Ken Mihara's 2nd NYC Show Opening on the 12th!

Kodoh (Pulse) by Ken Mihara.jpg

Greetings from NYC! I'm in NYC right now with Mihara Ken (三原研) and his wife to attend the opening of his 2nd NYC solo show with Joan Mirviss of the Upper East Side. The new works, entitled Kodoh (Pulse), are some of his best yet. We hope you will agree.

The show marks Yufuku's 3rd collaboration with Joan, and as the past two shows (Mihara in '08, Nagae in '10) were sold out, I have high expectations for this show as well. Joan has already mentioned the works to be selling quickly even before the start of the show, and it can be seen that Mihara-san definitely has a momentum that calls to mind the buzz created by Kamoda in the 70's and Kakurezaki in the 90's.

We hope to see you at the show!

With best wishes,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Yufuku Gallery
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In Conversation with Mihara Ken, June 2009

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(Mihara Ken, second from right)

It is 2PM on the opening day of Mihara Ken's Yufuku exhibition, and famed collectors and critics alike flow in and out of Yufuku's doors. It is hard to think of any other ceramic artist in Japan today who attracts the sort of visitor flow as Mihara san, bar Kakurezaki Ryuichi - a new exhibition of previously unreleased works is an event in itself, and are the cause for much excitement in the eyes of fans of ceramic art. Over half of the 30 works are sold by midday, and none of us, including Mihara-san, have time for lunch.

"This is only a beginning," Mihara quietly tells me before the show, and rightfully so. This exhibition marks a departure for the artist. Since releasing his much-acclaimed Kigen series in 2007, Mihara was caught under a flurry of media attention, and was placed under great pressure to create larger and more ambitious work for a global audience. Two major exhibitions in 2008, his SOFA NYC solo exhibition and his Japan Ceramic Society Award Exhibition, required Mihara to create approx. 100 mid-sized to large works in a span of 6 months. Yet his new firing method, which required multiple and extensive firings, took the artist double the time to create a single work. To meet his deadlines, Mihara had to do something he disliked most - recreate forms from his past in order to satisfy demand.

"I tried to think of the JCS Award Exhibition as something like a 'Greatest Hits,' but after awhile, I realized that I was simply letting my creative processes into auto-pilot." In particular, his "origami" forms were immediately eye-catching, and demand for this style continues to this very day. Not surprisingly, his SOFA and JCS shows were grand successes, with the artist selling out all 100 works in a flash. Acquisitions by the Metropolitan Museum, the Yale Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, and the Eastern Hiroshima Museum of Art, along with his receiving the Grand Prize at the Tea Forms Exhibition (Tanabe Museum), the Contemporary Tea Ceramics Exhibition (Musee Tomo), and the Japan Ceramic Society Award, all in a span of two years, were great honors, but the extensive accolades would eventually take a toll on the artist.

mihara ken with fan.JPG

"I needed to recharge and understand what I wanted to express in the future, and so after August of 2008, I didn't touch a drop of clay until January of 2009."

Mihara's career was hardly a guaranteed success. He first touched clay in college, and was taken by the works of Tomimoto Kenkichi and Kato Tokuro - artists that, at first glance, appear far different from Mihara. Mihara would begin his career under the supervision of Mingei artist Funaki Kenji - yet Mingei and Mihara seemed also to be worlds apart. "I was, in a sense, attracted by the aesthetic simplicity within Mingei. But it was not like I was infatuated with creating functional vessels. Instead, from early on in my career, I tried to figure out how I could close the top of my pots and turn them into non-functional works. Early in my career I became fascinated with the Sodeisha spirit, and their works had a profound influence upon my aesthetics. But as I was a young potter, I needed to make a living. Hence, my works retained an element of functionality. But what was most important to me was creating a silhouette that was borne naturally from within me."


Tomimoto Kenkichi, Kato Tokuro, and the Sodeisha. What each artist or group have in common is the underlying theme that ceramics is a means for self-expression. And for Mihara, the same holds true. Yet moreover, the artist that he is most often compared to is Kamoda Shoji (1933-1983). This is no coincidence. Like Kamoda, Mihara intentionally chooses to discontinue a certain theme (for Mihara, a form, or for Kamoda a patterned motif) and create a new one each and every year. Thus it can be said that the two artists were forever evolving, and like Kamoda, Mihara is brave enough to move forward to challenge new forms without dwelling on former glories. Yet this is not the only similarity. In fact, the technique of covering his ceramic surfaces with silica slip before his 2nd firing is a technique that was pioneered by Kamoda in the 70's. Says Hanazato Mari, curator of Musee Tomo, "I am aware of only two artists in Japan who use this technique -Kamoda and Mihara."

"I began this technique as I wanted to create a barrier between the fire and the actual clay surface. I didn't want the fires to hit the clay directly. Rather, an indirect firing could produce even more weathered and dramatic results. This was my intent," says Mihara.

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"I was afraid to move on after 2008. I had used up my energies in trying to form and fire enough works for two very large exhibitions, and I reached a point where I could not freely create new forms and experiment. So for 2009, I decided that I would only pick up clay when I was absolutely ready to create something new from within me. I had an image in my mind of rounder, more simplistic forms. I wanted to shave off all excess and unnecessary fat from my ceramics. And at the same time, I wanted to experiment again with the new firing technique that I had started with the Kigen series. But this time, I chose to change the timing of reduction and play with slight variances in temperature for each and every work depending on the size and shape of the piece to be fired. By this experimentation, I was able to achieve new landscapes that I could not previously achieve. But again, this is only a beginning. I still don't have a title for the new series. However, I now know which direction I want to take my works. I think no. 5 (see image below) is a good example of a simple form, yet intriguing enough in its slight tensions and curvatures. This is where I'd like to take my works. And this exhibition is the beginning of my new journey."

Mihara Ken's work mirror the mind and soul of the artist. They ripple with an assured serenity, brim with spiritual simplicity, and limn a silent poeticism found in the calm of open oceans after the passing of a storm - much like the oceans of Sugimoto Hiroshi's photographs. And they are moving works that are borne from the depths of Mihara Ken's imagination. His ceramic journey has only just begun.

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From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

The Yufuku exhibition can now be seen in its entirety via the following link. The show ends June 13th.
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Mihara Ken - Forms Borne From Within

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Mihara Ken (1958- 三原研)'s first solo exhibition since his Japan Ceramic Society Award Exhibition in August of 2008 will take place from June 4th to 13th at Yufuku Gallery in Tokyo, Japan (Sun, Mon closed).

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His new works exhibit the beginning of a new chapter in Mihara's career. The artist, much like Kamoda Shoji (who he is often compared to), is hardly complacent in recreating the same forms and firings that had captured much acclaim in recent years. Rather, he wishes to give birth to new forms and firings that "are naturally borne from (his) inner spirit." Thus, no longer will we see these two signature forms that have been widely collected by museums the world over in the past two years alone.

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Rather, his new forms exhibit even greater simplicity and a stark, bulb-esque minimalism that are, in essence, a window into the mind of the artist. Mihara's new works pulsate with a relaxed and assured confidence in his own abilities - it seems as if the artist is well aware that he is now at the height of his powers. Yet where many artists will tend to overdo and outshow his or her abilities at their prime by trying too hard, or in other words, falling towards pretension or awkward contrivement, Mihara steers toward a far more serene aptitude. Furthermore, the new works also exhibit a range of tones, from the poetically austere to vivid oranges and blues, which are a result of a revamped firing technique that he has further tweaked from the experiments of his past Kigen (Genesis) series.

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We hope you enjoy the new works of Mihara Ken, unquestionably one of the leading ceramic artists of his generation. For a detailed preview of the works, or for any enquiries into prices and availability, please email us at info@toku-art.com. We look forward to seeing you at the exhibition.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

ps. In the next few days I will be posting an interview article with Mihara-san. Please stay tuned.

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Mihara Ken's Japan Ceramic Society Award Ceremony

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(Koie Ryoji and Mihara Ken sitting side by side. Two extremely different personalities as evidenced in their works, yet exceptional artists nonetheless)

Sincere thanks to everyone who supported Mihara Ken 三原研 (1958- ) in receiving the Japan Ceramic Society Award for 2007. A pleasant reception party was held on August 22nd at Ginza Wako in commemoration of the awards, and prominent members of the JCS were all there. In fact, a great deal of them came to dinner with us afterwards, including the likes of Fukami Sueharu, one of the greatest contemporary ceramists of Japan and a very good friend of ours, and Kaneko Kenji of the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Indeed, Mihara-san was all smiles.

