Current Archie Bray Foundation artist-in-residence creates absolutely stunning environments and objects -- which he refers to as romantic, fictional archeologies -- that explore the medium of ceramic from the perspective as a universal language of history, culture, and art. Our fabulous interview touches on when he first started working with ceramics, its blurry categorization between craft and fine art, and what his process is like. Much more at the links below!
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I'd love to know a bit about you! What first interested you in art, or influenced you to begin making it?
My parents are both painters, and I grew up in their studio space. I loved to watch the progress of work. Also, I loved to visit the gallery space and drink the tea in that space. So art was a very familiar thing for me, without knowing what art was.
You work primarily in ceramics and are currently a long-term artist-in-residence at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, MT. Have you always been interested in ceramics?
Yes and no. At the first, I wanted to be a painter or illustrator, but I failed the entrance exam of the painting major, and I enrolled to the craft major, which is when I found ceramics as my material.
Since I started working with ceramics, I found the potential that ceramics has of being an international language. I have been interested in the historical and the cultural value of ceramics. Ceramics exist everywhere on the world, and different culture use it in different ways. I think having a national language of the ceramics can open my future door wider and internationally.
Yes, now I am working internationally thorough ceramic art world.
Many of your pieces take the idea of a traditional ceramic vase and "explode" it, bringing the idea of the vessel's contents to life. Can you elaborate a bit on your practice? Where do you derive your ideas from?
Culture is an important topic for me. This series “Cultural Mutation” is about mixing cultural differences. To clarify my idea of amalgamation, I used the most iconic ceramic form, the vessel, as a foundation.
From this familiar thing, I make unexpected mutated forms to generate juxtaposition. The forms and color of my work come from Japanese and American cultural influences, such as comics, movies, music, graphics, TV shows, and more.
What is your process like? How much time do you typically spend on a work?
I describe my process of ceramic-making as a “3-dimensional doodling”
Usually, I start my work without any sketches. Like a 3D-printer, I pile the clay coil and decide or find the form in the progress. Usually, the form would be something unexpected from the beginning. I enjoy the process of exploring the new forms.
Clay is a like babysitting work; artists have to take care of their dry and firing.
I spend a lot of time working on one piece, but I work on multiple pieces at the same time. Depending on the size, the time I spend will be different.
How would you describe your studio or workspace?
I think my studio is clouded. I like to keep my studio busy, but always studio space is the problem for me. I wish I had a bigger space.
I am now resident artist of the Archie Bray Foundation, which is the one of the most famous ceramic residencies in the world. Facilities and my peers are great. Always I am surrounded by the most influential artists. The outside view is gorgeous, too. I can breathe the fresh air always.
Do you need the picture which I am in?? or picture from the out side??
What is the best advice you've ever received so far? Is there any advice you have chosen to ignore, that you're glad you did?
Jun Kaneko, the ceramic artist, advised me when I visited him, to “Be brave, and do not be afraid to do. There is nothing thats stops you and says DO NOT. Do what you want to challenge yourself,” or something like that. It was one of the reason why I came to US from Japan.
How would you define "success?”
I really understand that everyone has different goals and idea of success.
For me, success is being free and being able to travel all over the world through my art practice.
I love to communicate more with people through my art works. I would like to have my solo shows in different countries or big cities.
In the future, I would like to act as the bridge between different countries, cultures and people. That is one of my goals.
Ceramics have gained popularity in recent years as a fine art form, but are often considered "craft" in many respects; do you find this to be a challenge?
There is still a huge gap between “fine art” and “ceramic art”. Even ceramic artists self-define as being fine artists, still many galleries, collectors, audiences (including artist themselves) categorize ceramics as different from fine art.
Many of my hero artists began to break those barriers, and emerged into the contemporary art field. My challenge is finding the breakthrough between the fine art and the ceramic art.
What are you working on right now?
Recently, I have been working on semi-figurative works in larger scales.
My new series “Romantic Archeologies” is inspired by ancient ceramic figures such as Japanese Haniwa or African terra-cotta dolls. Nowadays, society and the world we live is getting a little chaotic. Many people are mentally disconnected in spite of the development of contemporary information technologies, and sometimes do not want to appreciate or acknowledge the difference of diversity. Our world consists of layers, of multiple dimensions of different cultures. Because of this, as an artist and as an alien from a different culture who lives in the USA, I would like to refocus on the theme of “diversity,” and create the ceramic works to communicate with people who live all over the world.
The figure I made recently is the alien Haniwa, which was supposed to have been created by unknown cultures from the outer space. Ceramic has a historical value, as an important information technology. I make a fake archeologies for the people who live now, and future people.