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contemporary japanese ceramics

Fired Earth, Woven Bamboo: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics and Bamboo Art / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Fired Earth, Woven Bamboo: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics and Bamboo Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Fired Earth, Woven Bamboo: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics and Bamboo Art / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
November 12, 2013 - September 8, 2014

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), presents Fired Earth, Woven Bamboo: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics and Bamboo Art, an exhibition that highlights the meticulous craftsmanship and highly creative sculptural forms of Japanese decorative arts. Among the first exhibitions to present contemporary ceramics alongside baskets, Fired Earth, Woven Bamboo offers an in-depth look at 60 objects created by dozens of leading artists based in Japan. Drawn from a recent gift of Stanley and Mary Ann Snider of more than 90 pieces spanning the late 20th and early 21st centuries, many of the works are on view for the first time at the Museum. Enhanced with a selection of contemporary textiles, screens and paper panels, the exhibition is open through September 8, 2014 in the Japanese Decorative Arts Gallery and is accompanied by an illustrated publication.

“Several years ago, Stanley Snider challenged the Museum to become a center for contemporary Japanese decorative arts,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA. “Through the generous gift that he and Mary Ann made in 2012, and the infectious enthusiasm that they have conveyed to others, we are now well on our way to achieving that goal.”

During the late 19th century and into the 20th century, ceramics and bamboo arts in Japan evolved from traditional crafts into modern art forms, as those who produced them evolved from craftspeople into artists. As modernization continued, a new generation of artists began to assume creative control over the works they produced, creating unique pieces with their own hands, based on their own ideas. Creativity—rather than mere technical excellence—became the standard for an artist’s work. In Basket with bamboo-root handle (1930s), for example, Maeda Chikubōsai demonstrates an early example of bamboo art as a form of personal expression.

“The MFA has been at the forefront of promoting contemporary Japanese decorative arts for many years,” said Anne Nishimura Morse, William and Helen Pounds Senior Curator of Japanese Art at the MFA. “These works have attracted new audiences from around the globe in the last decade, and this exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to continue our long history of cultural exchange with Japan.”

This exhibition is generously supported by the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Exhibition Fund.

Fired Earth
In the years following World War II, avant-garde clay artists in Japan declared that their work no longer had to take the form of traditional vessels. Many of these artists maintained respect for ancient methods and aesthetics, while embracing the non-functionality of their ceramics. Akiyama Yō intentionally exploited deformations that would be considered defects in commercial products with Untitled MV-1019 (2010), which purposely employs cracks in the clay to provide a weathered effect. Fukami Sueharu––who brought Japanese ceramic arts global attention––also adopted inventive approaches to traditional techniques. His The Moment (Shun) (1998) is a keenly edged abstract work of porcelain that slices through space like a knife.

Recently, international praise has centered on pioneering female ceramists. Until the postwar era, virtually no women in Japan were ceramic artists; men feared that the presence of women would pollute their kilns. Koike Shōko was one of the first female graduates of the ceramic department at Tokyo National University of the Arts. Her shell-shaped vessels, such as Shell 95 (1995), were first thrown on a wheel and then sculpted from the clay of the Shigaraki region. Whereas traditional Shigaraki vessels are left unglazed, Koike applies layers of white slip (liquefied clay) to the surface. Sakurai Yasuko, also among the first women to work with clay on a university campus, plays with forms that make the viewer aware of light and shadow in Vertical Flower (2007).

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  • Yô Akiyama exhibition / ARTCOURT Gallery, Osaka, Japan

    Yo Akiyama exhibition, ARTCOURT Gallery Osaka

    Yô Akiyama exhibition / ARTCOURT Gallery, Osaka, Japan
    December 3, 2013 - January 25, 2014

    Yo Akiyama established his signature style of sculptural ceramic creation while still in school. His creative mind lies beneath the awareness by facing the nature and energy of clay, expressed through large scale works. We are excited to introduce Akiyama’s new works in this exhibition showcasing the roots, that is the artery of Akiyama’s powerful creation as well as Akiyama’s now as his next step in his career.

    Akiyama’s early works were mysterious objects created through black pottery. His student works done in black pottery show influences from primitivism that he was interested in, modern sculptors such as Brâncuşi and Arp, and his professor Kazuo Yagi, but yet to discover his own expression or concept through clay. Those early pieces are gone; however, Akiyama recalls that he can see the presence of Akiyama that has lead to himself now. This discovery lead him to the new set of works, in which the artist re-creates his early black pottery works with his current skillsets and by revisiting his own 1970s. Akiyama titled this new challenge of regenerating or redeveloping his roots “Incubation” (or Houran no Katachi in Japanese) and introduces about 10 new pieces in this exhibition.

