(Japan 1949 – )
70.0 x 35.7 cm image; 77.5 x 53.0 cm sheet
Already Katori has exhibited widely and received recognition for his distinctive mezzotints. Born in Tokyo, he graduated from Tokyo Gakugei University where he had initially studied etching but then turned to mezzotints after finding one by the master Hasegawa Kiyoshi (1891-1980) in a second-hand bookshop and being deeply impressed by its tone. In 1977 he further deepened his knowledge of mezzotints by travelling to Europe, meeting mezzotint artists Hasegawa and Hamaguchi Yozo (b. 1909), and also by visiting major European museums and photographing some 3000 pieces.
About 1983 his interest shifted to still-lifes which have since been his main motif. Recently his mezzotints have become larger, and he has introduced colour into his prints, almost as if competing with oil painting. In his prints he revels in the contrast of light and dark, tones and shadows accentuated by coloured highlights. This print is one of a set on the four seasons, such sets of four having a long history in Asian painting. However the subject and composition are dearly inspired by European prototypes and a Western viewer cannot but help recall seventeenth-century Dutch vanitas still-lifes in which each element conspires to emphasise the vanity, emptiness and transience of life. In such compositions, rare and precious objects, whose very existence is the mark of a collector's vanity, are placed alongside flowers which, with their brief existence, are extremely ephemeral. Other such still-lifes are allegories of the five senses.
While the flowers in Katori's print evoke the same admiring response as a viewer might feel in front of a seventeenth-century Dutch still-life, the banality of the other objects, including even the once popularly ubiquitous Rubik's cube, is jarring and offers an ironic comment on modem materialism and banality. Or perhaps it is a wry acknowledgement that the past is indeed a foreign country.
Jackie Menzies, Contemporary Japanese Prints: The Urban Bonsai, 1992, pg. 53.
Jackie Menzies, Contemporary Japanese Prints : The Urban Bonsai, Sydney, 1992, 48 (colour illus.), 53. cat.no. 24
The Urban Bonsai: