Nishimura Tokusen, 4th generation Kyoto ceramic artist

Nishimura Mizusashi

Going to Takashimaya in Kyoto in 2009 reminds me of getting dressed up and going to a department store in the U.S. …in 1953. I find that I really like this kind of special outing. Art galleries in Japanese department stores are the most prestigious places for an artist to show, and Takashimaya is one of the best.

I attended the show of Nishimura Tokusen, 4th generation Kyoto ceramic artist who specializes in porcelain tea ware. Though my taste has always favored rough hewn, asymmetrical, warm, wabi-sabi stoneware, recently these cool-to-the-touch, Chinese- influenced, decorative pieces have really begun to touch me. Imagine a rustic tearoom, dark textured mud walls, bamboo ceilings. Then, on a black lacquer plank, you see an underglaze blue and white porcelain cold water jar with a black lacquer lid. Or, sitting on a stark, yellow tatami mat you see a bowl decorated with spring blossoms. The contrast can be startling. Yet, it works.

Seeing all of Nishimura-san's works together in one room was very intense for me. Yet, as I focused on just one piece at a time in a kind of tunnel vision, each piece came alive and I actually felt a warmth that I usually feel for stoneware. I can see why stoneware collectors, restaurants and tea people like to combine a few porcelain pieces in their mix. When highly perfected pieces are juxtaposed with rough hewn ones, they seem to set each other up, and come to life in a greater way than when seen separately.

Nishimura tea bowl