IGAWA Takeshi, who lives and works in Saga City and is Associate Professor at Saga University in Kyushu, uses the most traditional of Japanese craft materials, but is one of the most closely watched young artist in the field of contemporary lacquer art because of his daring and expressive sculptures.
Known as urushi in Japanese, lacquer is the sap of a tree related to the sumac family, and has been used in Japan as an adhesive and a coating (including decoration) for more than 9000 years.
Among the distinctive features of lacquer are the gloss and depth of the surface and the pleasing tactile experience, which IGAWA features in his sculptures.
“I don’t intend to create meaningful forms which conveys my messages. I always think about expressing the beauty of the lacquer as a material. Unlike other materials used for three dimensional art objects, like ceramic, stone, wood, metal, lacquer cannot produce a solid form because it is only liquid. However, lacquer is a unique coating or painting material, and when applied to different forms it produces distinctively different appearances. For example, there are dramatic differences between concave and convex surfaces when compared to flat surfaces. Reflections and the play of light and shadow on the surfaces are always changing the appearance of a piece. To create the most beautiful and pleasing forms, the lines are critical. The edges are the first decisions I must make when I begin carving the urethane form, but at the same time, I need to imagine the curve of all the lines of a form when it is completed. If the lines and the surfaces harmonize perfectly, I feel that I have fully expressed the beauty of the lacquer as a material.” -IGAWA Takeshi
Traditionally lacquer work has dozens of layers of lacquer applied over a period of months, and each of the final layers is polished, giving the finished piece strength and a beautiful gloss. Generally there can be as many as 50 different steps in the completion of a single lacquer piece. For the inaugural online exhibition of Keiko Art International, we have created a four minute film featuring IGAWA and his work which illustrates the basic steps in the process of creating lacquer sculpture; however the entire process is so lengthy the film necessarily eliminates many of the steps. Seven of IGAWA’s recent pieces can also be found on the exhibition page.