Form and Surface ceramics exhibition: ‘Were it not for shadows there would be no beauty’

PUBLISHED: 15:00 01 November 2017

Yoko Komae in studio

Yoko Komae in studio


Tradition and modernity, memory and invention are explored in an exhibition of Japanese ceramics at Maud&Mabel in Hampstead.

Mizuyo Yamashita Mizuyo Yamashita

Ceramics have played a vital role throughout Japan’s history in reflecting the culture, philosophy and rituals says Form&Surface curator Clare Farrow.

Even in today’s hi-tech urban world, the art form, done by hand with a wheel and a kiln, “is a thread that connects Japan to its past and ancient traditions”.

Seven contemporary artists living in Japan and the UK exhibit in the show whose title comes from Junichiro Tanizaki’s 1933 book In Praise of Shadows.

“I was invited by Maud & Mabel to work on this small, beautiful exhibition, which reminds me of a line from Tanizaki’s book: ‘Were it not for shadows there would be no beauty,’” says Farrow.

Yuta Segawa Yuta Segawa

“The ceramic art is considered in the context of Japanese traditions and literature, but also the diverse influences on their work, from Lucie Rie to Grayson Perry, with an emphasis on nature, experimentation, the imperfect, and the accidental too.”

Yuko Komae thinks her traditional Tsubo narrow mouthed jars “bring many powers and healing to the owner”. While Kenta Anzai specializes in handcrafted urns, tea bowls and sake cups including black pieces which use a glaze infused with urushi, a Japanese lacquer that creates an “aged” surface. Each piece gains a unique character through a time consuming process of polishing and refining.

At Akiko Hirai’s studio at Stoke Newington’s Chocolate factory, she fires her domestic pieces in a gas kiln using wood ash for surface decoration and says “imperfection makes people imagine things”.

“I like people to touch and use these pieces, and to grow a special attachment to them. I am interested in light and shadow, the tones of the surface, and texture. The surface effects on my pots are created in the firing process. I don’t paint on the surface. It’s the flame that leaves the shadows.”

When making her tea bowls she thinks “about the seasons, or a particular flower,” while large pieces, such as Moon Jar, “are directly influenced by the moon or sky on the day of making.”

London based Kaori Tatebayashi hails from a family who traded pottery and says “once the clay has been fired time is trapped in the piece”.

“I hope the quietness and simplicity of my work allows it to fit into how different people live and to inspire pleasurable use. I want my work to embody nature in some small, intimate way so that it makes someone’s daily life slightly more special.”

Form&Surface runs at Maud & Mabel in Perrin’s Court from November 1.

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