Featuring Tokuda Yasokichi III, Tokuda Yasokichi IV, Ohi Toshio and Tsuruta Yoshitaka
A biographical summary of each participating artist follows:
Born in 1961, Tokuda Yasokichi IV succeeded her father Tokuda Yasokichi III’s position after his death in 2009. As a female artist succeeding the position in a traditional potter’s family, she is a remarkable figure in Japan and recognized in the international market. Even while she has inherited the practices of Kutani porcelain techniques and methods, her sensibility as a female artist gives her a singular perspective on tradition that is reflected in her diverse color palette and her unique interpretations of form.
Tokuda Yasokichi III (1933–2009) was one of the world’s most famous Kutani potters. Born in Ishikawa Prefecture, he was designated as a Ningen Kokuho (Living National Treasure) in 1997 for the mastery of his saiyu glaze technique. Yasokichi III innovatively developed the saiyu technique based on traditional Kutani colored glaze enameling techniques handed down from his grandfather, Tokuda Yasokichi I, and using techniques learned from his father, Tokuda Yasokichi II. With saiyu, Yasokichi III created his own visual world characterized by the delicate shading and beautiful contrast of enamel glaze colors.
Yasokichi III’s work has been recognized widely and shown in numerous museums including the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Sackler Gallery, and the Smithsonian Institute. His honors include acceptance into the Issui-kai Pottery and Porcelain Exhibition (1958), the Japan Traditional Arts and Craft Society Chairman’s Award (1977), the Grand Prize of the International Pottery and Porcelain Exhibition (1990), and the Purple Ribbon Medal given by the Government of Japan (1993).
A white, belt-shaped slip covers the entire surface of the handsome shaped work. Due to the thickness of the engobe, the minute white grains assume a snow or sand like texture. The upper lines of the belt create gentle undulations resembling the ridge line of a mountain or the slope of a hill that encircle the vessel. While casting a quiet shadow across the surface of the piece, the light and shade of the slip, following the rhythm of the belt, conveys a sense of depth akin to a natural landscape.
Nagasaka, Yamanashi Prefecture, where the ceramic artist Tsuruta Yoshitaka has his studio, is about two hours from Tokyo by train. The area is blessed with clear air and an abundance of nature. The window of Tsuruta’s studio offers a glimpse of the majestic shape of the Yatsugatake mountains. According to the season, and even over the course of a single day, the landscape continues to change with each passing moment.
Avoiding an explanatory approach to the natural forms that have accumulated daily in his memory, Tsuruta expresses them in exceedingly symbolic and stoic terms. And rather than depicting his subject directly with a brush, Tsuruta’s decorative style, an indirect technique based mainly on masking, allows him to organize and abstract the content of his expression. Moreover, without adding an excess of color, he creates a worldview founded solely on the relationship between the black clay and the white slip.
Ohi Toshio inherits an artistic tradition that dates from 1666. That was when the first Ohi ware potter began crafting ceramic works for the tea ceremony near Kanazawa. Toshio is the 11th generation in the Ohi lineage. He deploys the characteristically lustrous effects of Ohi ware in bowls and other items for the tea ceremony and in a vast range of other works, both utilitarian and purely artistic. Born in Kanazawa, he received a MFA from Boston University and has taught in the United States, Taiwan, and Japan