2008年11月20日

Tomorrow's Celadon, Today

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I traveled to Taipei the other day for both business and pleasure (albeit admittedly more the latter than the former). T'was my second time to Taiwan, and with each visit I made sure to do 2 things: eat like a drunken monkey, and make a pilgrimage to the National Palace Museum (NPM).

Perhaps the West may not be accustomed to the notion that the NPM is one of the greatest museums in the world. What, a world-class museum in Taipei?!

Yes, in Taipei, of all places.

After the Kuomintang was effectively vanquished by Mao's CCP in December 1949, Chang Kai-Shek decided to flee the mainland and set up government on the island of Taiwan (effective Jan. 1950). Yet before his historic exit, Chang and the KMT wisely remembered to take (borrow, steal, feel free to plug in a verb) the finest treasures of China's 4000-year-history, well-kept within the ancient walls of the Forbidden City in Beijing, to horde for themselves in Taipei.

What remains today is a collection of some of the most breath-taking treasures of civilization, and a brilliant reminder why the Japanese had long admired the Chinese throughout history. The art, ranging from ancient bronzewares to jade, features amazingly rare copies of calligraphy by the legendary Wang Xizhi, paintings, and of course, ceramics.

I find the NPM's collection of celadon to be particularly exceptional, and its Sung-Dynasty Ju Ware have inspired a legion of artists ranging from lacquer artist Suzuki Mutsumi to celadon artist Kawase Shinobu.

Celadon was ceramics fit for emperors, and today, we find several Japanese ceramists like Kawase creating contemporary works for today's emperors (meaning you and me). Yet unfortunately, a great majority of celadon artists are confined to traditional/rigid forms of yesterday, without challenging or testing the limits of form for tomorrow.

However, one celadon artist who is pushing new ground and, as a result, is finding a growing following in Japan is Takagaki Atsushi (b. 1946- 垣篤). The Yokohama-based artist, although hardly young, has recently hit a stride with his celadon, in particular for his unusual forms made by conjoining clay slabs together. This technique has allowed Takagaki to expand his creativity and reach for a greater dynamism/movement in form, and happily, collectors and critics are taking notice. We recently had an exhibition of Takagaki at Yufuku, and I was surprised to find such a positive response from the likes of Kaneko Kenji, head of the Crafts Gallery at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, as well as the much-revered Hayashiya Seizo, perhaps the most prominent living Japanese ceramic art critic of our generation and the honorary director of the Tokyo National Museum.

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I've always been attracted to artists who do not shackle or limit their creativity by simply copying styles of days past. Like any other artform, there is much room for evolution and progression within ceramic art. I look forward to Takagaki-san's continued success.

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With best regards from Tokyo,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
Toku Art Limited
posted by Toku Art Limited at 15:49| Comment(0) | Takagaki Atsushi (Celadon) | 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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