With thoughts on Goryeo:A Journey from Muan
November 1, 2013 – November 23, 2013
Gallery Closed : Sunday, Monday, Public holiday (except for 23rd)
October 31, 2013
November 1, 2013 18:00〜20:00
Shin Murata Artist Talk Interviewer: Noriko Miyamura
November 23, 2013 14:00〜
Shin Murata × Takashi Murakami Talk Show
Catalog “Shin Murata With Thoughts on Goryeo: A Journey from Muan”
Publication date: November 1
※The catalog will be sold at the gallery for the duration of the show.
In Search of Ubu
—The Initial State of Mind Vol.1
Ⅰ. The Ultimate Ceramic Art of Shin Murata
What is the ultimate in ceramic art that Shin Murata is striving to achieve?
According to him, it is the creation of historic works that leave a mark even if no one remembers who made them. This embodies, in a sense, the very philosophy of Yanagi Sōetsu’s※1“Mingei (Folk Art).” On the other hand, Murata does not shy away from speaking of his love for Kitaōji Rosanjin※2, the ceramicist and gastronome, who not only proudly signed his works but also successfully expanded the brand bearing his name to include vessels he never even touched.
As a respectable member of the upper-class, Yanagi did not actively participate in the worldly acts of buying and selling. Instead, he saw something in rustic and unaffected objects; that is, he rediscovered beauty in the earthy farming implements and everyday tools found in the Japanese countryside, at a time when they were obscure and considered valueless. His philosophy was to pick up, one at a time, with a natural historian’s eye, those objects made by people who had probably never even felt the existence of art in their lives and to discover something singularly unique and fresh among one in tens of thousands of items.
Naming this philosophy “Mingei (Folk Art),” he artfully worked on and with cultural figures to spread its awareness.
Yanagi was Picasso’s contemporary and was taken with a certain type of ‘world art’ that was being sought-after. At the same time, he rediscovered values in the broad interpretation of form employed by the founder of Sado (the Way of Tea), Sen no Rikyu※3, that managed to capture that quintessence.
Challenging the generally-held notion that the medium of ceramics was synonymous with elaborately crafted vessels from China, Yanagi assertively applied the values of wabisabi to the then-undiscovered Korean white porcelains in order to test the permanence of the aesthetic. Armed with the cutting-edge philosophy of the time, he essentially performed the magic trick of summoning treasures by identifying qualities with his discerning eye.
Rosanjin, in contrast, made his name as an ignoble artist, both for his theories and his practice. With his insatiable quest for the gourmet and an eye for antiques as his weapon, he cozied up to the famous and the influential, learning how to brand his name.
He eventually established a members-only gastronomic pantheon, Hoshigaokasaryo, which he made into such a great success that he had a franchise operation in Osaka in addition to the original Tokyo location. He also implemented a mailorder food business through department stores and made a lot of profit—which he in turn used to snatch up antiques. Using connections forged through antique collection and ceramics, he researched and excavated the remains of kilns from the past. His collection consisted of “blue-chip” works matching those in Yanagi’s collection, based on his faith in pursuing time-honored works.
He was eventually banished from the enormously popular Hoshigaoka-saryo for misappropriating its profits for his antiques. He involuntarily started a life as a ceramicist in rural Kamakura, but through his idiosyncratic ideas and network of friends, he became successful in this new trade as well.
In order to obtain anything and everything in his hands, he lit fire to a soul filled with desires hundreds of times more powerful than anyone else’s; he set his eyes on upper-class society and obsessed himself with money-making, producing and releasing an enormous amount of work of varying quality. Despite being reviled for the shameless act of making molds of his popular hand-formed pots, reproducing them, and selling countless copies, Rosanjin was far from deterred.
Rather, in response he endlessly hurled abuses at those around him, sang his own praises, became mired with a bad reputation as a lowly human being, and lost his oncebrilliant associations. Though his more well-versed friends once nominated him for the then-newly established honor of ‘living national treasure’, Rosanjin firmly declined the offer and concluded his lonely life unrecognized. After Rosanjin the twisted human being was gone from this world, however, the true value of the artworks he left behind seemed only to increase. His works remain intensely fresh, if not growing more brilliant, and their popularity in the world of ceramic art is still unchallenged today.
It can be said that the outburst of these new principles, fired off by Yanagi and Rosanjin, were strong reactions against Sado, the Way of Tea, which at the time was considered the supreme Japanese aesthetic. They were each repulsed by the principles set out by Sado’s founder Sen no Rikyu and by the rigid and substance-less value system of the early-twentieth-century Sado world that merely flaunted its brand.
And yet, each attempted to pay his utmost respect to the supreme form of Japanese beauty Rikyu had devised; they altered the forms and changed their perspectives, frantically pursuing beauty in order to close in on Rikyu. The results of these pursuits manifested in each of their lives. For Murata, the righteous path for the contemporary ceramicist lies in shedding light on the freshness and magic common to Yanagi and Rosanjin, locating the source of beauty, and vigorously pushing toward it. So what exactly is this righteousness, this great principle?
※1 Yanagi Sōetsu (also Muneyoshi, 1889-1961)
A Japanese philosopher. Shedding light on utilitarian folk crafts (mingei), which had been neglected as art, he started the Mingei (Folk Art) Movement together with ceramicists Hamada Shōji and Kawai Kanjirō. He focused on everyday tools, handcrafts, and Buddhist statues made by unknown artisans, especially from Hokkaido, Tohoku, Okinawa, and Taiwan. He also actively collected Korean ceramics and antiques. In 1936, he established the Nihon Mingei-kan (Japan Folk Craft museum). He is popularly known as Yanagi Sōetsu. His first-born son is Sori Yanagi, the industrial designer.
※2 Kitaōji Rosanjin (1883-1959)
Artist of multifaceted talent, he flourished in ceramics, calligraphy, letter carving, painting, lacquer art, and culinary arts, among other things. He aspired to be a calligrapher but became better known for the seals he made for the masters of Nihonga painting. He later opened an exclusive, members-only restaurant, Hoshigaoka-saryo, and served food on the vessels he made, vigorously pushing his career as a ceramicist. His wild behavior created constant commotions, but his vessels have become posthumously popular among chefs and are traded at high prices.
※3 Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591)
The tea master who established Sado (the Way of Tea) as it is known today. Active during the Warring States Period (mid-fifteenthto late sixteenth-centuries) a nd A zuchi -Momoy ama Period (1573-1603), he served the rulers Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He per fected the concept of wabicha, shedding all the excesses from the tea ceremony, and invented Raku teacups and the low nijiriguchi entrance to a tearoom.