Kayo Albert: Movement and Landscape
Originally Published in Winter 2017
Ty: How long have you been in New York?
Kayo: About thirty years.
Justin: Did you go to school in New York?
Kayo: Here and there, but I never really completed a degree. I did get a two year graphic design degree back in Kyoto. After that, I came to New York and studied painting. I went to three different schools included the School of Visual Art which is a very school. I had good classes and connections from there.
Justin: So you decided to focus full time on being an artist rather than finishing school?
Kayo: Yes. I think so.
Ty: Did you start out in graphic design and then get into painting?
Kayo: Yes I did.
Ty: Were you painting before you got into graphic design?
Kayo: Not intensely. I did a little bit of illustration, but that was about it.
Ty: I'm really interested in the mediums you're using. What interests you in using materials like mylar?
Kayo: I first discovered Mylar from an exhibition I went to. The artist was drawing on it with oil pastel. I thought it was really interesting and refreshing, and I tried it myself. What I really like about mylar is that it is airy. If you hang it with some space between it an the wall, it has an open and semi translucent feel to it. That's one thing that I like about this material. Another thing I like is how easy it is to draw on it. My paintings are very involved with drawing. It starts and finishes with drawing.
Justin: What medium are you drawing with?
Kayo: Charcoal and pastel. The Mylar is so smooth and these materials work well on it. If you draw on canvas, it doesn't give you the same clean line. That's why I'm really stuck with mylar.
Ty: Your work is very layered. About how many lawyers do you work with?
Kayo: Multiple. As many as I can get until I'm satisfied. I like to overlap different colors to creates more interesting composition and deeper feeling.
Ty: I'm curious to hear more about the drawing aspects of your work. I know that landscape is very important for you, but these marks seem to be more intuitive. How do you decide what to draw?
Kayo: The important thing for me is movement. When you work on this big size, you have to physically move around the surface. It feels like a dancer moving their body. When I start, I don't have any ideas. The movement evolves into something else like shapes and composition. I start from a place of calmness, and don't seek to express immediate emotions.
Ty: I think a lot of people are tired of that.
Kayo: Right. I want to go deeper than that. I take a deep breathe and ask myself where are you right now? I start moving my hands and try to figure this out. I don't mean to say that my paintings show where I am exactly. That's how I start.
Justin: You have an entire series titled Landscape. Would you say that these paintings are a reflection of an internal landscape or does it comes from references to actual landscapes?
Kayo: I don't mean to describe emotions as a landscape. It's more about what I paint gives the impression of a landscape. It's funny because it's not something I intend, but tends to show up.
Justin: So you don't approach the painting with an image in mind, but your hands come up with it?
Kayo: Yes. It's not deliberate.
Ty: It seems that listening is a very important part of your drawing process when you begin a painting by. Once you start applying paint, does that process change or is it similar?
Kayo: I work in the same way. The process when applying color is different than how I apply paint, but similar in the approach. The movement of my hand keeps going and evolves.
Ty: It appears that there is also drawing on top of the colors you apply. At what point do you decide to reincorporate the drawing?
Kayo: It's like drawing, then paint, and when the paint dries, more drawing and more paint.
Justin: So it's not a third-step process?
Kayo: Yes, my process is very continuous.
Justin: When viewing your work online, I can tell there's a lot there that I'm not able to see on the screen.
Kayo: Yeah, that's my goal. I want to make paintings where there's so much going on that you have to look at it for a long time.
Justin's: That's translating in your work and it doesn't feel busy.
Kayo: That's something I have to keep in mind. Some people would say "oh, that's just too busy", but I can't help that.
Ty: So some say that you're work is too busy, but I notice that you have paintings that uses the entire composition and other where you've left the background empty. When you're working, do you decide that you want to make less marks? How does that work?
Kayo: Because of the mylar, I do have this in mind. In some works, I want to leave space that is open and unpainted. That's because of the effect that it creates on the mylar. I also sometimes mount the mylar on wood which give a different effect. Mounted on the wood panel, you can still see the wood grain which gives a nice, organic feel. I'm currently working on a series of mylar mounted on wood panel.
Justin: In the works that the mark is more isolated, is this decided beforehand or is it something you decide while you're working?
Kayo: I call those paintings my Flow series. In that series, I particularly focused on the relationship between two or more shapes. By putting them together, they created a different space.
Ty: What are the decisions you make when you apply color?
Kayo: My palette is very similar from piece to piece. What I'm interested in is the relationship of colors as I layer the paint. I always want to find something new.