    Akiyama developed several series of works that express the ever-changing shape of earth with unique creative challenges such as nature vs. human, birth vs. decay, internal vs. external by fusing the phenomenon of soil and thoughts on creation. The series titled “Metavoid,” which began in 2003, puts focus on an enclosed space where objects intervene and how we perceive such space. Akiyama would make a large bowl on a potter’s wheel, then reverse its inside and outside. This act brings a change in spatial relation of the bowl and the space it holds within (the void). The artist would then place this bowl in an even larger vessel – an exhibition space, the other void. Akiyama uses clay as a vehicle to explore physical shapes to his pursuit ranging from multi-layered texture in motion to human perception of space. We are introducing 5 new large scale pieces ranging from 100 cm to 180 cm from the series “Metavoid.”

    Akiyama began making a series of slabs with prints of spider webs as his side work around 1993 where the artist began to depart from his signature black pottery works. The series captured the natural beauty of spider webs Akiyama found almost every morning around his home from early summer to fall. About 50 creations from this series will gather in our gallery for public viewing for the first time. They can be seen as an organic map that connects the roots and current of Akiyama’s creation.

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  • Keisho-Ha - A New Materialism and the Yufuku Aesthetic / Yufuku Gallery, Tokyo

    Keisho-Ha, A New Materialism and the Yufuku Aesthetic at Yufuku Gallery, Tokyo

    Keisho-Ha - A New Materialism and the Yufuku Aesthetic / Yufuku Gallery, Tokyo
    December 5-21, 2013

    Contemporary Japanese art in the 21st century is heading in a new and unique direction.

    Exhibited artists: Ken Mihara, Shigekazu Nagae, Atsushi Takagaki, Takahiro Yede, Naoki Takeyama, Niyoko Ikuta, Shunichi Yabe, Masaaki Yonemoto, Takafumi Asakura

    Artists are using traditional techniques to create not craft, but objects of self-expression that are very much a type of sculpture that can change space itself. Such artists are pushing the boundaries of their respective mediums to new heights, using new techniques and materials that have not been used before.

    Yet when one takes a step back and views today’s world of contemporary art, it is widely seen that concepts are allowed to run free, whilst the importance of technique and actual artistry are left behind and abandoned. Throughout art history, one can consistently observe an element of craftsmanship in fine art, from the statues of Greece to the frescoes of Italy, from the ink paintings of China to the folding painted screens of Japan. Even in expressionist and abstract painting, the works of Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Pollock, Rothko, Bacon and Freud were instilled with an element of technique as a priori. Craftsmanship was a given, but was not the sole emphasis. Technique was simply needed to realise the form of self-expression that they envisioned in their mind’s eye. Technique was not a starting point, but was a necessary means to an end. Likewise, I find that the artists affiliated with Yufuku are not technique-oriented artists, even though many of them are renowned for their technical prowess. Rather, for artists such as Shigekazu Nagae and Ken Mihara, the technique is simply a requirement needed for them to create the clay sculptures that they wish to manifest. Technique, again, is a given, and is only a means to an end.

    If taken in this light, I find that the term craft or the Romanized Japanese word Kogei (synonymous with craft) is gravely inadequate in fully expressing what these contemporary Japanese artists are actually creating. Their works are not craft works, and they are not craft artists. Instead, they are emancipating their art from the fetters of language and from the limitations imposed by the element of categorisation. Such is the progressive moment in today’s Japan. I call them the Keisho-Ha (the School of Form), and can be also expressed as a New Materialism, wherein technique and material are chosen specifically to create sculptural works imbued with self-expression. This is, in a sense, a Return to Innocence, or a revival of artistry within art.

    Today’s Japan is a world where craft does indeed exist vibrantly, and craft is very much alive and well in the likes of the Traditional Art Crafts Exhibition and the Living National Treasure System, along with potters and makers of mass-produced vessels for everyday life. But one cannot continue to categorise the makers of everyday utilitarian tea cups and bowls with the same terminology and language as artists wielding the very same techniques to create works that are worlds apart from these everyday objects. A different expressive process is taking place, and the Japanese are at a loss for properly contemplating and understanding this new movement. To lazily lump everything together as craft or kogei was simply out of convenience, an excuse for the Japanese to stop thinking about the subject that was so obviously unique to their culture, and is so vastly different from traditional Western connotations and demarcations of art and craft.

    "The limits of our language are the limits of our world." Yet if such is true, then why not expand the boundaries of our language and properly express what is happening in our world today?
    Such is the importance of language and ontology.

