2008年04月24日

Metamorphosis -From Clay to Cocoon

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Tamba revolutionary Ichino Masahiko (市野雅彦 1961- ) is currently in the midst of an imaginative new show at the prestigious Mitsukoshi Department Store in Nihonbashi.

Advancing the theme of "clay cocoons" exhibited at last year's Paramita Museum Awards, Ichino has delved further into creating an entirely new series of works.

Gone are the linear stripes and various other decorative motifs found on previous works. Gone are the rigid forms and straight edges. Gone are the obvious hallmarks of functionality. Gone, even, are the use of his wood and gas kilns.

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What remains, however, is Ichino's staunch emphasis on the importance of form and originality.

Appearances are often deceiving. His new works in general appear round and organic, soft and plush. In fact, the voluptious stoneware may strike a viewer as extremely weighty. Bulk, perhaps, is what first comes to mind.

On the contrary, each and every work on display ishollow. Tap their clay bodies, and emptiness rings through the air.

In other words, relative to a work's actual size, Ichino's clay cocoons are light as a feather. The artist achieves this unique characteristic through an ingenious use of both hand-pinching and ventilation. After forming individual slabs with the use of a wooden board, Ichino connects them together whilst leaving the inner regions empty. He then pokes holes into each section, so that hot air can escape during firing without making the work explode in the kiln. He further applies black slip or his trademark salt water orange, and fires again repeatedly, alternating between oxidation and reduction. The end product, thus, is the culmination of an intricate creative process which is very much an Ichino original.

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Cocoons represent a metamorphosis, a transformation, of dramatically changing an object's characteristics. To Ichino, it further represents the myriad possibilities that the material of clay provides to an artist. Ichino is not limited by the clay of Tamba - rather, it is clay that inspires him to create new ways of expression. Thus, the term "cocoon" is an apt name to a new series of works wherein it can be seen that Ichino is actively trying to push himself to greater heights.

I wasn't the only one taking notice. Kakurezaki Ryuichi, perhaps the most famous name in contemporary Bizen, came by as I was interviewing the artist to inspect Ichino's works.

In many ways, Kakurezaki and Ichino are quite similar. Bizen and Tamba are 2 of the Rokkoyo (Six Old Kilns) of Japan, and their kiln sites have long supplied the nation with functional, earthy, utilitarian, high-fired stoneware made with regional clay. However, each artist has added a new depth to their origins by placing primacy on form whilst continuing to respect traditional firing and decorative techniques. Both artists are revolutionaries of their respective kiln sites, and have become their most sought-after ceramicists.

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The propeller-like object in the first set of images is a clear example of extreme technique, in that he made each "blade" individually and connected them together. To fire them at once without breaking is a feat in itself, but the colors of the piece are natural and not glaring. In fact, multiple firings within the electric kiln has added a gentleness to Ichino's palette of colors. Works that exhibit a vivid orange are basically fired only once. Other works that exhibit an ambigous blend of orange and black slip have been fired up to 5 times. I believe it is these types of works that succeed best.

For example, I particularly enjoyed the work below.

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Not only is the form organic and pillowy, its natural firing is both addictive and enthralling.

Ichino is still developing this new style, and his Mitsukoshi exhibition is an excellent beginning. Let us see how the artist's clay cocoons eventually evolve. There is no doubt in my mind that they would grow the most beautiful wings.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited
posted by Toku Art Limited at 14:21| Comment(0) | Ichino Masahiko (Tamba) | 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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