Japanese Version

LACQUER ARTWORKS by Simon Pilling

April, 2015

IF I WERE AN OCTOPUS…

Lacquer work of ANDO Saeko by Simon Pilling

 

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Coloured lacquers, shell, egg-shell and metal inlays

Each panel 60 x 15 x 1.8 cm

The work of Saeko Ando combines two lacquer traditions – those of Japan and Vietnam. While Vietnam shares a long-standing East Asian tradition for lacquered utilitarian objects, its lacquer paintings, son mai, are an art form dating only from the arrival of French colonists and the establishment of the École Superieur des Beaux Arts de l’Indochine in 1925.  Thus local tradition and materials were blended with a more Western-centric familiarity, to become a unique fine art for which Vietnam is rightly acclaimed.

 

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Ando-san, based in Hanoi for almost 20 years researching and practicing every aspect of the Vietnamese skill, has brought to it a further rigour and technique taken from the Japanese tradition of togidashi-e where repeated layering and polishing results in a mirror finish of great depth.

 

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“Underwater creatures fascinate me because of their diverse colours and patterns, not just found on the skin surface but lying somewhere deep amongst the translucent cells. Many of them, just like these octopuses, cleverly change their colours and patterns to protect themselves and to catch their prey.  It seems to me that Vietnamese lacquer is the only material in the world which can metamorphose into such magical composition.  Though natural Vietnamese lacquer may lack the strong glow of Japanese urushi, it has very high transparency compared to lacquer from any other country. Additionally, this transparency is not so prominent at the beginning, but as time passes, and the layers of lacquer continue their chemical reaction with the atmosphere, a greater transparency occurs, colours brighten, and details increasingly reveal themselves”. (Ando Saeko, September 2014)

 

Simon Pilling, MA, RIBA, FRSA is a graduate of Sotheby’s MA in East Asian Art and is based in London, UK. He is a member of the Asian Art in London group of dealers and specialises in 20th century and contemporary Japanese lacquer.

Simon’s website

Simon Pilling East Asian Art & Interiors

PO Box 40062 London N6 6XB


December, 2014

Lacquerware Marvel

Gakuto Sasaki Lacquer Box #2

Lacquer expert Simon Pilling describes Psyche 2013, a work by gifted young Japanese lacquer artist Gakuto SASAKI that invites the viewer to suspend preconceptions.  At first sight the appearance is familiar – a high-grade, tooled leather box, with double zip fastening.  Touch it, however, and it is immediately apparent that the eye has been deceived. There is no leather, tooling, canvas ribbon or metal zips. All is recreated in lacquer – an illusion drawing on the viewer’s allusive preconceptions.

 

The Western equivalent artistic tradition can be seen in ‘trompe-l’oeil’ paintings (lit. deceive the eye) – a playfulness to intrigue and amuse. In Japanese lacquer arts there is a similarly rich tradition, dating back to at least the 18th-century, of using lacquer in replication of materials. The 19th-century artist Shibata Zeshin perfected such techniques. Sasaki-san is continuing this important tradition, bringing his work directly in line with contemporary values to question our current fascination with luxury goods.

 

 

Gakuto Sasaki Lacquer Box #1

 

Size of piece:  23 x 20 x 8 cm

Technique: kanshitsu (dry lacquer), kawari-nuri, (innovative lacquer), maki-e, (sprinkled picture)

 

Simon Pilling, MA, RIBA, FRSA is a graduate of Sotheby’s MA in East Asian Art and is based in London, UK. He is a member of the Asian Art in London group of dealers and specialises in 20th century and contemporary Japanese lacquer.

 

Simon’s website

Simon Pilling East Asian Art & Interiors

PO Box 40062 London N6 6XB


Feburuary, 2011

Contemporary Lacquer Artist

Steve here: Below, my friend, a London-based lacquer dealer, shares about his passion for the work of a very special artist.                                                        

The Art of Wakamiya Takashi,  by Simon Pilling

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The evocatively named ‘Thunderbird’ train pulls out of Kyoto’s futuristic station, and I am embarking on a journey to visit one of Japan’s rising stars of lacquer ware – Wakamiya Takashi.

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Based in Wajima – a centre with a 1000-year history for the production of fine lacquer – his work is already held in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Lacquer Museum, Munster, Germany, and is gathering a loyal following among European and American collectors. Wajima – a coastal town on the Noto Peninsular – is remote. In the late 12th century the famously defeated Taira Clan were banished to the area, where their descendants still live to this day. Even the formidable Japanese rail network does not serve it, and the last 2 hours of my 6-hour journey are made by road. Meeting Wakamiya-san, he speaks passionately about the importance of lacquer to Japanese society. He believes that "essential values have been passed down through the generations to contemporary Japanese society by learning about lacquer-wares.” It is clear that this has been a central driving force for him, seeing it as “my duty and privilege to hand down our ancestors’ heart and wisdom to future generations through my works, and hopefully to revive our ancestors’ spirit in modern times.”

The process of lacquer production is long and painstaking – taking months, and sometimes years, to produce a single exquisite piece. Traditionally one might have expected Wakamiya-san to have learned his craft being raised by a famous lacquer master, but while his family did grow the sap-producing trees used for lacquer, there was no precedent for his passion to work with the material. From the age of 20 he studied, practiced and mastered the wide range of skills necessary until, twenty years later, at the age of 40 in 2004, he finally felt confident to promote his work. Combining exacting technical skills with a playful artistic imagination can produce extraordinary work. A three-tiered box captures the fearsome energy of a dragon as it destroys a bronze temple bell.

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The story it depicts is the focal point the famous Noh play, Dojoji, when the ghost of a woman spurned by her priest lover, returns to the temple. First trapping the man within the bell, the ghost transforms into a giant dragon, coiling around the bell, and consuming all by fire. Such dramatic three-dimensional lacquer work requires ultimate skill. Playfulness, so central to Japanese art, comes to the fore in Wakamiya-san’s fascination with the use of lacquer to imitate other materials. On first seeing a teabowl

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you wonder if you have had the good fortune to discover a ceramic work by the 16th century artist Hon’Ami Koetsu. Take it in your hands and it has the texture of Raku, but no weight! You realise that your eye has deceived your head, and you are holding a piece of lacquer ware. Wakamiya-san strives to rediscover many ‘lost’ lacquer techniques, particularly in the imitation of diverse materials such as ceramic, wood and metal.

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In this he is continuing a tradition that can be traced back to works by Ogawa Haritsu and Shibata Zeshin. There are many who consider his name will rank alongside those former masters. While the inspiration, artistic vision and technical mastery are Wakamiya-san’s, he is quick to credit the talented team of technical craftspeople that he has assembled – Hikoju Makie – to support his ambition.

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Lacquer pieces have always been exclusive and desirable. Wakamiya-san’s creations are stunning in their technical brilliance, and truly superb in design concept, often rich in allusion and cultural reference. They combine ultimate craftsmanship, comparable in the West to, say, Fabergé, with a centuries’ old Japanese sensitivity to Nature and continuity.

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They reflect on the human condition and are testament to an extraordinary artistic dedication. For Wakamiya-san, he says that he "will continue to pursue the fascination and technical possibilities of lacquer and the meaning of my own life through making lacquer-ware."

Simon Pilling, MA, RIBA, FRSA is a graduate of Sotheby’s MA in East Asian Art and is based in London, UK. He is a member of the Asian Art in London group of dealers and specialises in 20th century and contemporary Japanese lacquer.

Simon's website: < www.simonpilling.co.uk >

Simon Pilling East Asian Art & Interiors
PO Box 40062 London N6 6XB

Author: stevebeimel

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