Urushi Artists (Lacquer Artists) in Keiko gallery (Boston)


   MURATA Yoshihiko,

Among an increasing number of well trained and gifted young Japanese lacquer artists, Murata Yoshihiko’s work relies heavily on the external play of light that creates silhouettes which continue his forms and flow indistinguishably from the sculptural pieces themselves.  This engaging illusion teases one’s perception of where the black lacquer ends and the shadow begins.

Like his slender anthropomorphic forms, his occasional use of the contrasting brilliance of raden (mother-of-pearl) reflects his early fascination with the exquisite hair ornaments once worn by Oiran, the high ranking goddesses of Japan’s traditional entertainment world.  As a student in lacquer at the College of Art in Kanazawa, a city once famous for its entertainment district, he was exposed to images of these courtesans whose extravagant attire and richly ornamented hair styles had captured the imaginations of most artists of Ukiyoe, wood block prints of the Floating World.

In his subsequent effort to carve larger pieces from a single block of wood he was challenged to maintain the same beautiful flowing lines as in the smaller works. It was at this point that he realized that many pieces had taken on creature-like aspects.  This resulted in what he describes as his Hair Ornament Creature Series.

After the form is carved and made smooth, he applies more than 20 coats of lacquer, each coat of which is polished, requiring several months to complete a single piece. It was his satisfactory mastery of lacquering that led him to develop his recent lyrical Silhouette Series whose lines twist and turn, swell and fade, like the sounds from a musical instrument.

   SOMEYA Satoshi,

Creating a subtle harmony between traditional lacquer and modern pop art, SOMEYA Satoshi is garnering attention as a young artist in the field of figurative sculpture. In the present day, the border between crafts and fine art has become blurred, and more and more artists are attempting to express themselves using the materials of modern life. Yet despite this, some people still use lacquer. Compared to other materials, it is difficult, and especially very slow to work with, so why use it? When this question was put to SOMEYA Satoshi, he answered simply: If I didn’t find the result attractive, I probably wouldn’t use lacquer.

While, if engaged only on the surface level, SOMEYA’s creations are certainly pleasing to the eye, careful observation will reveal greater depths. In material terms, SOMEYA unites playful decoration with the traditional artistry and craft of lacquer, just as conceptually he unites pop culture with ancient aesthetics (many of SOMEYA’s works are representative of a generation raised on animation).

Someya Satoshi's urushi art works

Using a technique called Dakkanshitsu—a traditional technique widely used in the creation of Buddha statues which allows great freedom in creating form—he creates the main part of the figure this is. First a mold in the desired shape is created, and hemp cloth is attached to the surface, and layers of lacquer are applied until it is strong, finally, the mold is removed.  (READ MORE … http://www.keikogallery.com/artist/lacquer/someya_satoshi.html )

SASAI Fumie's Lacquer Art works

  SASAI Fumie

She is a unique artist in the field of contemporary Japanese lacquer art. Many lacquer artists focus on the decorative aspects of lacquer. SASAI is, however, more interested in lacquer itself and what it holds. She has attempted to shape with lacquer since she found “life” in lacquer.

Before attending Kyoto City University of Arts she had planned to learn ceramics, though she eventually chose to learn lacquer, because she came to know and prefer one of its distinct features, that being the long process in which many thin layers of lacquer are applied. As additional coats are added, the lacquer piece itself gradually becomes larger and solider as if it were a living, growing thing. She also paid close attention to the lacquer’s itself. Usually, coating mediums dry with evaporation of moisture; lacquer, however, needs a certain amount of humidity to dry. When she understood that lacquer cannot be firm without water, she came to view lacquer as in a sense living. Moreover, lacquer comes from tree sap, which is to plants as blood is to humans and animals; she considers blood to be the part of humans through which they can most directly feel the energy of life in their bodies. These impressions of lacquer as a living thing motivated her to express something tied to nature, concentrating on lacquer’s ”life“.

Currently, she makes pieces inspired by living things ”reproductive functions as well as the shapes of organs, cells, and all other parts relating to living things“ reproduction. She started making the series of these pieces because she thought that the energy of life lacquer holds inside is quite similar to living things’ internal energy, especially in reproduction, the beginning of life. In the case of human reproductive process, fertilized eggs, embryos, and pre-born child are enveloped in membrane and uteruses. This indicated to her that all basic parts of human life are enveloped in skin-like things. It was the start of life, and this concept of layers of skin—like the thin layers of lacquer which are slowly applied to create a piece—combined with her concept of lacquer as a living being which provided the inspiration for this series. Living creatures are always covered with something which is both part of their bodies and alive itself, a concept which always underlies SASAI’s art. For her, making her pieces with lacquer means identifying herself as one of these living things.

In addition to the organic shapes inspired by the similarity between lacquer and living things, she also focuses on the texture of lacquer. She says that the best way to feel the texture is to touch lacquer pieces. If we touch them, we can feel not only the smoothness but also the warmth, closer to body temperature than ceramics or metals. The warmth is another facet of the ”life“ she identifies in lacquer. If you can enfold one of the pieces in your arms, you will able to feel the warmth of life better. When the surfaces of her pieces are touched, the oil of hands is absorbed by lacquer. The more the pieces are stroked gently, the glossier and more mature they become. This in turn reminds us of holding babies and watching their growth. We hope you will enjoy not only seeing, but feeling SASAI’s lacquer creations.

   Fujita Toshiaki

He began working in lacquer when he was a student at Tokyo University of the Arts, because he was attracted by what he calls the mystery of urushi, the name of the natural resin from which lacquer is made. After various experiments, he began to create his signature layered forms. This involves the application of a finely ground fired clay mixed with urushi (a base cost known as jinoko) everyday for two years. As these myriad layers dry, the forms increase in size and develop an organic quality as if they had grown naturally. These dark, irregular layered forms, with contrasting bright interiors of red lacquer or gold leaf, were immediately praised in Japan’s art world for their unique embodiments of the synthesized concepts of both the natural urushi tree and the beautiful lacquer art it produces.

Muramoto Shingo

Muramoto Shingo 's Urushi art works

Source:http: http://www.keikogallery.com

© Copyright 2003–2010 KEIKO Gallery. All Rights Reserved.
KEIKO Gallery 121 Charles Street Boston, MA 02114 phone/fax:(617) 725-2888

  • Nobuyuki Tanaka, a contemporary Urushi (lacquer) sculptor .
  • Ando Saeko, a Japanese Lacquer-painting in Hanoi, VN
  • master Nguyen Gia Tri, the leading artists in Vietnamese Lacquer painting in pioneer Era.
  • Jean Dunand, Western Lacquer Artist at Art Deco moment and His name became a brand name of Luxury Watch.
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