Do water and paper mix? Yes, they do in the Marcelost World created by the Japanese Brazilian artist, Marcelo Tatsuyoshi Kato, who makes magic in paper sculptures and papercuts with themes related to the underwater world. X-RAY MAG’s Gunild Symes interviewed the artist to find out how he developed his unique craft and what inspires him about the sea.
X-RAY MAG: Tell us how you became an artist and why you chose the medium you use. Who were your role models or mentors?
MTK: First of all, I would like to thank you all for having this wonderful opportunity to introduce my works and say hello to everyone in the world.
It all started when I was three years old, when I started using a pair of scissors and separated a book. The book was a picture book loaded with illustrations of many invertebrate animals like crabs and shrimps. Since then, I started using scissors by my right hand spontaneously, and drawing by my left hand as well. When I was a student, I drew, made paper-cutting, creating hand crafts and enjoyed putting together plastic models. I really liked creating things since I was young. At one point in my life, I renovated an entire apartment where I lived by myself.
Why I got really involved in paper is because I realized paper can do a lot in various ways—for example, drawing and painting—but paper itself is one of the materials that is very hard to deal with. We can use paper in cutting, folding, bending, piling, brushing, etc. There are many creative methods for paper as a medium, and it has unlimited potential. Even though it is flat, it can also become 3D. Of course, I like other materials, but I love paper the most, because my artistic life started with paper.
I don’t think there are any role models or mentors present in my life, but I am quite sure that my family, relatives, friends and environment where I grew up influenced my art. I now create new ideas for art works by getting favorable influences from people around me.
X-RAY MAG: What inspires you? What inspires you about the underwater world? Tell us how the sea inspires your work and why you use themes of the underwater realm.
MTK: I would love to answer this question! I really like nature and living things, especially marine creatures and bugs. Their shapes, colors, designs and motions are just amazing! In the underwater world where we cannot see anything deeper than a few hundred meters, we just need to imagine what the creatures are like. It is like imagining aliens from other planets. (Laughs) I do like imagining something like that.
I get my inspiration of marine creatures from photos, movies, aquariums and skin diving, and I create my art works using these sources while adding my imagination.
One good reason why I chose the underwater world for subject matter is that I don’t think I can create everything about the underwater world, even if I spent the rest of my life doing so. Even if I try very hard, I will be able to create around 50 percent of it? So, I will enjoy creating art works all my days.
X-RAY MAG: Tell us about your artistic vision and artistic methods, process, techniques, materials, etc.
MTK: I think that people need art, basically. Each person needs art in any period of time in their lives. By meeting art, in their everyday life, something can be changed. They can be driven by art work. They can be stimulated about something when they see art works right in front of them. That is a fundamental goal in my artistic vision.
When I create a paper sculpture art, I draw a rough sketch first. Depending on the works, I use many techniques to sketch a few pieces. What I mean by “sketch” is using paper-cutting, digital imaging, acrylic, painting in watercolor, etc, to develop an idea. Those “sketches” become themselves art works in some cases.
Even though I draw rough sketches, I need to create many things without preliminary sketches in paper sculpture art. In that case, I imagine the completion of the art work. That is why small details and color are changed often from the preliminary sketch. I can do so much with freehand.
I try to create paper sculpture art that has good keeping quality. Materials I use are Japanese mermaid paper and French Canson Mi-Teintes paper. Paper and glue are acid-free. For the base, I use light balsa wood or cardboard. Equipment I use is mainly scissors, a cutter knife and tweezers. When I have to cut into very small pieces, I use a puncher too.
With paper cut outs, clipping, pasting other small parts and bending, one fish, a coral and a mermaid are created. After I create all the parts, I paste everything on a mat board while checking balance by making adjustments. One paper sculpture art is done with all those procedures, however I keep them for six months to one year just hanging on the wall. I need to check them to see if they are ok and stick well under the conditions of dryness, moisture and sun light. Passing all of the tests, my paper sculpture art goes out into the world!
X-RAY MAG: Are you a scuba diver? If so, what made you become one and where have you dived? What are your favorite dive locations?
MTK: Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced scuba diving yet! I have always wanted to do it since I was young, but I couldn’t get any opportunities. I am sure that I will do scuba diving in the near future. Where I would like to dive is Okinawa in Japan, the Red Sea, the Caribbean Sea, on the coral reef in the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and Brazil, among other places.
X-RAY MAG: What are your current artistic and/or ocean conservation projects?
MTK: My current art project is the Marcelost World, which has four different worlds—Marcelocean, Marcelopolis, Marcelonia and Venezia Secrets. Marcelocean is the world inside of the sea that I imagine. The theme of Marcelonia is the imagined world of mountains, and Marcelopolis is the imagined world of the city. Venezia Secrets is newly added to my art projects this year, and it is about an imagined urban area that is based on Venezia, Italy.
This is a project about ocean conservation that I am currently working on. I donate to WWF Coral Reef Conservation and Research Centre (WWF Coral Reef Centre) located in Shiraho Village on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, at the moment. I would like to work to protect coral reefs more actively in the future.
X-RAY MAG: Any future projects in mind? What are they and how do they relate to the sea or ocean conservation?
MTK: I have so many future projects in my mind. For example, I would like to create a paper sculpture art based on a theme about the coral reefs. It will be the biggest coral reef made of paper sculpture. The size will be about 10m wide and 2m high. I guess it will take a few years to create. The message I would like to say through this art work is that, “We have to take good care of the sea. Otherwise, we won’t be able to see a really beautiful coral reef. We will only be able to see a coral reef in this unmoving paper sculpture.”
X-RAY MAG: Why does art matter and how can art help the world?
MTK: I believe that art can move people’s hearts by overcoming culture and the language barrier. If people can be moved by getting a message from the art, the world will follow, too. If there are many arts which are meaningful, the world will be better.
I got a precious gift in 2007—my son Erick. I created the first paper sculpture art in the Marcelocean series for his birth. I just hope he will be able to dive and see beautiful coral reefs when he grows up. If he cannot see this beautiful underwater world, it is going to be really sad. I also made a small reef aquarium at home for him. I think my son will think that it is important to protect nature and living things if he grows up together with corals and small fishes.
I actually cannot say anything about the underwater world because I haven’t dived yet, but you divers know how beautiful the underwater world is. I would like to contribute in some way to society and nature through art. I just hope through my art, people will feel something for nature and think about how to protect it.
X-RAY MAG: How can interested buyers contact you? Do you do commissions? Do you sell fine art giclée prints or posters? What are the prices?
MTK: Since I don’t speak English well, if you have any questions, feel free to contact my agent Tina Tsuchiya (firstname.lastname@example.org) who speaks English. Or, you can visit my internet shopping sites, Marcelost World in ETSY (www.etsy.com) and Soleyne (www.soleyne.com). We can discuss commissions, if patrons are interested. At the moment, I sell paper sculpture art (US$800-10,000), paper-cutting (US$300-1,000), limited edition giclée prints (US$50-300) and art posters (US$20-30). ■
I believe that art can move people’s hearts by overcoming culture and the language barrier. If people can be moved by getting a message from the art, the world will follow, too.
-- Marcelo Tatsuyoshi Kato