In the studio with Masaomi Yasunaga
In advance of his first show, Looking afar / 遠くを見る, at Lisson Gallery New York, Masaomi Yasunaga invites us into his studio in Iga-shi, Japan to see his innovative process and labour-intensive methods. His works blend traditional ceramic techniques with the freeform theories behind Sodeisha, the 'Crawling through Mud Association', which rejected craft-based Mingei precedents. His primary material is glaze, which is buried in sand or kaolin before firing to prevent it melting. The alchemical transformations and elemental unknowns that Yasunaga's works experience within the intense heat of the kiln give each piece its unique patina, or as he says in this film: "The ultimate goal of my art is not self-expression but what’s left of self, after being filtered through fire." Click through to play the entire film with English subtitles. Filmed by quomunelab co.ltd (full credits below).
"My process of creation shares similarities with traditional ceramic making, yet a fundamental difference is that I use glaze instead of clay as the primary material from which to build sculptural works, typically used for ornamentation.
For sculpting, I adopt Tebineri, a traditional method of ceramic making, coil-building form on the handwheel. For firing in a klin, glaze is buried in strata of sand or kaolin to preserve its structure and prevent it from melting down. For unloading from a klin, sculptural forms are excavated from their beds, the process analogous to archaeological excavation and discovery."
"First and foremost, the element of fire is absolutely essential in my process of creation. While fire has equipped humans with significant capabilities, that prompted evolution, it is also terrifying that its sheer intensity could just be as catastrophic, burning everything down to ashes. A couple of years ago, I had the terrifying experience of being trapped in walls of fire in my mountain studio and nearly causing a bush fire.
I’m still questioning how to understand and control fire in my process of creation. I consider fire as a filter and a klin as a time machine. When my grandmother passed away, I created a series of white porcelain vessels using her ashes mixed with glaze. Filtering her ashes through fire was perhaps an act of crystalizing my thoughts and memories of her. When sculpting, I have a premeditated form in mind, yet my intention, or even ego, vanishes in the fire, filtering out all impurities. Hence, what’s left is beauty that is essential."
Film credits: quomunelab co.ltd
Director: Takahiro Aoki
Director of Photography, Edit: Shinya Kitamura
Production Manager: Mizuki Kariwa
Editor, Subtitles: Naoki Kotaka, Atsushi Hamanaka
Thanks: Marie Sasago, Ayaka Hatakoshi, Yasushi Amano