Contemporary Japanese Glass
The increasing interest that has been observed around the emergence of glass as an art form has certainly been one of the most interesting developments in the Japanese craft field.
Although the practice of art glass has always been present throughout the 20th century, we can find the birth of a defined contemporary movement with the creation of the Japanese Association for Glass Works in 1972 around which a large group of artists gathered and which in 1974 gave life to the seminal exhibition Japanese Glass: from antiquity to the present day, in which Edo-era glass was shown alongside the works of the members of the association. It was the first occasion in which the foundations of a contemporary movement aesthetically freed from the often dominant aspects of tradition were laid. The activity of the Association continued through the Glass Triennale established in 1978.
Subsequently, dialogue and comparison with other international artistic realities was sought. The Tokyo National Museum in 1980 promoted an important exhibition, Contemporary Glass – Europe and Japan, immediately followed in 1981 by the traveling exhibition Contemporary Glass – Australia, Canada, USA and Japan. Both made it possible to introduce two generations of Japanese artists to a wider audience who, compared with their European and Overseas colleagues, began to reveal an autonomous artistic path but still inserted in a context of dialogue.
Finally, Japan’s efforts to be recognized as a world-renowned international glass art centre took place in the promotion of various international competitions or through the support of large Japanese companies. Among the most important there are the biennial International Exhibition of Glass Craft – Kanazawa, the triennial Toyama International Glass Exhibition, the Asahi Glass.
The history of contemporary Japanese glass is about to turn fifty, the number of artists is constantly growing and thanks to the many plastic possibilities of the material, but above all technological improvements, there is an even more promising future.
Below we briefly present three artists who symbolize the birth, development and the new generation of the Japanese movement and who have exhibited and collaborated with ESH Gallery.
Born in Tokyo, Ōki Izumi is graduated in Ancient Japanese Literature at Waseda University in Tokyo. Thanks to a scholarship in 1981 Ōki Izumi assisted the sculpture master at the Accademia di Brera. She tested herself with all traditional materials, from marble to bronze, but as soon as she received her diploma she went back to the only one she feels really hers, glass.
The glass she uses is not the precious and clear crystal, but the industrial one, blue-green coloured, recalling the natural elements of water and air, very special to Japanese culture. Material hard to domesticate, fragile but impenetrable, glass imposes its conditions on its manufacturing process: in order to be made by hand, cuts can be only straight, so angles only squared, shapes only regular polygons. In these firm play rules, Ōki Izumi’s ability – equipped with calculator and graph paper – is that of carving some space out for her creativity, trying to bend the linear geometry of plates towards soft and sinuous effects. Stratifying plate over plate, or sometimes lifting pieces up in verticality, she shapes abstract synthesis, vases, mysterious architectures in which you can look into and through.
The artist’s research – strongly influenced by her Japanese essence – points towards the synthetic creation of simple units, even when it starts from the chaos in a multitude of elements. However, it is not a merely formal research: Izumi is interested, instead, in the emotional aspect by inciting astonishment, offering to public an opportunity to reflect, or by suggesting through shapes the imaginative possibilities already latent in people’s mind.
Born in 1968 in Chiba, his work is characterized by the innovative simultaneous use of different mediums. Kojiro’s interest is in the process of transforming materials and in representing the essential structure of the forms. The artist’s research is characterized by works in glass foam, material worked in an experimental way to investigate its expansion and contraction properties obtained in the firing process.
His sculptures, the result of extreme technical skill played on the control of heat and gravity, extract the intrinsic characteristics of the material, giving shape to pure works that are characterized by the metamorphic effect of the structures.
For the artist, these transformations represent the cycle of life. Its goal is therefore to create forms that define the natural properties of glass and that can capture every single instant of transformation through the traces and the cracks left on the surface of the work.
Born in 1985, he currently collaborates with the University of Toyama, a prestigious institution fro teaching glass art. For Yokoyama, glass is “amorphous” and is a rare material that does not have its own crystalline structure.
The role of the artist is fundamental both from a physical and emotional point of view: the effect of the artist on the material, his physical ability in muscle pressure and lung power uniquely determine the shape of the glass, but also the feelings, the mind, sensitivity and spirituality must inevitably transpire in the final work.