We will now be offering works made for the JCS Awards Exhibition in early September. Thank you for your patience in regards to the slight delay, and we look forward to sending special previews in a few weeks time.

Until then, we wish you all the best from eastern skies.

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

(I will be traveling from August 27th to Sept. 9th, yet will be able to check email. Please feel free to write with questions or comments)

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Mihara Ken -Japan Ceramic Society Award Exhibition at Wako Department Store

As many of you have happily witnessed, Mihara Ken (三原研 1958- ) was the buzz word during last May's SOFA New York, with all 23 stunning works effectively sold out, and with two works acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum and the Yale University Museum of Art.

Together with consecutive purchases by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY) and the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), along with receiving the prestigious Chanoyu-no-Zokei (Tea Forms) Exhibition Grand Prize and the Japan Ceramic Society Award in 2008, Mihara's growing stature both internationally and domestically is both impressive and dramatic, and calls to mind the rapid rise to fame of such well-respected artists as Fukami Sueharu and Kakurezaki Ryuichi.

In regards to the latter award, Mihara Ken, together with Tokoname extraordinaire Koie Ryoji (鯉江良二 1938- ) who receives the JCS Gold Prize, will be holding an August exhibition in Ginza in commemoration of this recognition.

Toku Art, together with Yufuku Gallery, will be presenting previews of the new and - in many ways historical - JCS works to our clients. If you have not contacted us before and would like a preview, please email us at info@toku-art.com.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

mihara ken izumo may 2.jpg Mihara Ken's home in Izumo, Shimane Prefecture

mihara ken izumo may 3.jpg Mihara Ken with Yufuku's Tom M. Aoyama

mihara ken izumo may.jpg Lake Shinji, important in Shinto mythology and a key landscape of Izumo

mihara ken izumo may 1.jpg Sneak Preview of Mihara Ken JCS Work
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2008 is the Year of Mihara Ken

(Mihara Ken "Kigen" 2008, Award-winning Piece at the Cha-no-yu no Zokei Exhibition, otherwise known as the Tea Forms Exhibition, at the Tanabe Museum in Shimane Prefecture, photo courtesy of the Sanin Chuo Shinpo Newspaper)

It's official. Mihara Ken (三原研 1958-) has been awarded what is considered by many to be the most prestigious ceramic art prize in Japan, the Japan Ceramic Society Prize, for the year of 2007. The Gold Prize Winner, awarded to past winners of the Japan Ceramic Society Prize, goes to Koie Ryoji -which is actually somewhat surprising, in that considering Koie's stature as an artist, I was quite surprised ot find that he hadn't received it years before.

Who decides such awards? This is a good question, and probably one that hasn't been fully answered in English to this day.

The Japan Ceramic Society Prize Committee, comprised of various members of the Japan Ceramic Society, is congregated annually to choose a winner (or winners in situations where there is a tie in points) from a pool of nominees selected by various authorities.

This year's Committee featured such names as Kaneko Kenji and Karasawa Masahiro of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Umesawa Nobuko of the Mushanokoji School of Tea, Kuroda Kazuya of Ginza Kuroda Toen, Kochukyo's Miyajima Kakuzo, art critics/academics Yoshida Kozo, Yuba Tadanori, Nakanodo Kazunobu, Nishida Hiroko and Hasebe Mitsuhiko, and Mori Koichi, one of the current leaders of the today's Japan Ceramic Society.

Perhaps a more interesting (or formidable) list is those members who had nominated artists for the award. Hayashiya Seizo and Inui Yoshiaki, perhaps two of the greatest living academics of Japanese ceramic art, were but a few of the names.

Basically, the Committee gives and tallies points to the list of nominees, and the name with the most points wins.

Competition for this year's prize winner was fierce. Mihara was head to head with another talented artist, Sugiura Yasuyoshi (杉浦康益 1949-) for the top prize, and just slightly edged out the
conceptual potter to reach the memorable pinnacle. A distant third was achieved by the 14th Imaizumi Imaemon.

