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Makoto Nishi - Master Of Cat Art


"Nemurineko" By Makoto Nishi

"I don't feel that I decide to carve the cats," says Japanese artist Makoto Nishi. "The cats call on me to carve them."

Over the past few years Nishi has carved out (so to speak) a rare niche in the art world with his quirky, humorous wood-carvings of cats. Sensitive, perhaps sometimes sentimental, they capture the ineffable catness of cats in a way that appeals instantly to any cat person.

A graduate of Geidai's nihonga department, he felt the call to cat carving several years ago, emanating to begin with from his own cats. Executed mainly in Indonesian jelutong wood and finished with a wood-burning iron, they are realistic enough to puzzle a real cat, fanciful enough to tickle a human.

From a technical standpoint, many are trompe l'oeil triumphs, an apparently elaborate assemblage actually carved entire from one block of wood, leaving the beholder to wonder how he did it. Perhaps his best-known piece is his "Heisei Nemurineko," a cat snoozing with its head pillowed on an old sneaker. Nishi refuses to part with it, but includes it in all his shows.

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