If you’ve visited my home, you know I have a “thing” for ceramics. Particularly Japanese ceramics. If I can add some fresh foliage or flowers to the vessel, my aesthetic needs are completely satisfied.
This powerful attraction began on my first trip to Japan in the 1980’s. I was in an art gallery that displayed ceramics. It was one of those aha! moments. I saw for the first time the power of the earth’s clay in a master’s hand. I was hooked, astounded, excited. This was new territory for me.
I returned home certain that I too was meant to be a ceramacist. How else to explain my strong reaction? I took it as a sign. Follow your bliss, if you remember that! I quickly enrolled in a ceramics class at a neighboring community college. I just as quickly learned that centering a blob of clay on a wheel in a class taught by a disinterested and overworked teacher was not something I had the patience for, at least under those circumstances. End of promising but short lived ceramics career fantasy, but not the end of the love affair.
Over the years, my guide and guru for all things ceramics, is Robert Yellin, gallerist, man about town and connoisseur extraordinaire here in Kyoto. He’s introduced me to contemporary Japanese ceramic artists and brought me to their studios. Pure delight. I’ve purchased some wonderful pieces of art as a result of these experiences. The works live with me and continue to inspire me and bring pleasure. Most of the ceramicists I’ve met go back several generations! Their apprenticeships and studies have gone on for decades.
When I learned that the Nat’l Museum of Modern Art here in Kyoto had a very large exhibit of Kawai Kanjiro’s work, it became a must see. Kanjiro is probably one of the most famous of Kyoto ceramicists. It’s impossible to overstate this man’s talent and influence here.
“Kawai’s output was so tremendous that it almost seems as if some supernatural force was guiding him. The Buddhist term tariki refers to such a reliance on grace, and it appears that Kawai had embraced it. ” R. Yellin
The museum gallery was quite large. Kanjiro’s pieces sat on shelves as far as the eye could see. I want to give you a taste of his work that I saw yesterday, obviously a poor substitute for seeing the original, but still compelling, I hope! (In the interest of keeping things simple, and not scholarly, I’ve omitted the dates, etc. for each work.)