The praise for Mihara's works voiced by the Committee were nothing less of spectacular. "The artist's powerful yet simple style is completely unique." "Truly innovative firing method gives birth to great depth in color, and the work, although at first glance looks full of age and patina, is actually amazingly fresh and modern." Further, "in terms of contemporary yakishime (unglazed or naturally glazed high-fired stoneware) ware, Mihara shows an uncanny ability."

Not surprisingly, Mihara also recently was awarded the Grand Prize at the annual Tea Forms exhibition at the Tanabe Museum -this is Mihara's second Grand Prize at the show.

These accolades, coupled with public purchases of Mihara's work by the world-famous Metropolitan Museum in New York (2007) and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (2008), are vivid testaments to the growing momentum in interest and praise that is building around the artist.

Completely new works by Mihara Ken will be available at the up-coming SOFA show in NYC, along with the Japan Ceramic Society Award Exhibition to be held in July. Do not miss them -they are some of his best works yet.

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

PS: Upcoming articles will feature a review of the 2nd Musee Tomo Contemporary Tea Forms Awards, new works and a review of Sugiura Yasuyoshi, along with slight briefs on the exhibitions of Kako Katsumi and Kawabata Kentaro... please stay tuned.

ラベル:三原研 Mihara Ken
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Mihara Show an Astounding Success!


All of us at Toku Art and Yufuku will like to thank every person who kindly visited the Mihara Ken exhibition, which came to a successful close last Saturday.

Reviews of the exhibition were fantastic, with some saying that Mihara's works were "his best ever," while others were "simply fascinated by the colorful landscapes and sublime forms" that were distinctly Mihara's.

We are also very happy to announce that one of the most famous museums in the world (its name to be disclosed at a later date) has acquired a Mihara. Congratulations to Mihara Ken! The artist's name will only rise, and we look forward to bringing you more of his works, from eastern skies.

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

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Artistic Archaelogy and the Work of Mihara Ken -Article by Prof. Michael Carrasco

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Izumo ceramicist Mihara Ken (三原研) is an artist of great depth, and his work is almost spellbinding in its tranquil, even solemn, aura.

The show, now approaching an end, has found wide acclaim and robust sales from both fans and critics alike. All of us sensed that Mihara was on to something special, but we were all pleasantly surprised to find his work purchased by some incredibly famous names, for example the owner and director of a leading contemporary art gallery in Tokyo, or by a buyer from a world-class museum that needs no introduction.

Before the show closes, I will like to take the opportunity to introduce an excellent show summary of Mihara and his work, written by Professor Michael Carrasco. Michael, an art historian with a passion for world ceramics (and armed with a sharp eye), has kindly allowed us to use his article for our blog. We believe it is an enlightening overview of Mihara's aesthetics, and we hope you enjoy it. Thank you Michael!

Artistic archaeology and the work of Mihara Ken
by Michael Carrasco

Mihara Ken is an exceptional ceramist whose new work is currently on view in the show “Kigen -A New Beginning”at the Yufuku Gallery in Tokyo. Traditionally, he has crafted his sekki wares through a complicated double firing where the bisqued vessels are encased in a layer of clay, which is removed after the second firing to reveal the rawness of the ceramic body, free of any of the kiln effects caused by direct exposure to the fire. In his most recent work, such as the pieces in the current Yufuku exhibition, he has fired them a third time to bring out an additional range of colors not seen in his previous vessels (see below).

This surface quality of stony weight and subtle texture that he creates through his firing process lends a kind of silent monumentality to what are relatively modest pieces, ranging in form from vegetal inspired sculptural subjects to vessels echoing ancient objects, such as Jou (Chou) and Han dynasty bronze artifacts. In past work, he seems to have created forms that almost suggest a prototype in metal, again similar to certain ancient Chinese ceramics, which were in fact meant to imitate bronze. However, Mihara's vases and bowls do not imitate vessel forms in other media nor should they be seen as doing so; but are, rather, echoes of past moments from the history of art, echoes whose cadence Mihara has captured in his own artifacts. In this sense, his pieces strike me as a kind of artistic archaeology. That is, they communicate an idea of past materiality in a tangible, haptic way that transcends verbal descriptions of ancient forms because his work brings them new life and allows us to experience them afresh.

