Visiting Kako Katsumi's Kiln

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(One of Kako's earliest works)

Summer is melting away an empty hope for a relatively low electricity bill. The sun has been fierce and most unkind, esp. during my travels throughout Japan in the past few weeks. However, some of the new art and artists I've encountered have been truly inspiring, and my senses were pleasantly awed.

It would be premature to announce any of these artists yet, but please rest assured that their time to take the world stage will surely come.

In the meantime, please find some recent photos taken in early July from the kiln of Kako Katsumi (加古勝己1965- ), an inherently Kyoto artist who works in Tamba's Sasayama region. Kako-san kindly invited my father and I to visit Tamba, and we happily acquiesced.

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(Kako is currently working in a rural house built more than 100 years ago)

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(The rolling hills of Tamba with lush forests)

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(Kako's newest experimental kiln, and a peek inside his studio)

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Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited
posted by Toku Art Limited at 16:48| Comment(0) | Kako Katsumi (Kyoto) | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする


Artistic Inflorescence in Red - Review of Kako Katsumi's 10th Tobu Exhibition

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Kako Katsumi's 10th Tobu Department Store Exhibition is, quite simply, the most impressive exhibition of works ever assembled by the artist in his entire career, and is a grand and sweeping symphony of ceramic art that is persuasive evidence of Kako's new-found maturity and confidence as an artist.

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Ambition is often a two-edged sword: it may propel an artist's art to heights that were once only dreamed of, or it may simply expose a milieu of empty grandiosity that quickly escapes our memory.

Kako is far removed from being "ambitious" in the sense of some narscissistic, self-promotional gimmickry, of bling-bling, of selling out for sale's sake. Rather, his ambition is grounded in the utmost humility, and this inner energy constantly pushes Kako to better himself, to create new art, to challenge and overcome the constraints that bind his artistry.

Challenge is an understatement. Kako had already made a name for himself by making functional, user-friendly vessels such as guinomi, yunomi and plates, and has been widely recognized as making excellent tea wares, in particular the incredibly difficult chawan, of which he had received the top prize at the Tea Forms Exhibition (Tanabe Museum's Chanoyu-no-zokei Exhibition) in 2004 for his Awayuki style.

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Rather than clinging to the coattails of past glories (namely his Korihada, Awayuki, Black and Shizukumon styles), Kako has discarded not only his authentically original repertoire, but the possibilities (and limitations) of the wood-burning kiln for the control and efficiency of an electric kiln. In a sense, this choice was a renunciation of his past works, and moreover, the lessons learned from his teacher, Kyoto potter Iwabuchi Shigeya. Perhaps it was a purification, a return to innocense, if you will, that freed the artist from the fetters of preconception. It can be said that Kako's creatitivy was sparked by the newly-kindled fires of his electric kiln.

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Furthermore, he has eschewed the entrapments of small utilitarian works to place emphasis on the beauty and grandeur of larger, more sculptural forms. This has worked to Kako's advantage. The artist already had a knack for balance and style, as exhibited in his award-winning works of the past. However, with this exhibition, Kako has transposed and advanced such stylism into far more adventurous territory, and as a result, has triumphantly surpassed the expectations of this author. Kako's new works brim with both movement and sharpness, and are not only bolder, but bigger in size, presence, and interestingly enough, elegance.

Perhaps even more pleasing is the inflorescence of his new muse - the color red. Originally inspired by Kako's infatuation with Jomon Period Dogu earthenware, it had been the artist's wish to recreate the vague red color of the ancients in modern times.

I would go so far as to claim that his initial debut with his so-called Haikaku (ash red) style was merely experimental at best. As commented in my review of Kako's previous Tobu exhibition, the artist did not seem to be able to strike a convincing balance between form and decorative motif. His forms were uninspired, and his patterns lacked the imagination and continuity which were the hallmarks of past legends -Tomimoto and Kamoda in particular. He seemed to be constrained by the contraptions of a new color scheme, and a rigid awkwardness could be found to many of the works.

