Artist Spotlight: KAKU

Panta Rhei: Everything Flows, Works by Five Artists on Japanese Washi Paper
April 18, 2023
Artist Spotlight: KAKU

KAKU, In-situ "Untitled" (Wire, Washi, Paint)「無題」(50号 螺旋・和紙(A25724)


          The artist known by the pseudonym KAKU has captivated the hearts of audiences around the world with his strikingly modern, yet traditional in material, installation artworks and product designs. His work includes aesthetically reimagined chairs, figural models and furniture clad in expressionist-style iconography, decorative lacquer, and now, topographic scenes created from traditional Japanese washi paper.


KAKU, "Untitled" (Wire, Washi, Paint)「無題」(50号 螺旋・和紙(A25724)


KAKU, Technical detail of "Untitled" (Wire, Washi, Paint)「無題」(50号 螺旋・和紙(A25724)


          KAKU has been active since the 1970’s, showing his work internationally in Japan, Poland, and the United States. In the 1980’s during Japan’s economic boom, KAKU’s name and exposure grew exponentially. Since then, the artist has established his creative studio in both Japan and Hungary; he continues to create revolutionary and decisively modern works from traditional Japanese materials, and his designs are beloved by private and public audiences globally. 


KAKU"Untitled" (Wire, Washi, Paint)「無題」(50号 螺旋・彩色黄(A24295P)


          Panta Rhei: Everything Flows brings together the artist’s old work and new. KAKU’s washi series first began during his time exhibiting in Poland fifty years ago. He continues this technique today; each piece is one-of-a-kind and constructed by hand.


KAKU, "Untitled" (Wire, Washi, Paint)「無題」(25螺旋・彩色赤(A24296P)


KAKU, "Untitled" (Wire, Washi, Paint)「無題」(25螺旋・彩色赤(A24296P)


          Fifteen thousand washi slips, coiled around shaped wire and finished with acrylic paint, comprise KAKU’s undulating wall-mounted artwork. Their form, which resembles leaves or shells, imitates nature: sprawling, complex, and animated.


          A certain Zen sensibility arises from these creative choices. Standing in front of the monumental-sized scene, one’s eye begins to explore the depths and contours of the picture until the sense of self becomes secondary to the harmony of the rolling composition.


KAKU, "Untitled" (Wire, Washi, Paint)「無題」(130号 螺旋・和紙) (A24292P)


          Washi is created from fibrous raw materials, such as mulberry bark or hemp, and is used in a variety of architectural, lifestyle, and artistic products. Paper is typically thought of as a vehicle for the written word, a tool for communication. Though KAKU’s washi series is devoid of text, unlike his recent exhibition at Ippodo Gallery Tokyo, a universal message still emerges from the amorphous scene: an appeal to the collective to respect our shared space.


KAKU, "Untitled" (Wire, Washi, Paint)「無題」(130号 螺旋・和紙) (A24292P)


KAKU, Detail of "Untitled" (Wire, Washi, Paint)「無題」(130号 螺旋・和紙) (A24292P)


          KAKU’s evocative color choices demonstrate the artist’s seasoned career in design. Though never thoroughly explicit about his intentions, these chromas—midnight purple illuminated by moonlight; vigorous red signaling life and prosperity; verdant green like a lush jungle; and bright yellow as if absorbing sunlight—exemplify KAKU’s reflection on the internal and external environment of all living creatures.


KAKU, "Untitled" (Wire, Washi, Paint)「無題」(100号 螺旋・和紙) (A24297P)


          KAKU’s work debuts at Ippodo Gallery on April 27th in a special exhibition featuring the washi artwork of five acclaimed Japanese artists. KAKU’s exhibition, Insight, showed the artist’s sculptural models enveloped in collage paper from March 4—12, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan.

About the author

Jesse Gross

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