Seductive beauty aims to explore the different ways in which the natural world informs Japanese ceramics. Serving as both material and inspiration, nature provides the clay from which these beautiful pieces are formed, and often influences the shape they take and the final surfaces they carry. The exhibition is broken into four parts, each highlighting a different facet of this core relationship between nature and the ceramic arts.
Nature and Decoration
The bounty of nature in Japan ensures that each new season brings a different kind of beauty. Many artists depict these natural cycles in their work through decorative interpretations of nature. Using a fabric-pressing technique called Nunome, Ito Motohiko creates soft, lovely surfaces that he paints with symbols of the four seasons. Both Wakao Toshisada and Nakamura Takuo turn to nature for decorative inspiration. Nakamura adapts the brilliant colors and crisp lines of Rimpa painting to his imaginative and playful ceramic sculptures. Wakao's gray shino catches a shimmery autumn moonlight. Living in Yamanashi Prefecture, Mount Fuji serves as the backdrop of her daily life, Matsuda Yuriko's keen observations of the changing seasons on the mountain inspired this playful group of works, which transform the image of Mount Fuji, ubiquitous in Japanese art, into colorful, contemporary flights of imagination. And Shingu Sayaka’s sensational flower, which will bloom eternally, embodies the search for eternal life that one may find only through becoming one with nature. Master ceramicist Suzuki Goro transforms traditional Oribe ceramics into something wholly unique by combining different styles into a single box, playfully reimagining the boundaries of ceramic decoration. His boxes and sculptures feature images from everyday life: delicate seasonal flowers, farmers working their fields, water mills, barking crows, and twisting vines all come alive under his brush to dance across his surfaces. His Goribe works delightfully join tradition and innovation in some of the most original pieces in contemporary ceramics.
Elemental Sensibilities: Water, Wood, Fire, & Earth
Japanese philosophy imbues nature and the elements with spirit, finding the divine in the natural world. Many artists have tapped into these elemental sensibilities, combining the spirit of nature with human creativity in their gorgeous works. Kohara Yasuhiro's large Shigaraki jar is mellow and mature, with beautiful wood ash deposits. Tsuji Kyo also harnesses the powerful beauty of fire and earth in works that feature primitive natural forms reminiscent of ancient hieroglyphics. She is a pioneering female artist who has paved the way for many with these sensitive works Koinuma Michio’s unique three-banded work has the rich look of old stone, but takes a surprisingly modern form. And Mihara Ken's landscape evokes nature in a miniature form.
Abstract Interpretations of Nature
Suzuki Osamu pushes his work ever further into abstraction through gorgeous minimalist purity. The clear blue of this celadon platter evokes the pale blue of a sunlit sea, as five abstracted ships float across the surface of small waves. The waves seem to move this way and that, bringing an energy to the work that shimmers under the light. Wada Morihiro also abstracts the vigorous energy of nature in painstakingly carved and inlaid patterns reminiscent of rustling underbrush or wispy high clouds. Other abstractions are harder to identify. Seto Hiroshi’s works seem starkly geometric, but their origins can be found in sketches of leaves and other natural forms that the artist slowly and methodically abstracted to near unrecognizable shapes. On the other hand, Hayashi Yasuo’s modern house ceramics have a distinct organic feel, as if his structures had been revealed through erosion or natural growth. These works confirm that the imagery of nature infuses even the least likely of ceramics.
The Song of Clay
Other artists, such as Higashida Shigemasa’s rugged Oribe works, let the beauty of the clay shine through all else. Higashida juxtaposes the smoothness of his rich glazes against the rough earth of the clay vessel, allowing the glaze to flow like a waterfall down the form. In Okumura Hiromi’s work, the clay almost seems mold itself as it stretches, expands, and twists around itself in flowing, organic forms. And finally, the gnarled branches of Suzuki Goro’s stunning, innovative Oribe vase seem to grow outwards from a central core, like a sea urchin or a strange tree solidified into clay. Goro lets the beauty of his materials shine in this highly original work.
Each of these artists finds inspiration in the seductive beauty of the natural world. We hope that you will let them seduce you in turn as you enjoy their masterful works of art.