introduction Mr. Yoshio Katoh – abstraction and cultural backgrounds – Casa Sakanoue, Hiyoshi, Tokio


ギャラリートーク&ディスカッション:“Abstraction and Cultural Backgrounds”

(トークの会場は Casa さかのうえ ギャラリースペースの隣の ハウススペースになります。)

(The discussion takes place at “house space” next to the “gallery space” of Casa Sakanoue.)

1 ギャラリーより挨拶

  Greetings from the owner of the gallery

2 The Act of Painting について簡単に説明

(オランダの主催者)(和訳:中村 配布物の表紙を要約)

  Greetings, and brief summery of what is “The Act of Painting”? : Raymond, or Jeroen

  Mayako will translate to Japanese.




 Mayako will introduce Mr. Yoshio Katoh to the audience.

3 加藤先生がお話しされた後、通訳が入ります。

  Mr. Yoshio Katoh will talk the following to the audience.

  Ken Kawashima will translate into English.


Abstraction and Cultural Backgrounds”


The first time Japan came in contact with the West was when the Portuguese landed on Tanegashima Island in 1543 for the transmission of guns to Japan.


Japan’s first contact with Holland was on April 19, 1600 when a Dutch ship called “De Liefde” landed on the shores of present Oita Prefecture.


Holland, which has shared ties with Japan for over 400 years, can therefore be considered one of Japan’s oldest partners.


Perhaps the biggest cultural difference between Japan and Holland is their religious differences, namely Christianity in the West versus Japan’s Shinto and Buddhist backgrounds.


These religious differences stem from geographical location as well as our differing perspectives towards nature.


Compared to previous generations when art was deeply tied to religion, today, religion has taken a backseat to more pure forms of art for art’s sake. However, is this really the case?


Although religion does not play as prominently in Japan today as it did in the past, the spirit still thrives in the various cultural festivities held throughout the year like New Years, the summer obon holidays in honor of the dead and the various matsuri festivities held throughout Japan.


However, what these traditions that are considered Japanese, are actually polished versions of various cultural traditions with origins in China and the Korean Peninsula, tailor-made to suit the Japanese aesthetic.


Japan imported culture from China and Korea, combined and reshaped these elements in an original way to its current form.


It can be said that without these Chinese and Korean imports, Japanese culture would not exist today. From the technique and spirit of Chinese and Korean arts and crafts, to their politics, economics and culture that poured into Japan, the nation copied, edited and restyled what they found were their counterparts most useful traditions to suit the Japanese way.


In the more recent Meji Era (from the mid-19th Century to the start of the 20th Century), Japan, under heavily influence from the West, underwent a Europeanization of sorts, and after the nations colonial policy was dismantled as a result of their loss in World War II, Japan became heavily influenced, this time, by American culture.


However, these sort of cultural trends can be found in nations and ethnic groups all over the world. It’s a historical fact that the meeting and collisions between different cultures have lead to the birth of new cultures, and it’s a useful concept when conjecturing the possibilities of a cultural growth.



With paintings, the invention of photography in the 19th Century did not necessarily influence paintings, but rather forced it to change.


Paintings, once the only visual medium that could record or portray reality as we see it, was at once replaced by the photo. With the invention of the camera, there is no doubt that many artists at the time feared that they may lose their jobs as painters.



However, paintings instead, shifted from realism towards impressionism through the abolition of perspective, the emphasis on flatness, the implementation of various viewpoints, as well as the investigation of drawing “things that cannot be seen by the naked eye.” In the early 20th Century around 1920, Russia’s Kandinsky and Mondrian of Holland pushed the boundaries further with their abstract portrayals of art. Since the advent of abstract art, 100 years has now passed.



Since Western art forms such as perspective, flat and multi-perspective compositions never existed in traditional Japanese art, it can said that traditional Japanese art has always been “abstract” art. For instance, “Shorin-zu-byobu” (Pine Trees) by Hasegawa Tōhaku from the late 16th Century, which depicts the physical form of pine trees in a deep fog, the visceral image the viewer engages in is an abstract one.



What is abstract painting?

Perhaps they are invisible things such as thoughts and ideas made visible by giving them physical forms. Or maybe they are simply a combination of the dots, lines, planes and colors we see, when our connections with the real world and the world inside the painting has been abandoned.



It may also be said that it is a representation of the spiritual world in a visual form. So what are the spiritual worlds of the Dutch and the Japanese? Today, in a time when painting and art has been separated by its religious times, the artwork reflects the philosophy and mind of the artist influenced by his or her education and social experiences, like a self-portrait of the soul.


However, no one is able to survive alone. One lives as a result of his or her relation with society, where we are influenced even more by our cultural backgrounds.


We in Japan learned about abstract art through the works of Kandinsky, Mondrian, Malevich from Europe as well as Pollock, Rothko, Newman, and Stella from the U.S. We have had a long history of trying to accept and understand Western Culture.


In this digital age in the influx of the Internet age, however, we are plunging into a world we have previously never experienced. With the added effects of globalization, it can also be said perhaps, that ones cultural background is quickly becoming homogenized in the world we live in today.

4 先生のお話を受けてThe Act of Paintingメンバーより、感想など。



When all the explanation has finished, we, the member of The Act of Painting will discuss about what Mr. Yoshio Katoh has said, or anything related to our activities.

(When we move down to the gallery after/during the opening, we may discuss further at the gallery space.)

5 ギャラリーオーナーより



 加藤先生、The Act of Paintingも参加いたしますので、引き続き、


 Some words from the owner of the gallery.