Wednesday, April 2, 2014


On our very first trip to Japan in 1991 and on our first excursion out in Kyoto, we stumbled on to an exhibition of pots by Hara Kiyoshi (b.1936). There was a wide array of pots, some large and imposing temmoku tsubo with images of horses, birds, foliage and even a jar with a scene of giraffe eating from trees, all were wonderful pieces and in the midst of these pots were just two beautiful Chinese inspired pieces in a vivid Jun (Chun) style glazes. One piece was a 10" vase and the other a mizusashi with a small bird perched on the lid acting a knob. Breaking up the surface on the mizusashi were areas of a tannish colored accents on high spots and sharper lines where the Jun had run a bit thin and the pot had various rich purple areas that accented the near perfect blue of the pot.
Obviously inspired by the archetypes that date back to the Song Dynasty of ancient China, Jun-yao (Chun-yao), the pots of Hara Kiyoshi show the influence but not slavish dependence on the straw ash glazes made famous in the Jun kilns of Yuzhou. Having studied with both Ishiguro Munemaro and Shimizu U'ichi, both Ningen Kokuho and potters inspired by Chinese ceramics, the foundations of technical and aesthetic mastery were taught by the best. In 2005 Hara was also named Ningen Kokuho and carries on the proud tradition of specializing in iron glazes as did both of his masters. Illustrated is a lovely mizusashi similar to the one I saw back in 1991 and dating to around that time. The form and glazing is exceptional with the knob in this case being a ram one of the symbols of the Asian zodiac. What I find so compelling about the pot is that it seems puffed up and ready to burst and I fear that if you were to remove the lid, it would simply deflate; I think it is the tension that makes this pot so enjoyable.