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Yasuhisa Kohyama: The Art of Ceramics.

Yasuhisa Kohyama: The Art of Ceramics

With contributions by:

Susan Jefferies

Michael R Cunningham

Yoshiaki Inui

Jack Lenor Larsen

Published by Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2012


The publication of this sumptuous book was accompanied by an exhibition at Erskine, Hall and Coe in London. Neither the show nor the book disappointed me in any way. They amplified one another. Yasuhisa Kohyama is deeply rooted in Japanese ceramics. Michael R Cunningham's contribution to the book adds a scholarly note on suemono, known popularly as sueki ware and Kohyama's immersion in their history and making. Even a superficial flick through the book reveals that Kohyama has an understanding of world art history, contemporary practice and informed metaphor. His vessels celebrate our inner and outer lives by subtle reference to both our bodies and the mystery and paradox around us. There are nods or acknowledgement to Jean Dubuffet, to Henry Moore, to scholars' stones and to direct forces of nature but each of these is well absorbed into his own language.

The book illustrates works that are modest in size and could easily find a place in a small house but they each hold an intensity that demands they are given a bit of space. The photographs are fine enough to convey how the works engage viewers with their gentle references to familiar things; boat forms, open mouthed carp, birds, rocking forms, keyholes, neckpieces and vulva. But if some small comfort is given by these similes we are then awed by the qualities of the surfaces and the acuteness of his three dimensional forms. In so far as photographs in a book can possibly capture these things, Arnoldsche Art Publishers have achieved this with technical veracity. These works are of our size and they confer with us. We can feel their reflections of our personal, inner chambers and the small incidents of the landscapes outside us. There is intimacy in the works and also reference to a wide open universe. It is the exceptional quality of the book that manages to convey some of these things without the physical presence of the works.

The Shigamaki clay Kohyama uses is full of frit. The pots are woodfired to a temperature of 1250[degrees]C and toned by ash and fire alone. These simple constituents and the technique open to him a range of expressive qualities that can leave us transfixed. The concise, two page contribution to the book by Yoshiaka Inui is essential reading; a knowledgeable contextualisation. Susan Jefferies provides a useful biography and Jack Lenor Larson sets Yasuhisa's work carefully in place. This is a well crafted book that allows the artist's work to shine through. Kohyama carves his clay with a piano wire but manages a subtlety of forms that marry with Ikebana or hold the power to serve as objects of lasting meditation. Thus the book succeeds in conveying much of the strength of Yasuhisa Kohyama's work and will act as a spur to readers to actually seek it out.

Andy Christian was educated at Goldsmiths' College, London. He works as an adviser to the arts, as a writer and a visiting lecturer.
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Author:Christian, Andy
Publication:Ceramics Technical
Date:Nov 1, 2012
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