Morioka Shigeyoshi, Yuriko Shigeyoshi and the 7 Deshi at Moon Gallery.

I went to Moon Gallery to see a show of Morioka Shigeyoshi, Yuriko Shigeyoshi and 7 past pupils of his.

It was interesting to see so much Nanban in one place. I usually only see my own and if I have reference to other similar work it is usually Bizen.

Some thoughts.

I think one of  the measures of the management of teaching and creating and facilitating of a team and teamwork is the cohesiveness of the pupils. I don’t mean the aesthetic  similarities of the work, which I see as a problem, but the pull of the students toward each other on a personal level. I saw that very strongly in the deshi I met today, about 4 of them. I compare that with the atmosphere when several of the former pupils of my teacher get together. Bonhomie isn’t a word that comes to mind.

The similarities in the visual appearance of the work is a minus to me. I remember several years back walking into a gallery that carried work by about 5 of my ‘anideshi’, pupils of my teacher that have studied before me. It was like walking into Kawabuchi World.  All the work was so similar that it wasn’t exciting.

There is something about Morioka’s selection of pupils that trends toward the Luddite. Of the deshi I met today all proudly don’t have websites and one was bragging about not owning a cellphone. I firmly believe there is a movement toward  disintermediation, toward a more direct exchange between the buyer and the maker. In that light I found the attitudes somewhat behind the times.

It was impossible to tell whose work was whose. Most of the work today was done by people with their feet in the game for a minimum of 5 years, most closer to 10 years or more. It is very difficult to shake the influence of a teacher in Japan. Perhaps that is a result of the way one is “taught” here. By watching and mimicry.The one standout to what I am saying is the figural work by Joy Brown. Her work is very distant from the Morioka clan.  Her statement on the show brochure says something about ” I love working with clay.” It was somewhat jarring to read that after seeing the seriousness of the other work and the potters. I think there is an immersion in the work in Japanese people that makes a statement like that pop out and seem superfluous. I have never heard a potter here, in 15 years, say they love to work in clay.  The statement by Nakamoto Jyunya, one of the pupils, translates as;

Cleansed by flowing water,

Like a stone, hard,

Light as the wind,

Soft as leaves,

I want to make pottery like that.

I am sure there are better translations but I do think both statements capture a major and fundamental difference between working in clay in Japan and the U.S. I am not trying to pick on Joy Brown, whom I have never met, but trying to point out a major and basic difference in approaches to work. I have long thought that in Japan one is trying to bring out the fullest potential of the materials. In North America one is trying to show the “artists” mastery over the materials and to show the ability to make the materials do what is desired by the “maker.”

The star of the show is the feldspar tea bowl. I would buy it if I had an extra 10,000 yen. It is superb.


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