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SHOP Taka Ishii opens a group exhibition of contemporary ceramics by 8 Japanese and American artists
“±8 — A Group Exhibition of Contemporary Ceramics”, installation view at SHOP Taka Ishii Gallery, Jul 12 – Sep 8, 2019, courtesy of SHOP Taka Ishii Gallery, photo: Kitmin Lee.


HONG KONG.- SHOP Taka Ishii Gallery is presenting “±8”, an exhibition featuring eight Japanese and American artists who work with ceramics. Curated by Kentaro Kawabata, a Japanese ceramist of the emerging generation, this group exhibition introduces up to date development of ceramic as sculptural medium from an artist’s perspective, a position that is closest to the current of representation.

Although ±8 may appear like a simple symbol, it can in fact be interpreted in various ways. For example, when slightly shifted, ± can look like the Kanji character “土” which stands for “earth” or “soil.” When artists each engage in producing work, I believe that those who create through means of addition is able to convey their distinct characteristic the moment they subtract something or another, and conversely, the distinct characteristic of those who create through a process of subtraction, indeed comes to manifest when incorporating additional elements. I decided to include this in the title as I recognized the importance and necessity of this internal contemplation surrounding ±. The ‘8’ not only refers to the number of artists who are featured in the exhibition, but also takes into account the fact of it being considered a lucky number in Hong Kong. Furthermore, ‘8’ comprises of ‘0’ and ‘0’, and when placed on its side represents infinity. Instead of ±0 that is familiar to many, I felt that ±8, conceived by simply adding another ‘0’, was interesting to have as the title. --- Kentaro Kawabata

Often inspired by nature’s self-generation and renewal, the forms of Kentaro Kawabata’s works, such as the meandering rims created through the busy workings of the thumb and index finger, encompass a sense of vitality –instilling the pieces with a sense of organic vitality. Kawabata likes to experiment and observe the outcome of combining various materials with glaze after firing the ceramics. Blending with glass to create a watercolor-like clarity, and applying silver then onsen (Japanese hot spring) to make volcanic-like objects; Kawabata’s ceramics give the impression of breathing agglomerated landscapes.

As an artist trained with knowledge and understanding of western contemporary art, Kazuhito Kawai’s encounter with ceramics upon his return to Japan has largely inspired his openness of creativity. Kawai’s works with their dynamic colors and forms convey the irregularity, ugliness, grotesqueness and vulnerability, which clay embodies. The repeated collages of clay attached to the vessel reflect a dialog between the clay and the artist, also presenting a layered representation of the artist’s inner self and state of mind.

For over 30 years, Tony Marsh has devoted his artistic practice to the exploration of ceramic vessels. In Marsh’s early work, the vessel was an arena within which he explored themes of fertility, union, death and creation by arranging evocative symbolic abstract forms within the interiors of carefully designed prototypical vessel forms. In a subsequent body of work that evolved over 15 years, Marsh created an endless array of thin-walled, hollow, abstract shapes and perforated them as densely as possible in an effort to replace the mass with light and dematerialize form, rendering the work as ethereal. The recent body of work “Crucible” are ceramic cylinders in which resides real and imagined allusions to physical sciences, earth formation, geographic phenomenon, force, pyroclastic work, time and landscape. They are transformed from the artist’s curiosity and stimulated innovation which was originated from the observation of phenomenon during the process.

Keita Matsunaga’s works, both functional ware and sculpture, derive from the same process. First, he sketches the geometric form using CAD software. The clay, strongly pressed by the artist against the surface of the plaster mold, extends, curves and forms hemisphere shape shells. The rawness and roughness of clay confront the structured architectural form –the contrast serving to reflect Matsunaga’s originality. His representative series, “Monuke” (meaning “empty shell from molting” in Japanese) comprise of two hemispheres combined, leaving the inside empty. This emptiness conveys lonesomeness and hollowness, while also representing the spiritual state of deliverance.

Akio Niisato’s representative work “Luminescent” consists of vessels created by making perforations in translucent white porcelain, and filling each of the holes with clear glaze before firing. The works which give the impression of emitting light in themselves are conceived through independently developing the Chinese technique of ‘hotarude,’ which enable translucent patterns to emerge when it carries the light, with their luminescent appearance likened to a firefly. In addition to this technique that attempts to explore ways of vessels that transcend contexts of the everyday, in recent years he has engaged in producing works that while rooted in tradition, give form to the natural traces that are born out of the dialogue between the materials and his own body.

William J. O’Brien explores the potential of a diverse range of media including paper, clay, textiles, ceramics, steel, found objects and everyday materials. While O’Brien is best known for his ceramic sculptures, he begins his work by drawing. The colorful geometric patterns in his drawings are made through a process similar to Surrealist automatic writing techniques and evoke various U.S. visual cultures such as those related to psychedelia, op art, abstract expressionist painting, and architecture. The playful ceramic works, which are adorned with bright glazes, refer to a broad range of cultural elements such as ethnography, traditional crafts, poetry, pop and psychedelic cultures, and gay minimalism.

Sterling Ruby is an artist who appropriates diverse aesthetic strategies in his practice, from saturated, glossy, poured polyurethane sculptures, to drawings, collages, richly glazed ceramics, graffiti inspired spray paint paintings, and video. His work is a balancing act, maintaining a constant tension between a multitude of elements. Dealing with issues related to the violence and pressures within society and art history, Ruby’s creations also reflect his personal history. In all of his work, he vacillates between the fluid and static, the minimalist and expressionistic, the pristine and the defaced.

Inspired by photos of ancient ruins in South America, Kouzo Takeuchi started creating ceramic sculptures formed of square tubes to express the unique ambience of decayed structures. The unexpected breaking of one work eventually led to the birth of the artist’s renowned “Modern Remains” Series in 2006, in which he engaged in breaking other finished tubes with a hammer to create dynamic beauty and raise new aesthetic values in ceramics. Through methods such as breaking and removing sections of materials before the firing process, Takeuchi persists in searching for the perfect balance between original forms and their deterioration in his experimental geometric works.





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