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A far superior harmony between form and pattern is struck in this exhibition. Kako executes his red motif with a breezy playfulness, often times covering the entirety of a work's body, at other times just briefly entertaining a piece in sweet, staccato brevity. Where one may confuse complexity for
technical or artistic superiority, Kako instills in his motifs a poetic simplicity. Ultimately, Kako's new works reveal an artist at ease with one's self, finally confident in his powers, and is expanding the boundaries to an innate creativity that he has only begun to tap. Now in his 40's, Kako has finally hit a stride.

Red was the color which pushed Kako to abandon his wood kiln for an electric one. To achieve the faded sanguine in his mind's eye, Kako needed to fire his works for 3 different periods -first a bisque firing, a second hon-yaki that reaches 1250 degrees celsius for 10 to 11 hours, and a third firing after the application of red enamel glaze. In that sense, it can be said that his works take 3 times as much effort as his previous works. This new technique, coupled with his blended Shigaraki clay, also adds the pleasing, sandpaper-esque textures of firing that are akin to the works of Mihara Ken. Both clay flavor and firing enhance the elements of depth and patina to Kako's forms and palettes, and thus lead to a captivating ceramic balance that is a prerequisite of excellence.

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(Work featured on cover of DM letter)

To be quite honest, I did not expect that Kako could achieve such a rapid evolution in merely a year. However, the artist's new work dug deeply into this reviewer's heart, and convinced this writer that he was witnessing the birth of something special. Kako, humble as ever, may not yet sense his own artistic renaissance - the simple yet irreversible truth that he may be very close to being on the cusp of greatness. Serious collectors - I strongly recommend that you run to Tobu before it's too late.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited

kako katsumi 056.jpg (Kako Katsumi, pictured right)

(For work inquiries, please also contact Toku Art).

posted by Toku Art Limited at 21:53| Comment(0) | Kako Katsumi (Kyoto) | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする


Review of Kako Katsumi's Recent Tobu Exhibition

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The last time I had visited the yearly Tobu Department Store exhibition of Kyoto ceramic artist Kako Katsumi (加古勝己, born 1965) was in 2004. Since then, 3 years had passed before my eyes with incredible speed, and sometimes I find myself gripping with the reality that things have changed.

Life finds us stumbling upon an often-simultaneous collision between coincidence and serendipity. My departure from the art world coincided with the passing of my dear friend Nishida Jun, for who I had envisioned a world of greatness on par with some of the greatest names in ceramics, such as Yagi Kazuo and Kamoda Shoji. He was taken from this world much too soon.

Another young artist that I have much respect for is Kako. He is forever humble, and never complacent in his pursuit of new techniques and forms.

The last time I had spoken to him was at a simple izakaya (pub) in Ikebukuro, and we drank cool draughts of beer as we talked about various ceramic topics.

At that time, Kako found himself at a crossroads. He had already achieved a name for himself via his two main styles of Shizukumon and Kourihada, and this establishment can be seen via his receiving the Award of Excellence at the Chanoyu-no-zokei Tea Forms Exhibition in 2004.

But Kako understood that sheer repetition of old ideas, even if they are good ones, can lead to placid ennui.

Thus he embarked on building a new kiln in Sasayama in Hyogo Prefecture (which, coincidentally, is adjacent to where my wife grew up, and is where my great-grandmother is from), as well as pursuing new styles to call his own.

The 2007 Tobu exhibition finds Kako experimenting with a new palette of red overglaze, which is reminscent of older Japanese earthenware. He calls it Haikaku(灰赫).

Not only does the artist attempt to broaden his color schemes, but it is in this color that Kako has aggressively tried to express a new dimension to his ceramics.

The artist succeeds in many ways, esp. in the examples shown here. In particular, the wavy patterns I found quite mesmerising. If Kako could simulate this pattern upon an entire body of work (perhaps evoking the works of Kamoda), I thought this new "red" phase could truly blossom into even greater work.

What I hope Kako strives for in his next exhibition is the smoother integration between patterns and forms. I think Kako has the technique to create more dynamism in his clay bodies, and I look forward to seeing such occur in greater frequency at his next exhibition.

Please contact us for any enquiries on Kako Katsumi's work.

All the best from Tokyo,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art

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All photos courtesy of Kako Katsumi.
posted by Toku Art Limited at 15:34| Comment(0) | Kako Katsumi (Kyoto) | 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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