Uncovering the story of a daring ceramics movement that emerged in mid-20th century Japan following the Second World War, Art Gallery of South Australia presents Pure Form: Japanese sculptural ceramics.
Through a kaleidoscopic array of more than 100 objects made from earthenware, stoneware and porcelain, Pure Form reveals a ‘revolution in clay’ which redefined ceramics for a new age, favoured form over function, and fostered the emergence of female makers as a creative force.
In post-war Japan, young ceramicists formed art collectives in Kansai’s urban centres (Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe). Their ground-breaking abstract sculptural forms drew inspiration from the history of Asian ceramics as well as European modernism, challenging existing hierarchies of taste and functionality.
Pure Form showcases these pioneers and explores their ongoing influence through works by contemporary artists such as Tanaka Y?, whose large-scale illusionistic clay objects are informed by the Japanese cloth wrapping practice of furoshiki.
“Pure Form brings together generous loans from private and public collections within Australia and Japan, accompanied by works in AGSA’s collection, to reveal the world-leading shift in ceramic expression that took place in mid-century Japan,” said Art Gallery of South Australia Director, Rhana Devenport ONZM.
“Pure Form also highlights the work of Japan’s female ceramic artists who, unfettered by the weight of history, injected a vital new energy and perspective into their sculptural, biomorphic forms.”
Largely unrecognised prior to the war, Japan’s female ceramic artists began to assert their agency, empowered by the birth of a homegrown feminist movement. Pure Form showcases works by Japan’s first generation of female makers including Tsuboi Asuka and Kishi Eiko, and their successors who continue to test the limits of clay.
“Japan is home to one of the most dynamic ceramics cultures in the world, with artists who display a limitless pursuit of technical innovation and perfection,” said Pure Form curator Russell Kelty, Curator of Asian Art, AGSA.
“Pure Form includes works by members of the pivotal avant-garde group Shikokai (Society of the four harvests) and Sodeisha (Crawling through Mud Association) like Hayashi Yasuo and Yagi Kazuo, the late master of meditative ceramics Miyashita Zenji as well as monumental sculptures by leading ceramicists Akiyama Yo and Jun Kaneko.”
“With Pure Form on display concurrently with Yayoi Kusama’s recently installed THE SPIRIT OF THE PUMPKINS DESCENDED INTO THE HEAVENS and Chiharu Shiota’s popular Absence Embodied, there’s a wealth of modern and contemporary Japanese art to be discovered at AGSA,” said Rhana Devenport
Pure Form: Japanese sculptural ceramics
Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide
Exhibition continues to 6 November 2022
For more information, visit: www.agsa.sa.gov.au for details.
Image: Suzuki Osamu, born Kyoto 1926, died Kyoto 2001, Animals of the Chinese zodiac, c.1980, Kyoto, dimensions variable; Collection of Raphy Star, © Suzuki Osamu – photo by Grant Hancock