(Japanese, B. 1964)
sumi ink and stone pigment on paper, mounted on board
65 x 50.2 cm. (25 5/8 x 19 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2007
one seal of the artist
Kwai Fung Art Publishing House, Ryozo Kato, Hong Kong, China, 2011 (illustrated, p. 24
Hong Kong, China, Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery, Here and There: Joint Exhibition of Ryozo Kato and Li Zhuo, 7-22 January 2011

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Lot Essay

The landscape painting tradition developed simultaneously across numerous generations and countries by independent invention, reveals various perspectives, spiritual and emotional inspirations. Ryozo Kato studied and practiced the tradition of nihonga, a painterly style that follows traditional Japanese artistic conventions, of which its heritage of techniques and materials were introduced from China and Korea more than a thousand years ago. The characteristic of the nihonga style is its use of natural media, where a fine brush is used to paint imagery with sumi ink or exquisite colours made from natural mineral pigments called iwa'enogu and synthetic mineral pigments called shin-iwa'enogu. These pigments are pulverised into 16 gradations from a fine powder to sandy grain particles. An animal glue solution called nikawa, is used as a binder. Works are typically rendered on such supports as washi (Japanese paper), where the painting has a distinct characteristic of an overall subtle matte surface with a faint sheen.

Working in the methodical nihonga method, Kato is also fascinated by Chinese ink landscape painting tradition of the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) (Fig. 1), where sceneries in scroll formats were rendered with finely executed strokes categorised as fuhekishun (axe-cut stroke) and himashun (fiber texture stroke). Ryozo Kato applies comparable characteristics by painting his landscape, channeling the eye vertically through the foliage or horizontally through the mountain ranges, inviting the viewer to visually tread along a meandering path. By employing delicate brushwork over a softly colour-washed paper, Kato forms a romantic vision of dense foliage that seemingly provides shelter for the hermetic literati scholars who similarly practiced this style of painting. The acute shading of beige and green are equally reminiscent of 18th Century artist Thomas Gainsborough's romantic paintings in which natural, untamed landscapes represent the grandeur of Nature. Kato follows in the footsteps of his British predecessors, using colour to reveal the subtle nuances in clouds, greenery and ground, further extending the rich and complex idyllic landscape in our imagination. Though unexplored wilderness may present unexpected encounters with animals and strangers, Kato's paintings negate fears and tribulations of the extreme wild and instead invite the viewer into his calm and meditative surroundings. Kato's unique visual language revitalises the tradition of landscape painting medium, as well as bridging the Eastern and Western aesthetic into a harmonious equilibrium.

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