2008年02月22日

In Search of Relevancy

Honoho 1.jpgHonoho 2.jpg

After returning from London, I was happy to find a preview copy of Honoho Geijutsu's latest issue jammed into my overflowing mailbox, in large part due to the fact that from this issue, I had undertaken to become the translator for its much-expanded English section, together with helping out with the translation of my friend and mentor Robert Yellin's English article into Japanese.

Confessions are in order -a large part of my fascination and education in Japanese ceramics directly came from reading each and every copy of Honoho's back issues during my apprenticeship at Robert's Mishima gallery. Like a hungry child, I basically devoured every word, image and detail in their pages, and with a rather-decent memory, I essentially memorized the history and progression of Japan's ceramics -as told by Honoho- by heart.

Of course, memorizing the preachings of magazines and books is hardly satisfactory or sufficient when it comes to the evaluation of a work's quality -actually interacting with works first-hand at Robert's gallery and my father's was what really trained my eye- yet to have a hard drive full of facts in one's own brain does come in handy when writing and talking about ceramics, as well as when evaluating a work (to a certain extent).

In any case, the sense of euphoria which had swept me when first reading the pages of Honoho is no more, and with good reason. There's simply nothing new in its pages to be excited for, other than, perhaps, added English content which is of no joy to myself, its translator.

The problem is clear -Honoho no longer pursues the topic of yakimono from a dynamic and ambitious focus on current trends and issues, but rather is quite content in re-selling issues by recycling the same content every year.

Take this particular issue (#93) with its focus on Bizen. After reading through it, I was numbed by the fact that they have hardly evolved from their last issue on Bizen (#84). The issue before that (#67, I believe) was still more interesting than this current issue.

Contemporary Bizen has had a few revolutionaries -Isezaki for his resurrection of the anagama during the heydey of the noborigama, Kakurezaki for his forms, Abe for his theories into Momoyama-Bizen and evidenced by his firing and clay processing techniques, and Mori for his ambitious pursuit of recreating the o-gama.

But what comes next? Nothing is alluded to within the pages of Honoho, and the reader is left hanging with the sense that Bizen is at a standstill.

Perhaps it is not Honoho that frustrates me, but is Bizen itself. There are too many artists preoccupied with imitation, and far too few who are interested in breaking new grounds and advancing the cause for genuine innovation. A bleak future is in store for Bizen if a new star does not come around to transcend the works of its current stars -Isezaki, Kakurezaki, Abe, Mori, and Harada.

I speak not as an art dealer but as a passionate fan of one of Japan's greatest kiln sites.

Let us look ahead to the future, and not simply dwell on past glories.

With a touch of sadness,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited


posted by Toku Art Limited at 12:09| Comment(1) | News and Updates | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする
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What a refreshing and interestingly honest comment. Wow.

Dorothy
Posted by Dorothy Feibleman at 2008年03月03日 15:59
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