Updated: Jun 29, 2022
By Anke Buchmann, February 2017
This unconventionally elegant porcelain vessel with its odd fractures and robust accumulations, created by Takuro Kuwata in Japan 2015, is the epitome of his work. The bowl (17,7 × 24,8 × 22,5 cm) was firstly presented during Kuwata’s second solo exhibition ‘Dear Tea Bowl’ in the gallery Salon 94 Freemans in New York, USA and is priced $12,000 by New York dealer Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn. Salon 94 describes the work of the young Japanese artist as ‘dysfunctional’ yet oddly elegant clay objects. For Kuwata himself his work is less dysfunctional, but rather aims to be joyful and fun.
In the eyes of Salon 94 ‘Kuwata’s ceramics are earthquakes in which the glazes shatter, re-shape, melt, unravel, stick, poke and create a feeling of the artist’s geographical origins’.
Author John Berger knows ‘The way we see things, is affected by what we know or what we believe.’ About Kuwata’s work we know he follows a radical approach to pottery, leaving much to chance by adding stones to the clay and applying extra thick glazes, so the surfaces explode during the firing process in the kiln. This so-called Ishihaze method, as described by the New York Times, he combines with Kairagi-Shino, an old firing method, in which pottery is removed from the kiln before the glaze completely melts, mastering different traditional Japanese techniques and re- interpreting them for his ceramic work.
CHALLENGING JAPANESE TRADITIONS
By using bright colours for an entire piece instead of delicately applying it decoratively or figuratively, adding glittering gold, known from European ceramics, Kuwata explains, he challenges Japanese traditions. He follows a fearless and un- conventional approach, using nails to keep the thick glaze from running away, as a conversation with the Sales Executive Darren Warner of Alison Jacques Gallery during Frieze London 2015 revealed.
Kuwata, who lives and works in Toki City, Gifu, Japan, says his work is in dialogue with the centuries-old ritual, refering to Wabi Sabi, an aesthetic of traditional tea ceremony wares.
In the eyes of the curators of Mad Museum, New York, the artist succeeds in merging conventional cultural ideals and aesthetics with a high degree of individual expression and innovative thinking. Jeffrey Uslip even sees topical matters addressed; describing ‘[the work] provides an aesthetic correlation to Japan’s recent natural and social disasters’. The Museum of Arts and Design, New York showcases his work in the genre Japanese Kögei and refers to his work therefore as ‘…highly skilled artistic expression, both in form and decoration, associated with specific regions and peoples in Japan’. According to Mad Museum his work reflects a decisive and somewhat controversial shift from that of their peers.
PEOPLE ARE LOOKING FOR PHYSICALITY
Michele Varian, shop owner in Soho, NY refers to the Zeitgeist by explaining the fascination with nature and the handmade is a reaction to the digital age where almost everything around us is virtual and mass-produced. People are looking for physicality and appreciate seeing the handcraft in a piece.
With his joyful creations, that reflect our times, Kuwata applies a contemporary sensibility to pottery. His skilful created bowl with its bright colours and handmade feeling not only makes people feel good but also spreads nature’s energy through the usage of different natural materials.
Text: Anke Buchmann, Image: Salon94