2008年11月30日

Of Passions and Porcelain

Kondo Takahiro.jpg

Towering talent and an insatiable ambition coalesce in the porcelain works of Kyoto artist Kondo Takahiro (b. 1958 近藤高弘). Since his experimental Yufuku exhibition in 2004 which first found the artist combining porcelain with glass, Kondo has persevered to change the way we perceive ceramic art: does the material of ceramics presume or self-impose itself under the aegis of craft? Should or shouldn't Japanese contemporary ceramics, in particular the ceramics of conceptual artists like Kondo, be placed in the same pantheon as sculpture, painting and other examples of fine art?

These are difficult and continously under-examined questions that contemporary Japanese ceramists must face in the 21st century, and are questions that pioneers such as Yagi Kazuo and the Sodeisha did not actually answer head-on during their prime. Kondo is one of a handful of leading Japanese ceramists who are attempting to elevate Japanese ceramics onto a higher plateau of recognition, particularly within the eyes of the West.

My views in regards to this subject have changed somewhat in the past few years, and perhaps not coincidentally, I have been pleasantly surprised with the evolution of Kondo Takahiro as an artist. His first mixed media works at Yufuku were coldly geometric and uninspired at best, and my review of his porcelain at his 2005 show was also lukewarm, perhaps because I was not convinced that his ambition was equivalent to the quality of his ceramics.

However, Kondo Takahiro's most recent exhibition at Kyoto and Tokyo Takashimaya earlier this month (held in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Takashimaya's art gallery) was an absolute tour de force. Entitled "Gold and Silver," Kondo deftly amalgamated his signature silver and gold mist glazing with porcelain canvasses that were elegantly sculpted to a brisk and rhythmical minimalism. I greatly enjoyed the show, as well as my colorful conversation (perhaps debate is a better word) with the ever-eloquent Kondo-san in regards to the present state of contemporary Japanese ceramics, which in fact lasted nearly 2 hours long on the gallery floor (which may have bewildered the many gallery staff of Takashimaya).

Ambition is a difficult potion to wield effectively. However, I find that a modicum level of ambition is a prerequisite for success in most professions, and contemporary ceramics is no different. Too much can blind one's eyes, yet we must also remember that the virtues of humility are hardly antogonistic with the qualities inherent in ambition - in fact, the overwhelming majority of current and past Living National Treasures have embodied and manipulated both characteristics to their advantage.

Kondo Takahiro, in my opinion, is now at the height of his powers, and his recent works ripple with a seductive life energy that is in part charged with a provocative ambition, yet at the same time, is balanced with a cool, even objective humility towards his porcelain. Japanese ceramics today may now be at a tipping point in regards to both global recognition and stylistic trends. Perhaps Kondo Takahiro's works may help provide the answers to the many questions that Japanese ceramics have been fettered by, and ultimately, tip the art into a new and fascinating direction. Time will be our judge.

From eastern skies,

Wahei Aoyama 青山和平
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posted by Toku Art Limited at 22:50| Comment(0) | Kondo Takahiro (Kyoto Porcelain) | 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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