Satoru Koizumi

Emotive carvings entwine human and animal in a quiet critique of modernity.

Satoru Koizumi sat on a block of wood with his arm resting on a small wooden sculpture placed on his knee, in front of a wall filled with pencil sketches on paper
close-up of the head of a wooden sculpture with the artist working into it with a carving tool
a table in the artist's studio with wooden carved figures on it and a selection of tools
6 images

Satoru Koizumi was born in 1983 in Japan, and currently lives and works in rural prefecture Okinawa.

At Auction

Painted wooden sculpture Arabian Oryx was purchased at auction for $74,817, almost triple its estimated price.

Did you know?

The traditional woodworking tools best-suited to the artist's practice are no longer widely manufactured, meaning that as well as his artworks, he also makes many of his own tools.

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Practice overview

The rich histories of Japanese wood carving are central to Koizumi’s practice. When Buddhism was first introduced to the country, most Buddhas were made in gilt bronze, but soon carvings made from the trees abundant in Japan’s natural landscape became the norm. In time, the increasing popularity of Zen Buddhism - which rejected idolatry - saw many sculptors switch their attention to creating architectural elements for temples and shrines. Throughout the country’s modernisation, and an influx of international influences in the last century, wood carving has remained an important part of Japanese heritage: from emblematic structures such as Nikko Toshogu shrine to tea ceremony tools and other everyday domestic objects. Koizumi continues this legacy with his own contemporary take on traditional techniques. His wooden sculptures are, at a glance, lovable and endearing, but also reveal their creator’s reflections on the diversity of today’s society and its symbiotic yet destructive relationship with nature.

Throughout Koizumi’s practice the idea of kawaii is subtly critiqued. In today's Japan, the word kawaii - which directly translates as ‘cute’ - covers a wide range of subjects and, as a result, its definition is becoming increasingly vague. With the export of Japanese subcultures across the globe, the word has come to be understood as an aesthetic style epitomised by icons like Hello Kitty and Pikachu. However, in Koizumi’s work child-like, ‘cute’ expressions are paired with muted palettes and grainy textures — in stark contrast to the saturated consumerism of kawaii aesthetics.

The human psyche and its environment are entwined in Koizumi’s work. Throughout his oeuvre, lone characters are tinged with a feeling of melancholy and isolation via their dampened expressions and lack of companions. For Koizumi this highlights that, while negative emotions may be inherent to the human condition, they are further compounded by the societies - driven by ‘individuality’ and profit - in which we now live. In this sense, Koizumi connects mental health and spirituality (or lack thereof) to wider societal structures. Encompassing contradictory elements of tradition and innovation, strength and weakness, nature and civilisation, society and the individual, Koizumi’s sculpture is a beautiful yet cautionary exploration of the human condition. In his own words, “it is not about which way is better or worse, but the way of life itself.”