Tomimoto Kenkichi has long been considered the most influential Japanese ceramic artist of the 20th century. As a technical innovator and genius with surface decoration, he was also the founder of the ceramics department at Kyoto City University of Arts, which profoundly changed the course of direction for the next generation of clay artists. He wrote prolifically and insightfully on this field. Tomimoto believed that patterns should never be reused, and took inspiration from nature in order to keep his work fresh and new.
Not born into a traditional pottery family but educated in things Western, he had a much broader view of Japanese ceramics. As a teacher, he expounded on the importance of individuality, originality, and the confluence of forms and patterns. Throughout his life, he remained steadfast in his own beliefs and attempted to instill these ethical values in his pupils. Tomimoto was unquestionably the seminal figure in the history of modern clay as his students became important professors at universities across Japan and they, in turn, taught many of the current reigning masters. His level of technique, attention to detail and innovative spirit only further underscores his place as a master of ceramic art and as a true artist.
Our exhibition catalog, Vessel Explored/Vessel Transformed: Tomimoto Kenkichi and His Enduring Legacy, is available for purchase. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
“The legacy Tomimoto left his students, through his many texts and instructions at university, is of utmost importance to the history of Japanese art and deserves a separate study. The discourse of modern Japanese ceramics was profoundly affected by Tomimoto’s teachings.”
- Prof. Meghen Jones
Remarkably, despite the popularity of modern Japanese ceramics in the West, Tomimoto Kenkichi is a relative unknown. In Japan, however, he is revered as the father of the field. Without him, Japan would not be in the preeminent position as champion of contemporary of clay art that it is today. The 2019 exhibition at Joan B Mirviss LTD and accompanying publication, Vessel Explored/Vessel Transformed: Tomimoto Kenkichi and his Enduring Legacy, is the the first of its type outside of Japan to focus on this remarkable artist and teacher. He was the most significant figure in the world of twentieth-century Japanese ceramics and his impact continues through his gifted and inspired former pupils and their talented students, many of whom are now professors of ceramics. Together they have transformed and surpassed the classical standard for functional ceramic excellence—devotion to the ancient Chinese traditions or allegiance to the late16th-century Momoyama tea wares–– and brought to their oeuvres a new, contemporary, and highly influential sensibility. Furthermore, this caused the ancient system of familial kilns and stylistic heritages to give way to university relationships that spawned artistic families of their own.
With the invaluable assistance of Japan’s leading modern ceramic dealer, Shibuya Kurodatoen Co., Ltd., Joan B Mirviss LTD presented this important publication for this groundbreaking exhibition. We have been delighted to enlist the services of esteemed experts in this area, Kida Tatsuya, Professor at Musashino Art University and author of numerous articles on this topic, Meghen Jones, Assistant Professor of Art History at Alfred University who wrote her dissertation on Tomimoto, and emerging scholar Trevors Menders. These essays are complemented by reminiscences by several of Tomimoto’s former pupils and pioneers in their own right, Yanagihara Mutsuo, Matsuda Yuriko, and Nagasawa Setsuko. Then from the third generation of artists, Kondo Takahiro writes of the profound effect that the words and wisdom of Tomimoto has had on him. We have been extremely fortunate to have the enthusiastic support and assistant of numerous other former pupils and their former students through individual recollections and the creation of new work conceived specifically for this exhibition.