JCA -- Spectacular Diversity of Clay
by ROBERT YELLIN
For the Japan Times, May 18, 2005
Japanese ceramic art is finding a wider audience overseas. Many collectors search out the great potters of the past, such as Hamada Shoji (1894-1978) or Kawai Kanjiro (1890-1966), while more savvy collectors are looking to find out who's hot in Japan today.
One name many of these contemporary collectors will be hearing more about is Izu-based ceramic artist Takayuki Sakiyama. He'll be represented at SOFA (Sculptural Objects and Functional Art) in New York in early June 2005. What will excite collectors is not only his groundbreaking forms and patterns, but his recent award of one of Japan's most prestigious ceramic art prizes -- the Grand Prize and also the Katsura no Miya Prize at the Biennial 18th Japan Ceramic Art Exhibition which runs until May 24, 2005, in Tokyo.
Takayuki's swirling forms are so kinaesthetically captivating that the visual illusion of the sea's movement in his work almost seems to be combined with the sound of the waves. From an early age Takayuki wanted to live and work by the ocean. "When I was in junior high school I knew I had to find a way to be an artist and live by the sea," he told The Japan Times by phone the other day. "For three years after graduating from Osaka Art University, I traveled throughout Japan looking for an inspiring ocean view to set up my studio. I found that ideal spot on the west coast of the Izu Peninsula."
Upon viewing Takayuki's award-winning piece titled "Choutou" we find the soft sandy color of the shore along with a stunning sense of balance of line. The sweeping form is frozen in motion as it flows into a mystical empty center space. There's none of the "clay flavor" so prized by Japanese ceramic art collectors, nor the enrapturing beauty of prismatic glazes, only form here to dazzle the mind. Etched lines meander over the surface in rhythmical harmony. It is a very noble work indeed. And in this grand exhibition it's not the only one. The JCA exhibition was started in 1971 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Mainichi Shimbun Newspaper and has grown to become one of Japan's most prestigious ceramic events.
This year 1,101 ceramic works by 903 artists were submitted for consideration, with only 198 pieces chosen as worthy of inclusion by the panel of 18 distinguished judges. In addition there are works by 26 invited ceramic artists, including four living national treasures and popular potters such as Ichino Masahiko, Kakurezaki Ryuichi, Takiguchi Kazuo, Mihara Ken, Mori Togaku and Morino Taimei. Avant-garde works by Tokyo-yaki ceramic artist and teacher Nakamura Kimpei, and Kosho Ito and Inoue Masayuki are also included in the invited group.
The JCA Exhibition is divided into three categories:
- Dento (traditional)
- Jiyuzokei (free forms)
- Jitsuyo toki (applied pottery)
As with past JCA exhibitions, the first category is the most numerous with 122 works, followed by 39 in the Jiyuzokei division and 38 in the Jitsuyo toki section. The top prize, and the Mainichi Newspaper Award, in the Jiyuzokei section went to Suzuki Tomotsu for his haunting rendition of ghostly blue spring flowers blooming from silver stems. In the last division, a set of two-tone bowls by Sakamoto Akira was also given a top prize along with another Mainichi Award. The other main prize -- the Japan Ceramic Art Exhibition Prize -- was bestowed on Ogino Masuko for her large marbled clay blue-tinged bowl. All of these award-winning works greet the visitor as they enter the exhibition hall.
The diversity of the exhibition is truly spectacular. From small tea caddies to powerfully executed large jars to metaphoric sculptural images, the viewer could easily be bewitched by the alchemic power that a clay artist possesses. Regional styles of traditional pottery are dutifully represented, such as Bizen, Hagi and Kasama, while genres that do not depend on location -- celadon or bluish-white porcelain being prime examples -- are also on show here. An exquisite example of the latter is by Kubota Atsuko with her large checked pale-blue plate.
Other works that caught my eye in the first division -- and there were many -- included Itabashi Hiromi's brittle "Hollow Space" vessel, Takiguchi Kazuo's basket-woven blue mudai piece, Imaemon Imaizumi's snowy winter night porcelain platter, Shimosato Mitsumasa's deep-sea blue bowl with translucent fish, and Minami Shigemasa's Kutani bowl with windswept flower.
The exhibition hall is divided into two long promenades and as you turn the corner at the end of the first you are are met by the Jiyuzokei and Jitsuyo toki section, of which there is much to ponder in the former, while the latter is simply fine tableware. Some works in the Jiyuzokei section were easy to appreciate, such as Shinohara Motofumi's set of six water blossoms, or Nakamoto Marie's "Coral Form." Ozaki Reiko's mirrored fantasy work had little to do with clay and the same can be said for many of the works in this section, some resembling bronze, marble or wood. That said, some pieces here are riveting, including Matsuzawa Emiko's twisting spiral form, Murayama Keiko's aboriginal blue figure, and Yoshida Rika's "Bless." And being blessed is a good way of describing living in Japan with all its clay wonders. No other ceramic art exhibition judged by a jury offers the viewer as much as the JCA exhibition.
The JCA exhibition is currently showing in Tokyo at the Daimaru Museum until 24 May before traveling to Osaka. The Daimaru Museum is located on the 12th floor of the Daimaru Department Store in Tokyo Station, open 10 a.m.- 8p.m., admission 800 yen. In Osaka it will be at the Daimaru Museum, Shinsaibashi, from June 1 through 6.
The Japan Times: May 18, 2005
JCA 18TH BIENNIAL EXHIBITION (2005)
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