The pieces represented in the current show move toward greater abstraction and simplicity, perhaps to better emphasis the rich surface textures and variations of color achieved through his innovative firing technique. The segmentation that divides many of these recent pieces horizontally nearly mirror bamboo joints. However, rather than maintain a fixed, identifiable mimetic referent, these facets create simple, compelling surfaces upon which variations in color record the dance of the kiln's fire. To see Mihara's latest work as a surface to be written upon is not entirely devoid of merit when one considers the explicit analogy he makes between clay and paper in his origami pieces. The ambiguity of form enriches the work and provides a dynamic movement that complements the color complexity of his new vessels. Mihara's artistic production represents a significant new direction in contemporary Japanese studio ceramics as well as a profound engagement with ancient forms.

(For more on the excellent work of Prof. Michael Carrasco, please click the links below.)

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Mihara Exhibition Begins Today!


Exciting is an understatement to describe the splendid array of new works exhibited today at Yufuku Gallery.

Today is opening day of the Ken Mihara Exhibition, entitled
"Kigen -A New Beginning".

It amazes me to see so many smiles on faces today, as Mihara's works are of a depth that touches the spirit.

Truly captivating and deep work indeed.

You can find photos to the entire show here, or by clicking the link below.



Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art/Yufuku
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Mihara Ken Exhibition -Starting Next Week


It is amazing how a room filled with art can come alive and be transformed. The same can be said for the spirited new works of Mihara Ken 三原研(1958- ). The quiet yet poignant strength of his pottery could melt the coldest of hearts.

Entitled 起源Kigen -A New Beginning, Mihara has delved into a previously unchallenged realm of firing. By multi-firing his new works, he creates a vivid and colourful landscape that is far more dynamic than anything he's done before. These hues, coupled with his imaginative new forms, make for ceramics brimming with an energy that is Japanese spirituality.

We'll be updating these pages with more photos as the exhibition nears. For enquiries, please contact me at wahei@toku-art.com.

All the best from Tokyo,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

(more photos of new works can be seen in previous entries below)
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起源 A New Beginning

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Japanese pottery has captivated the hearts of collectors the world over for various reasons.

Many are aesthetic ones.

Whether it be the Mingei aesthetic of the Unknown Craftsman of Yanagi Soetsu, or the Wabi-Sabi Way of Tea austerity of Sen-no-Rikyu, Japanese beauty is far from the bombastical. Rather, as the philosopher Immanuel Kant describes in his writings on aesthetics, true beauty is sublime, subtle, and deep. The same can be said for Japanese aesthetics.

Such words can also be used to describe the works of Ken Mihara 三原研(1958 -). His works are rich in sublime textures, with subtle tones of blue and grey encompassing crisp forms inspired by ancient metalworks and pottery. The works capture the winds of the ancients, and undoubtedly embody the spirit of a quiet and mysterious potter.

With numerous awards such as the Grand Prix at the Cha-no-yu-no-Zokei Exhibition (Forms for the Tea Ceremony) to his name,
Mihara has been creating buzz not only in Japan but in Europe and the United States. His fame is only to rise.

As mentioned previously, Toku Art and Yufuku will be holding his solo exhibition from June 7th to the 16th at Yufuku Gallery. We hope you catch a glimpse of his works. If unable to visit, please stay tuned for more uploads of his works on these pages or from the pages of Yufuku

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art

mihara new works 027.jpgmihara new works 022.jpgmihara new works 009.jpgmihara new works 025.jpg
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Preview of Upcoming Ken Mihara Exhibition

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Taking a relatively tattered airplane from Haneda (of which the interior hadn't been renovated since the 80's), I traveled afar to see artist Ken Mihara 三原研 (b.1958), who resides and works in the foothills of Izumo. Izumo, which today is more commonly known as Shimane Prefecture, is a land still coloured with the mysticism and mythology of ancient Japan. In its air and in its rivers, in its lakes and in its hills are the presence of Shinto gods.

At the same time, Mihara-sensei's works, both in their forms and their firings, embody the same primeval, even pristine clarity of an ancient spirituality of days passed.

Yufuku and Toku Art are proud to bring new works by the prominent artist in June. This new series, called Kigen (Beginning), finds Ken Mihara challenging new forms and an entirely new and difficult method of firing, which has added colors and landscapes that were previously unseen in his works.

There will be more in store, so stay tuned.

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平

A New Beginning 起源
Exhibition of Ceramics by Ken Mihara
June 7th (Thur) to June 16th (Sat)
Yufuku Gallery

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