As we welcome the warm gleam of the sun’s rays along with the anticipating start of summer and the buzz of city life, Onishi Gallery is proud to present a collection of some of our represented Japanese artists with a summer group exhibition showcasing a range of works in varying mediums, some of which incorporate a gleam of gold and silver, from urban street art, to traditional metal and ceramic works.
Osumi Yukie (b. 1945), was designated a Living National Treasure in 2015, and is the first female metalwork artist to receive this honor in history. She specializes in tankin, or hammered vessels. Osumi graduated in 1969 from the Faculty of Fine Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts. Afterwards, she studied under Kashima Ikkoku (1898–1996), Sekiya Shirō (1907–1994), and Katsura Moriyuki (1914–1996). She also trained as an artist in the United Kingdom for a year under the sponsorship by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs. She has received many honors and awards, and most recently in 2014, was the first to be awarded a residency at The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art in Washington, D.C.
Nakagawa Mamoru (b. 1947) recognized for his outstanding mastery of zōgan(metal-inlay), was designated a Living National Treasure in 2004 at the age of 56, the second youngest in history. Nakagawa has been a seminal figure in revitalizing metal-inlay as an important genre of decorative arts in Japan since it’s decline during the Meiji Restoration period. He has enlivened the traditionally monotone realm of metal casting with an unprecedented palette of colors.
Since the zōgan technique is said to have originated around Turkey, the artist has traveled there many times, following the Silk Road, the cultural crossroads of eastern and western Asia. In 2008, he visited the United States on a cultural exchange fellowship from Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs. While on the fellowship in Washington, D.C., he taught a master class on the Kaga zōgan technique at the Corcoran College of Art and Design.
Tokuda Yasokichi III (b. 1933 – 2009), Living National Treasure artist, was one of the world’s most famous Kutani potters. Born in Ishikawa prefecture, he was designated a Living National Treasure in 1997 for his mastery of the saiyu glaze technique. Yasokichi III was the one responsible for innovating this glaze technique which was based on traditional Kutani colored glaze enamels. He developed techniques handed down from his grandfather, Tokuda Yasokichi I (1873–1956) and later, his father, Tokuda Yasokichi II (1907–1997). Through his saiyu glaze (vivid enamel glaze) technique, Yasokichi III created his own designs characterized by delicate shading and beautiful color contrasts. His honors include the acceptance into The Issui-kai Pottery and Porcelain Exhibition (1958), and multiple prizes such as the Japan Traditional Art Crafts Association Chairman’s Award (1977), the Grand Prize of The International Pottery and Porcelain Exhibition (1990), and the Medal with Purple Ribbon given by the Emperor of Japan (1993).
Sako Ryuhei (b. 1976), born in Okayama Prefecture, graduated from Hiroshima City University in the Department of Design and Applied Arts in 1999, and then earned his master's degree in 2002 from the same institution. Sako Ryuhei creates pieces using Mokume-gane, a Japanese metal technique dating back to the 17th century. First, very thin different colored alloyed metal sheets are layered and bonded. Then the layers are cut into, or drilled, and reworked. Achieving a successful lamination takes a very skilled artist, and although his work is based on research and experimentation using this tradition process, he manages to create very contemporary pieces. In 2004, he became a member of the Nihon Kōgeikai (Japanese Handcrafts Association) and in 2013, during his first exhibition outside Japan, the Victoria and Albert Museum purchased one of his pieces for their public collection.
Tokuda Yasokichi IV (b. 1961) succeeded her father, Tokuda Yasokichi III, a revered Kutani potter and a “Living National Treasure” artist. Tokuda inherited the techniques of their family style of Kutani porcelain production that features saiyu glazing. Tokuda’s personal sensibility as a female artist lends her a unique perspective on the tradition that is reflected in her choices of color and interpretations of form. Tokuda is one of few female heads of a traditional potting lineage in Japan, due to those succeeding the family are most often male. However, her father decided to pass on the family’s name and practice to her. It was a challenge to make a place for herself as head artist of the family tradition in a still male-dominated social structure, but Tokuda successed in defining her own signature style and creative voice all her own.
Shun Sudo (b. 1977), based in Tokyo, has been deeply influenced by American pop culture from a young age and has spent his 20s traveling around the United States. When he returned home to Japan in his early 30s, he began working on paintings that reference his creative roots both in Japanese culture and the contemporary street culture of Western life. As a result, Sudo developed two artistic styles that reflect the two different aspects of his personality.
Ōhi Toshio Chōzaemon XI (b. 1958) is the 11th generation head of his family’s lineage. He illustrates this legacy of Ōhi ware in bowls and other items for tea ceremonies, both utilitarian and purely aesthetic. Ōhi earned a master’s degree in fine art from Boston University and in addition, his many opportunities aboard enabled him to develop his own perspective and understanding of his family’s Ōhi ware. His sharp forms and nuanced colors are the results of both the long Ōhi ware tradition and the artist’s inspirational journeys around the world. In 2015, he received the Japan Prime Minister Award at The 54th Japan Contemporary Kōgei Exhibition, which was held at Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum in Japan.
Hata Shunsai III (b. 1976) is a metal artist whose family has been rooted in Kanaya-machi for generations. Kanaya-machi is a district in Takaoka, a city in Toyama prefecture, which is steeped in history. This area of Japan has been well known for centuries for its exceptional metal ware crafts. To this day, some of the best metal artists, including Living National Treasures, hail from this area. Hata has carried on his family’s tradition of making teakettles, learning the craft by observing his father at work since his youth. He says, “I select water as my main theme, and I create designs that give an impression of transparency so that the viewer becomes unaware of the underlying iron; I make it a policy to create works unique to myself, by incorporating contemporary elements while maintaining time-honored traditions.” Among the several awards he has received is the NHK Chairman’s Award at The 60th Japan Traditional Art Crafts Exhibition.
Konno Tomoko (b. 1967) in Akita Prefecture, Japan, studied and creates her art all around the world including the pottery town of Tokoname, Japan, Bali, and Hong Kong. She is often surrounded by many botanical forms, which serve as the inspiration for her work. Her art “just seems to materialize from nowhere.” Some of the distinct features in her work are the fresh colors, meticulous detailing, and dynamic flow created with the nerikomi technique. The artist prefers this technique and feels that this way is more natural and allows her to express her energy. One of the prominent new generations of Japanese female ceramicists today, she creates a new trend of contemporary ceramics worldwide. Konno has won many awards in recent years, such as first prize in The 30th Tokoname Chōza Awards and a bronze award at The 9th International Ceramics Competition in Mino, both in 2011. Her work was also selected in 2013 for The 58th Premio Faenza in Italy.