    The artists assembled in this exhibition are a representation of this new movement in today’s Japan, a movement that Yufuku finds its lifework and reason for existence. This is art. And they are the Keisho-ha. Such is a true return to innocence, an emancipation of art for the sake of art.
    Wahei Aoyama, Owner and Director of Yufuku Gallery

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  • Ken Mihara: Serenity in Clay / Liverpool Street Gallery, Sydney

    Ken Mihara: Serenity in Clay, Liverpool Street Gallery, Sydney

    Ken Mihara: Serenity in Clay / Liverpool Street Gallery, Sydney
    November 16 - December 12, 2013

    Ken Mihara’s ceramics are a visual ode to his native land, Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, known as the capital of the gods; a land steeped in ancient Japanese myths and legends. The vessels are a culmination of elegant shapes, soft delicate curves, and ancient forms inspired by the surrounding land. Mihara’s striking palette of blues and dark greys intersperses with bursts of beige, gold and orange hues.

    Using clay rich in iron from his native Shimane Prefecture, Mihara constructs each work through an organic creative process. Each piece is hand formed using a coil and oinch technique to create a strong linear quality. Mihara states: “I consider it my job to help the clay express its beauty”, and likewise, “clay leads, and my hands follow. I do not know what shape my work is going to end up even while I am making it.” (Ken Mihara in conversation with Nishi Keiko, An interview with artist Mihara Ken, e-yakimono.net, August 2002) His most recent series titled Kei (Mindscape) generate a sense of movement and vitality through gentle folding and bending. The vessels feature double-walled interiors that swirl and spiral similar to small galaxies. The outer walls subtly embrace a complex interior; whilst at the same time the compositional tension allows the form to unravel.

    Mihara’s most revered series, Kigen (Genesis), are primordial in formation. The structures are symmetrical and balanced, which create a unique combination of subtlety and solidity. The rough, unrefined and grainy surface texture adds to the ancient ambiance. Mihara repeatedly fires the vessels at high temperatures to slowly unlock subtle and soft colours ranging from deep grey to peach to misty whites and purples. Mihara states: “The high degree of chance and serendipity in any firing is far beyond my control.” (Ken Mihara, “Mihara Ken – The power of chance”, Ceramics Art and Perception, issue 73, 2008, p84)

    Ken Mihara was born in 1958 in Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, Japan. After completing his studies in 1982 with Funaki Kenji, Mihara participated in numerous exhibitions and prizes. In 2005, he received a grant from Tomo Museum to travel for 6 months throughout Italy, from Milan, then south to Florence, Rome and Sicily. Mihara has been the recipient of many prizes and awards, including the prestigious Japan Ceramic Society Award in 2008; Paramita Ceramics Competition, Paramita Museum, Japan in 2006; The Energia Art Award in 2002 and the Shizuoka Prefecture’s Cultural Encouragement Award in 2009. Mihara has exhibited internationally with SOFA New York, New York (2008), Galerie Besson, London (2010), and most recently with Joan B Mirviss Gallery, New York (2011). His works are held in public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles and The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Since 1996, he has been represented by Yufuku Gallery, Tokyo, Japan.

    The Liverpool Street Gallery concomitently hosts the solo exhibition of artist Kevin Lincoln.

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  • Hayashi Shigeki: KOZO, 2008 (installation), Glazed porcelain, 12” x 12” x 24” (H)
    / Keiko Gallery - Japanese artists

  • Takeuchi Kouzo: Modern Remains, 2010, Glazed porcelain, 8” x 8” x 6 1/2”
    / Keiko Gallery - Japanese artists

  • Takeuchi Kouzo: Modern Remains, 2010, Glazed porcelain / Keiko Gallery - Japanese artists

    Takeuchi Kouzo: Modern Remains, 2010, Glazed porcelain
    / Keiko Gallery - Japanese artists

  • Niisato Akio: Luminous Vessel, 2010, Glazed porcelain, 9” x 9” x 8 1/2”
    / Keiko Gallery - Japanese artists

  • Kawabata Kentaro: Batista, 2011, Glazed clay, glass, silver, 26” x 18” x 12 1/2”. Photo by Taku Saiki.
    / Keiko Gallery - Japanese artists

  • Tanoue Shinya: KARA 11: Fu-b, 2011, Glazed clay, 9” x 9 1/2” x 19” (h)
    / Keiko Gallery - Japanese artists

  • Takeuchi Kouzo: Modern Remains, 2010, Glazed porcelain, 17” x 18” x 17”
    / Keiko Gallery - Japanese artists

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