Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Let me start by saying that condition of a pot is not arbitrary or abstract, perfect is just that, perfect. The obvious chip or crack alters the original condition and also the artist vision and value. The question though is when is something that is not perfect, still perfectly acceptable in terms of condition? When you think of all the wood fired pots and scars, firing cracks, etc, how do you judge the condition of those pieces? If you delve further, think about all of the pots with serious firing cracks by Arakawa Toyozo, Tsukigata Nahiko and many others, including some of the heavy and thickly thrown pots of Suzuki Goro, these pots are perfect in the sense that the potters approved of the pot, put them in a signed box and determined that they were all the better for the scars won in a ferocious and harsh firing. It would seem the acceptance of such imperfection is further reinforced by the wabi-sabi aesthetics where such issues add to the austerity and weathered beauty of a pot, hence the beauty on kintsugi. It would seem that kamakizu are in fact the perfection of the imperfect style of irregular and intentionally contrived pottery.
In this vein, Sawa Kiyotsugu springs to mind. I have seen a number of his pots in which in the making it is obvious that he is building in certain self-destruct aspects. In the firing the pots often split, crack and in some cases they even fall apart after which he "reassembles" the pieces with glue and lacquer to create whole and new works. In a DVD put out by the Tohjiro magazine it shows several such pots, including a vase which he intentionally tears dramatically while building it and the pot literally splits apart during the fire and in the interview discussing this, it shows Kiyotsugu drinking from a badly split chawan. For Sawa Kiyotsugu, this type of imperfect is the perfection he is seeking out. How are we expected to accurately describe the condition of the pot now, especially considering it was the intent and purpose of the artist that the pot would literally need to be repaired after it was fired and prior to being shown and put in an attested signed box? It would seem condition is a bit more murky in describing than I had really thought.
Illustrated is a large and powerful Shigaraki mizusashi by modern phenom, Suzuki Goro. Suzuki has spent decades crafting his work to speak volumes about happenstance and a state of the casual. In the past two decades, he has made pots which he then breaks and repairs by rebuilding them into new and modern statements by means of the kintsugi technique. In this particular mizusashi, Suzuki started with a very thick slab of clay which he attached to a wheel head and altered it to create rhythm and motion, he then took a ball of clay and threw the top potion of the body onto the slab and slightly into the thick base. Once thoroughly dry the pot was fired in his wood kiln for Shigaraki affect and the overly thick base cracked during the firing. Whether by mad design, serendipity or just previous experience, the pot is recreated by the fierce and brutal crack and harkening back to the medieval style "Burst bag" mizusashi well know to us from books and museum shows. I find this pot to be a tour de force piece, it is both powerful because of it presence and it ability to make it out of the flames in one piece, the question that I have though is; what is the condition of this pot? The answer I think is that beauty and perhaps condition is in the eye of the beholder.

1 comment:

  1. An excellent and thought provoking article - thank you.