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Shioh Kato, Master of Blending Modern Art with Ancient Calligraphy

By Adelina, 01-16-2020

It was a sensational experience watching Shioh Kato, an internationally renowned artist, perform at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco in early January 2020. Painting the ancient Chinese shell-and-bone character for Rat on the wall-sized paper with a giant brush, Shioh masterfully demonstrated his power, artistry, and strength of inner control. Accompanied by famous traditional Japanese drums, stroke by stroke, Shioh captured the essence of calligraphy, beautifully turning the character into a lively mouse in just 15 minutes! The audience was amazed by his artistry and vitality and applauded with great admiration.

Courtesy: Shioh Kato

Shioh Kato, a sincere believer in creating harmony through art and an avid seeker of wisdom from the Universe to achieve Bodaishin (“enlightenment-mind”), has made a name for his remarkable artistic style of transforming ancient philosophy into modern art. Shioh was born in Japan in 1941, graduated from Daito Bunka University in Tokyo in 1963, and currently lives between San Francisco and Japan. Shioh’s arts have been exhibited regularly in many countries including Germany, France, Japan, Brazil and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

"The Song of The Universe and The Earth 10"

Courtesy: Shioh Kato 

As an artist, Shioh is moved by the depth, power, and life of the great forces and energies that exist in the Universe and in Nature. He has for many years depicted the resonance of the Five Elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Air because he found the Bodaishin (“enlightenment-mind”) in their forms as he recounts in his series entitled “The Twelve Bodaishin” or “The Journey of Inner Thought”.

"Heart like the Moon"

Courtesy: Shioh Kato

Shioh’s usage of the visual lexicon (colors, lines, shapes, etc.), to turn calligraphy into abstract art with contemporary sophistication, is truly ingenious. By blending the seemingly impossible while arriving at a state of harmonious balance with rich vocabulary, he beautifully conceptualizes his inner thoughts. His artistry, insights and wisdom are truly unique.

"The Golden Ears of Rice"

Courtesy: Shioh Kato

At a very young age, Shioh recognized the beauty of the earliest known Chinese writing -- the Oracle Shell and Bone Script -- which dates to 1,600 B.C.E. The pictographic origin of these scripts has long been forgotten by most people over the years. Shioh, however, artfully incorporates these ancient characters into his abstract paintings. Shioh not only awakens modern people’s attention to their beauty but also assigns them new meaning with his unyielding creativity and wisdom.

“Heart like a Mountain”

Courtesy: Shioh Kato

For example, in his piece “Heart like a Mountain” in “The Journey of Inner Thought” series, his quotes a poem as his inspiration:

“I will nurture a heart serene

Like a Mountain.

May I never waver under

Any hardship or trial.” - Keiko Takahashi


Courtesy: Shioh Kato

In another piece, “Fire”, from the same series, he wrote:

“The character for fire shows a shape of flaring-up fire. It symbolized a shape of the whole flame in ancient times. Now it represents a shower of sparks of fire.”

Iroha Uta, Song of Impermanence 5

Courtesy: Shioh Kato

By collapsing time, space, and cultures, Shioh’s art brilliantly enhances people’s visual perceptions and senses by transcending all boundaries. His art is unique and stylistic. He has definitely set himself apart in the contemporary art world for his enlightened work.

Shioh's Website and Gallery