Ken Yokota / Painter
ABSTRACT AND CONTEMPORARY ART
Born in Japan. Became a professional painter after studying in Paris. Based in New York City since 2017.
A Painter Rises from the Ashes: With stage 4 cancer and 2 months left to live.
Japanese artist Kenichiro Yokota entered the world of art at only 17 years old, when recognition of his talents by a mentor resulted in an invitation to study art in Paris. In the decade that followed, Mr. Yokota made a name for himself as an accomplished painter in France but found that he wanted to become an artist who could truly challenge the narrow art world he had experienced in Japan. With this ambition as his goal, he relocated to New York City in 2017.
In his second winter in America, Mr. Yokota’s career was taking off when the unimaginable happened. The rising artist had begun to feel a persistent pain around his abdomen. Concerned, he flew back to Japan for a checkup, and he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.
Mr. Yokota underwent emergency surgery to remove the primary tumor, but evaluation afterwards found that the cancer had already spread to his liver, lymph nodes, lungs, and collarbones. Some of his tumors grew so rapidly, they ruptured Mr. Yokota’s stomach, causing him pain so extreme he would lose consciousness. His doctors, decided to end treatment, citing that it would not extend his life expectancy. When other hospitals refused to take him as a patient, the artist had no choice but to wait for death while receiving palliative care to manage pain. The situation was dire, and Mr. Yokota reflected deeply on his life and impending death.
It was at this point that Mr. Yokota reconnected with the artistic mentor who had discovered his talents so many years ago. His mentor, distraught by the hopeless medical situation Mr. Yokota found himself in, managed for him to be transferred to the University of Tokyo Hospital. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the other doctors’ refusals to treat him, Mr. Yokota was able to receive treatment at the top institution and, miraculously, all cancer cells disappeared from his body after 6 months.
The joy and relief of his unlikely recovery was only dampened by the side effects of the drugs that had saved his life. After treatment, Mr. Yokota found that he could barely walk and wondered what reason there was to continue living in his state.
A year and a half post-recovery, Mr. Yokota was finally able to channel those dark feelings when he returned to painting. He now sees this as his rationale for creating; he wants to express and beautifully portray the unique emotions that came from knocking on death’s door, with his fate seemingly sealed. Impressively, after all that he has endured, the artist is succeeding, even earning him the epithets “The Painter of Resurrection” and “The Rising Phoenix” from fans of his work.