustrated the processes that lead to the development of an image in one’s head. As a result, the positive-negative-aspect of the photographic process became an important topic of his photography. The negative image creates a counter image in which light and dark are reversed: a reference to the reality behind the image. This concept of representation can still be found in his photography and painting today. In 1980 he completed the light-pigment installation Untitled (Light) at the Aktionscenter Kassel, followed by his installation Positive Room – Negative Room.
His work in the 1980s and 90s is dominated by installation, photography and sculpture. He also became known for his space-filling installations in which light images and a few objects – a house, window, bed, representing the human situation in the world – are bathed in a permeating blue light which intensifies the viewer’s perceptual capacity in a peculiar way. In 1985, for the Kunstforum der Städtischen Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich, Katase created his first light-space immersed in blue Fisch and Ship – empty and more.
Katase’s work gained international recognition with museum exhibitions in Europe and Japan. There was a particular focus on his installations. Besides numerous solo presentations he also participated in the now legendary exhibition chambre d’amis in Ghent in 1986, curated by Jan Hoet, as well as in documenta IX in Kassel in 1992.
A series of temporary and permanent outdoor installations have made Katase well-known. It began with the spectacular work Drink a Cup of Tea, which the artist installed at the Furka Pass in the Swiss Alps in 1987. These installations create their own order in which art, architecture, space and landscape interconnect.
Beside his artistic practise, Katase has delved into German philosophy and literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries for a long time. He reads Nietzsche and Heidegger, and texts by Novalis, Goethe, Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse in particular. At the same time, he has also approached Zen Buddhism again and has been engaging with the Buddhist core, the “Heart Sūtra”. He was inspired to return to his own Japanese roots by the books of Daisetsu T. Suzuki and Kitarō Nishida. Both mind sets have influenced his world of imagination, and his art has become an encounter of the Orient and Occident.
In recent years, Katase has returned to painting and this appears to be an existential choice, rooted in the artist’s life. In 2007 he undertook his first journey to India, which he had planned for a long time. He visited the holy places of Buddhism and Hinduism. For Katase this journey was an encounter with his spiritual home and he afterwards felt an urge to lead his art in a new direction. As a motif of his paintings he has chosen a bowl, the shape that continues to characterize his work since 1986. In the shape of the bowl, he has found a form for his painting that is capable of accommodating his artistic yen for a free configuration of colour.
In 2012, these paintings were exhibited in his solo exhibition Gegenwart [Present] for the first time, at the Josef Albers Museum in Bottrop.
Born in Shizuoka, Japan, 1947
Lives and works in Kassel
Selected Solo Exhibitions
Im Gegenlicht, Art Front Gallery, Tokyo
The Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin
Sunset, Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
Wewerka Galerie, Berlin
Selected Group Exhibitions
Biennale for international light art, Capital of Culture Ruhr.2010
MARTa schweigt, MARTa, Hertford
After Hiroshima, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima
Arte Amazonas, Museum de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro
Selected stage settings
Selected works in public space
Diakonie Clinical Center, Kassel
Cité Internationale, Lyon
Station of the City, Lille
Community Hall, SHiribeshi, Hokkaide
Helga de Alvear Collection, Madrid
Daimler Art Collection, Stuttgart
Goldman Sachs Collection, London
Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima
Staatskanzlei, Land Hessen, Wiesbaden
Josef Albers Museum, Bottrop
Kunsthalle Kiel, Kiel
Museum Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden
Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum, Kagawa
Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart
Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Kassel
Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, München
Städtische Galerie, Schloss Wolfsburg
Tokushima Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Japan
Wilhelm-Hack-Museumm Ludwigshafen am Rhein