Born in 1973 in Kyoto, a city that ranks among the world’s great centers of ceramics production, Fuku Fukumoto represents the second generation of female ceramists to change the landscape of Japanese contemporary clay.
When she attended the Kyoto University of Arts, she has absorbed the influence of Japanese ceramists of the 1950s whose modernist impulse, inspired by outsider Isamu Noguchi, established the model of the object, or autonomous aesthetic object. But her work cannot simply be classified as a species of object since she has consciously made utility a consideration of her forms.
While she respects her city’s cultural legacy and even takes civic pride in the products of its established ceramics finesse, she does not succumb entirely to the sway of the past in her own work. Her intention is not to rival the work of conventional craftsmen but instead to parallel it by discovering and then raising to perfection some of the properties of porcelain that remain untapped in the work of Japanese ceramists masters.
Through asymmetrical balance Fukumoto’s work overtly departs from the canon, and in the process generates an impression of organic ductility.
The most obvious results of Fukumoto’s testing of porcelain’s potential are the stacked sections of fractured rings that appear in the bodies of some of her vessels.
The thin, imprecise rims of her bowls seem to undulate with the slow fluidity of a viscous liquid, never settling into the static regularity of a horizon.
Following a bisque firing, Fukumoto joins the fragments to one another and to the main body of the vessel with a green or peacock-colored oxide glaze. During the second a firing, the sections of the vessel shift and warp, sometimes presenting a human-like silhouette.
Unglazed, they seem soft and tentative in contrast to the hard, glossly self-assurance of traditional vessels in the same medium. The blank surfaces of her vessels reflect the purity and ephemerality of the clouds or moonlight that are frequently invoked through her titles.
In fact, Fukumoto has always given her pieces titles representing the shifting nature of natural phenomena, such as “thin ice”, “cloud wisp “, “moonlight” and “cloud”.
Furthermore, the austerity of Fukumoto’s vessels suggests a certain reductive impulse. At the same time, Fukumoto cannot be described as a minimalist, since the appearance of reduction is in fact a consequence of the viewer’s focus on only a single vessel: in effect a fragment, since her vessels are ordinarily exhibited in groups.
Although the vessels are made individually, they are not objets. On the contrary, their implicitly communal character links them to the tradition of the functional vessel, paralleling them to the parts of a set dispersed in space through use.
Through her work, she seeks a fine line between individuality and inherited convention, a personal pathway along the borders of tradition rather than a promontory from which to proclaim the uniqueness of the self.