Kitamura Junko and Tokumaru Kyōko. Photos by Joan Mirviss
Works by Hoshino Kayoko, Ogawa Machiko, and Koike Shōko
Hoshino Kayoko and Ogawa Machiko
Katsumata Chieko and Fujino Sachiko (l to r)
Visitors to "Toucher le feu"
Works by Hattori Makiko, Fukumoto Fuku, and Tanaka Yū (l to r)
Joan Mirviss with Futamura Yoshimi
Exhibition poster spotted at boulangerie on île Saint-Louis, Paris
Toucher le feu
Femmes céramistes au Japon
Musée national des arts asiatiques-Guimet, Paris
For centuries in Japan, the practice of ceramics was reserved for men, prohibited for women. It was not until after the Second World War that profound social changes gave them access to training that allowed them to “touch the fire”. Since then, Japanese artists have occupied a prominent place in the field of contemporary ceramics, one of the most creative in the world.
The first generation of Japanese women who dedicated themselves to ceramics often combined university artistic training with a more traditional apprenticeship with a master. That of the 1940s and 1960s profoundly renewed the relationship to matter; nature and its sculptural forms are the dominant features of this generation, which has chosen a rough, textured, organic material, abandoning the smooth and the soft. The youngest generation, born in the 1970s and 1980s, unhesitatingly made a return to porcelain.
Japanese ceramic women
Ono Hakuko (1915-1996) was the second woman to receive the award from the prestigious Japanese Ceramic Society. The works of Ogawa Machiko (b. 1946) resemble vestiges of an archaeological field – especially that of memory – and illustrate her reflection on the passage of time and on ruin. Koike Shoko (b. 1943) uses stoneware in a poetic way, borrowing from the vocabulary of shells and madrepores, shaping pieces with irregular shapes, pinched, stretched, with undulating surfaces, sometimes striated, covered with translucent glazes going from white to azure . Among the very first women to graduate from the ceramics department of the University of the Arts in Tokyo, she managed to create her own studio and make a living from her art, thanks to international recognition and her presence in numerous collections outside Japan. Most of the work of Katsumata Chieko (b. 1950) is vegetal, with ribbed and half-open shapes, evoking pumpkins but also the seabed in her latest creations. First trained in fashion, Fujino Sachiko (b. 1950), reproduces in her ceramics the effects of draped fabrics with soft folds, which reflect her knowledge of textiles. Hoshino Kayoko (b. 1949) forms endless knots from a section of square dough, which she closes on itself and twists. On the surface, prints made with a straw or with a metallic instrument enhance the details of the material with geometric regularity. Futamura Yoshimi (b. 1959) creates powerful volumes, inspired by roots and rhizomes, contrasting textures as much as colors.
Other artists are distinguished by a certain return to the traditional form and an assertive use of a smoother body, often porcelain. Kitamura Junko (b. 1956), daughter of an abstract painter, has kept a taste for the pictorial treatment of the surface from her family background. She works with pure shapes and makes her own bamboo dies, covering the surface with ornamental stampings. Kythera Island by Tokumaru Kyoko (b. 1963), a strange living nature that develops from a classical form at the risk of destroying it, is one of the meditations on germination that characterize the work of the artist. Tanaka Yu (b. 1989) works the illusion by forming in the earth what looks like objects wrapped in fabric in the Japanese way of furoshiki, affixing a deep yellow color to them which is very particular to him.
The youngest generation, born in the 1970s and 1980s, unhesitatingly made a return to porcelain. With Hosono Hitomi (b. 1979) as with Hattori Makiko (b. 1984), time is an ingredient. The process of applying to the surface is so long that it usually takes several months to dry. The pieces remain in the biscuit state, that is to say without glaze, so as to better highlight the delicacy of the work and the technical prowess. In the sculptural work of Fukumoto Fuku (b. 1973), forms function according to fragile juxtapositions and precarious balances, like a reflection on impermanence.
For six years, the MNAAG has made contemporary female ceramic creation in Japan a major focus of its acquisition policy, inaugurated by the purchase in 2016 of a first piece of white porcelain, the Zenmai ("fern") vase by artist Hosono Hitomi.
Japanese ceramics is one of the most dynamic in the world. The MNAAG has since continued to enrich its collections in this field, where the place of the female artist is both singular and eminent, with the acquisition, following an axis supported by the Ministry of Culture on female creation, of twelve works from the 20th and 21st centuries. They are presented with a set of other Japanese works from the museum's collections.
From June 1 to October 3, 2022 as part of the Japanese season at the National Museum of Asian Arts – Guimet
Sophie Makariou, president of the MNAAG, Claire Bettinelli, production manager for exhibitions and collections of contemporary art
Touch fire. Women ceramists in Japan
Co-edition MNAAG / RMN-GP
48 pages, 25 illustrations