Modern applied art from Japan
On 19 February 2008, in the Menshikov Palace an exhibition of modern Japanese applied art of the 1990s opened. These works were created by the postwar generation whose creative activity developed alongside the nationís broad international ties. Japanís openness to the world inspired these artists to seek a new understanding of beauty that was in harmony with national ideals of the tradition of art but also with the concepts and trends of Western culture.
The exhibition includes more than 60 works made of ceramics, porcelain, glass, metal, and lacquer representing various tendencies in modern Japanese art and combining innovation and tradition. Some of the represented artists have been awarded the title of Living National Treasure.
Among them is Minori Yoshida, a ceramist who has experimented with many styles and techniques of ornamentation, using gold as a decorative element. Sayoko Eri, Ogyo Ichishima, and Yuriko Matsuda offer interesting solutions that are based on their national tradition.
Ceramists pay great attention to the shape of objects. New shapes often appear in combination with traditional motifs, as in works by Nobuhiko Sueoka. In some works, artists refer us directly to the style that served as their source of inspiration. Ryoji Koie, for example, found inspiration in the oribe style named after Furuta Oribe, a well-known master of tea ceremonies in the 16th century, and Yuichi Yamamoto in the bizen style with its characteristic red-brown clay.
Ceramists are not alone in their tendency to use traditions from previous eras, which is well seen from the lacquer negoro works by Arihiko Natsume and Yasuko Okamura. The name negoro was given to the works created by the artists of the sacred complex of Negoro between the 12th and 13th century, which they covered with red lacquer, often applying black lacquer underneath.
Artists Yataro Amemiya and Masayuki Hashimoto seek to express their idea of beauty by using new techniques in processing materials. Some artists tend to consciously simplify the shape (Ryo Mikami) whereas others provide it with unusual lines that make it sometimes difficult to identify the functionality of an object (Kazuhiko Sato).
Glass articles made by Yoshinori Masuda and Jun Fujita are also of interest, especially as glass is not a traditional material used in Japan, and is a European influence that appeared on the Kyushu Island only in the 17th century.
Tatiana Arapova, the leading researcher at the Hermitage Oriental Department, curated the exhibition.