kkato series of interaction4

Kaori Kato — I Attune to the Earth Again

Posted on February 18, 2015

Kaori Kato on folding nature into paper.

I have been developing my art practice through paper folding and by creating organic sculptural forms and mixed media installations for several years. This activity has been a major vehicle in the exploration of my art. Paper is a material used in a number of ways in everyday life. It is used as a tool to carry human communications; it is used to print a photograph or create a drawing. It preserves history. It has always been a simple and democratic resource: one that can be used by anyone.

I am interested in the nature of handling paper, which can be quite difficult. It is fragile. It does not stay the same. It tears, breaks, swells when wet, and breaks down when exposed to sunlight. It burns. It eventually decays, but while it lives it is incredibly strong and capable of having many identities.

I have explored other materials that can be folded and bent such as plastic, fabric and metal. I incorporated them into the development of my installation works, however paper is what I am most attached to and has always been my material of choice. This delicate yet simultaneously robust material gives me a means of investigating and exploring movement, structure and the sense of being engulfed by natural phenomena such as geysers and volcanic activity, waterfalls, ocean waves and the northern lights.

I started folding paper during my childhood in Japan’s rural Hokkaido, when I was often sick in bed. My mother taught me origami, and I learnt how to create simple shapes such as animals and flowers by folding paper in all kinds of ways. There is a mystery in the way one single piece of paper seems to have unlimited potential. When I am folding the paper I have to touch it hundreds of times and I find this activity the most absorbing.

This interest in paper, and my subsequent investigation, stems from my childhood in Hokkaido and travel experiences in Iceland that allowed me to experience pristine, natural settings. In these places I was able to interact with the cycle of seasons. I describe Hokkaido’s nature as feminine, and Iceland’s nature as masculine. These impressions from nature have remained a point of engagement for me and my work.

The patterns and folds I make in the paper incorporate mathematical formulae found in nature, such as the structure of honeycomb and the golden mean. My installations are often constructed from dozens of sheets of paper and include these elements both formally and conceptually. The forms I produce are organic, as gravity often determines how the shapes finally sit in their own environment. The folds — in a sense a source of weakness in the structure of the material — find conceptual and physical power and strength in my forms. I often exclaim disapprovingly during the installation of these works that I am never able to get the same form twice.

The organic paper forms in my installations are never permanent. In fact, the wind, the gravity, and also spontaneous touches by human hands decay and accelerate damage to the works.

My concerns about global warming and the frequent natural disasters occurring around the world are reflected within my work. The position of the works and their constructed angles are all ‘ultimate’, ambitious and variable — they are fragile, perilous; about-to-break or about-to-fall. No matter where the exhibition is placed, I let my works form naturally in their given environment without any artificial support structures. The organically formed sculptures follow aesthetical patterns seen in natural phenomena, and eventually these sculptures will fall and decay through prolonged exposure to the sunlight, wind and temperatures. This is, of course, just like nature.


Kaori Kato
studied at The University of Melbourne.

Additional photographs: Shoko Okamoto.

Buy a limited edition print of Overcoat Seasonal Collection: Summer here.


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