Aya Kawato was born in Nara, a center of traditional culture and craftsmanship in Japan. She studied traditional Japanese textile-making in Kyoto. Influenced by her neuroscientist father, she came to consciously realize that we see the world through the brain. She became particularly interested in visual illusions that occur when the information gathered by the eyes is processed in the brain.

The traditional textile-making that she learned involves meticulous, labor-intensive handwork, which encompasses many processes of traditional dyeing and weaving. Even when it comes to old masters, an end product can have certain subtle features that can be described as being “uncontrollable.” They are the results of repetitious and often inefficient handwork, and in modern times, such uncontrollable features ensconce beauties beyond the realms of our knowledge.

Likewise, images perceived by humans are often uncontrollable. The brain allows us to infer the three-dimensional structure of the surroundings from the two-dimensional image projected onto the retina. However, the mechanism of human visual perception is so complex that it can cause visual illusions. Indeed, there seems to be a chasm between what we see and what it really is. This means that people see the limited world processed in the brain, and simultaneously, this brings about the awareness of an expanse that is beyond our control.

Kawato tries to demonstrate such perceptional gaps and uncontrollable features by manually drawing simple grids and layering them multiple times. Through producing optical illusionary effects on a painting, such as a sense of depth or fluctuation, she aims to suggest the existence of “something” that is often hard to recognize.

Inspired by multidirectional vectors of interest, from ancient Japanese weaving and dyeing techniques to the modern neuroscientific discoveries, she continues to create abstract grid paintings, while questioning what we see and what we believe to be true. She wishes to represent a territory that the uncontrollable features are suggestive of and to share it with others.