Greater Jars and Ordinary Vessels:Turning Fray into Faculty

Atsushi Ogata

November 25, 2017 – December 20, 2017
GALLERY HOURS :11:00 – 19:00
RECEPTION:Saturday, November 25, 2017 18:00 –

A message from Takashi Murakami

I have been involved with Atsushi Ogata since he first held his solo show at our Hidari Zingaro gallery in Nakano in 2012. It has been five years now.

I had taken to Ogata back then for the following four reasons:

  1. He left an editor-in-chief position at a magazine in his mid-thirties to pursue ceramics.
  2. In his lifestyle ceramics, he emphasizes flavorful or nuanced expressions.
  3. According to him, his hands are small; that is, he doesn’t have a potter’s hands. He entered the world of ceramics later than most, and despite being aware that his belated start as a ceramicist was a disadvantage, his stance has been to take on the challenge.
  4. His clumsy yet scrupulous personality shows through in his works.

Following the first exhibition, he continued to respond to a number of orders from overseas customers, producing a large quantity of itazara (square plates) among other works. I believe he readily and kindly accepted such demanding orders in the spirit of taking on a challenge to push his own limits. Our relationship was such that I asked at one point whether, if I offered him the large Kaikai Kiki Gallery space in Azabu for his next show, he might create enormous works, at a scale never seen before and he could barely make. He was game.

There is a facility called the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park (Shiga Prefecture’s administrative institution that offers artist residencies) where other ceramic artists such as Otani Workshop and Yuji Ueda, who have also shown with Kaikai Kiki, create their works. The facility has a gigantic kiln that can fire works up to two meters high. Under the sound leadership of its generous and inspired director, Michio Sugiyama, who used to produce ceramics in the United States, the facility was allowing ever larger and increasingly complex ceramic works to be produced. Given this, we agreed that Ogata should create his enormous works there.

Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park has been in the limelight as the place where Yoshitomo Nara started making his ceramic works. Nara has left a significant footstep by producing his ceramic works at the Ceramic Cultural Park; as a painter and sculptor, he was uninhibited by conventional principles of a ceramicist and had an idea to start using an internal structure, a “rim,” when creating large-scale ceramic works.

Perhaps this technique predated Nara at the Ceramic Cultural Park, but his actually utilizing the technique to produce one large-scale work after another allowed the others to follow suit. Ogata’s enormous jars also utilize the rim technique.

Although Ogata’s works have the appearances of jars, internally they are sculptural in that they have rims, the architectural frames intended for upholding certain forms. Clays that result in the surface texture Ogata prefers are necessarily soft, and with squarely built jars, they wouldn’t hold shapes beyond a certain size. In order to prioritize the finished texture while maintaining the intended shapes, rims were a necessity. In a sense, these works can be deemed to be approaching sculptures merely borrowing the forms or designs of jars.
I understand from Ogata that he was questioning these sculpture-like jars yet he actively attempted to align himself with them in the process of production. On the one hand, it seemed that he wondered whether he really wanted to create such sculpture-like works. On the other hand, he said, he was trying to explore whether the rims themselves may manage to exist as jars, after the jars made around the rims explode. (this was as of October 21st).

Whatever else they may be, these are colossal jars. There is a phrase used within the ceramics world, “You no bi,” or “the beauty of functionality.” Ogata’s creations this time are a world removed from any concepts revolving around this idea. And so on October 10th, after the enormous works were completed for the exhibition, I received Ogata’s artist statement for the show. The writing was about hokorobi, or fray.

Contrary to my expectation that he would talk about the physical process of creating the monumental works and how enthusiastic he felt after creating such daring jars without inhibition, he expressed his renewed admiration for the palm-size vessels he arrived at through the experience. This surprised me. In a sense, however, this was a matter of course. After all, Ogata had burnt out as a magazine editor and had found solace in practical ceramic works that fit in his hands.
Ironically, then, it seems that by producing the colossal works through his involvement with me, Ogata gained a chance to re-examine the world of palm-sized, utilitarian ceramics that was his origin.

Through his enormous works, Ogata arrived at his determination to pursue anew his palm-sized ceramics, which was not a result I had expected. Ogata has said, however, that this was a project in which he discovered his undulating— or rather, spiraling— interest between things large and small, small and large, and that through this exhibition he has found his new path forward in this back and forth between the large jars and small vessels. In this sense, this exhibition has become quite indicative for me in thinking about how I will continue my involvement with the ceramics industry.

This is because what I wish to do is to destroy the existing industry norms and values to witness the germination of something entirely different, or perhaps to share in the experience of the artists’ demonic desires bubbling over.
Therefore I had assumed that, even as the works were created within the confined worldview of “lifestyle ceramics”, eventually the sense of a desire for creation would spring up and tear those boundaries down; but in Ogata’s case, it seems he did a complete 360 and ended up returning back to the palm of his hand.

I assume that for Ogata, his way forward is the continuing pursuit of the world of fray, or hokorobi, but I am filled with gratitude from my heart that he has created in earnest a number of monumental works on this occasion and feel something akin to destiny. I sincerely hope you will come and encounter in person the body of enormous works born of such destiny, as well as the practical vessels that have awoken to the idea of fray/hokorobi.

Takashi Murakami

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