‘Untitled’ vessel, 2019
THIS LARGE HAND-MADE vase, comprising various clays sourced in Japan’s Shiga Prefecture, is emblematic of the environment in which it was created. Its complex texture results from celebrated ceramicist Kazunori Hamana’s unique mineral-based glazes – as well as from nature. Left outside for an extended period, the bespoke vessel was exposed to the elements and gained a rich blackened patina. Though transfigured, the design’s underlying shape is indicative of the prehistoric Japanese tsubo jar, traditionally used to store and process food.
Intent on preserving craft traditions that are quickly disappearing, Hamana has always turned to rural settings for inspiration. From an early age, he was unimpressed by urban life and the ubiquity of mass production. The artist found strength in the different vernaculars of the Japanese regions and was particularly drawn to the timeworn farmhouses he encountered along the way. As the son of architects, an intuitive understanding of construction and tectonics permeates his approach, as well as an ability to reinterpret time-tested archetypal forms. The ageing treatment applied to his vessels evokes the smoke-stained wooden walls found in these structures, which endow them with history and personality – similarly, each of his works expresses a different character.
In many ways, Hamana establishes a connection to Japan’s diverse and deeply ingrained heritage through an appreciation of nature. His somewhat fatalist and process-driven approach incorporates a range of methodologies and concepts such as Wabi Sabi – the acceptance of transience and imperfection. “Clay is natural; it changes. I don’t want to fight with nature, so I follow it,” he explains. “At first, I was designing all the time, but I have since stopped. Of course, I have an idea, but the result depends on the weather and temperature.”
Presented on the other wise of the world, albeit in a natural setting, by international gallery Blum & Poe, The ‘Untitled’ vessel features in this year’s Object & Thing fair. Mounted at Elliot Noyes’s iconic Connecticut house for its second annual edition, this event focuses on small collectible objects and how they animate different environments. Some of the displays at this showcase focus on creating symbiotic relationships between the designs and the architecture, while others play with juxtaposition. As a testament to modernist principles, Noyes’s home embraces its natural surroundings as much as possible, a perfect context in which to display Hamana’s latest works.