Surface Folds: Yukiya Izumita Clay Wares


Unforseen Lines

Shoko Aono

Yukiya Izumita’s studio is situated in Noda Village, on the border between Iwate and Aomori prefectures, in Japan’s northernmost ceramic production area. Facing the Pacific Ocean, the Tohoku region’s distinctive climate is forged by strong winds and rough seas. Izumita’s native landscape lies amidst deserted coastlines, cracked driftwood, rusty ships and salmon hanging up to dry. He digs up his own clay from the salt-rich fields near the coast. On his journey back, he becomes conscious of the profound weight he carries on his shoulders and feels throughout his body. He imagines deeply his desire to ‘make this weight lighter’ - a conceptual mantra that carries through in his art practice. 


Opposites, conflicting elements such as crude and beauty, weak and strong, fleeting and eternal…he aims to discover a single point where these contradictory aspects can comfortably coexist. To achieve this, he takes paper – just regular, used pieces of paper – and begins to fold it freely to his heart’s content. As the artist said, ‘Most times my hand understands more than my head does.’ The paper rapidly takes on shapes; unforeseen lines appear; light and shade give form to a new space as Izumita searches for a balance between the medium’s fragility and its resistance.  

Experience has taught Izumita the transient fragility of existence and a love for the appearance of nature’s gradual decay.  Life changes as it wanes with the passage of time.  ‘The world itself resembles a huge ceramic work,’ he said, ‘I wonder if I will be able to leave my own mark here.’ 


His hometown of Rikuzentakata was swept away by the great tsunami of March 2011.  At the solo exhibition he held at Ippodo Gallery New York the year following this tragedy, he fascinated the people of the world with works that overflowed with earthly energy – pieces that seemed to resonate with the sound of the waves.


While these objects may appear to be airy and float ethereal, they also conjure a feeling of being monumental, like ancient landmarks conveying a profound amount of time. Picking up his tea bowl, it possesses at once weightlessness and warmth. Some of the surprising forms he creates appear primitive, like African art, but simultaneously avant-garde, like the architecture of Frank Gehry.  

Confronted with Izumita’s wares, we find ourselves seized by an involuntary urge to reach out and touch.  We are filled with a nostalgia for our childhood when we used to play with clay.  Everything that springs forth from the earth eventually returns to it.  The earth extends far in Izumita’s work.

Press release

Ippodo Gallery is pleased to present Surface Folds¸ a show of Yukiya Izumita’s clay wares in New York. Coinciding with Asia Week New York from March 9th to April 7th, 30 works will showcase Izumita’s deep understanding of clay and artistry, honed over a lifetime of training and passion. In his exploration of technique through paper and clay, mastery gives way to dual fragility and strength — finding balance.

Marrying the techniques of origami and sculpture, Izumita layers paper on clay and lets it dry.  One key ingredient to his unique clay is Chamotte, a pre-calcined, refractory clay fired and ground before being used inside the brick’s recipe. After many experiments with mixed ash, soils, and shimmering manganese mineral, he has mastered the production of a pale metallic texture in the final coating.


In a word, Izumita strives for lightness. His passion is to release from the heavy weight of stress in life, and striving for this weightless serenity is the solution. As a poet and an observer of the natural world, the artist is driven by his desire to metaphorically unburden — to lighten the load.


In his sense of discovery as he incorporates many materials, he uses local earth as the base of his work. The salty soil intrinsic to the works comes from the seaside, and Izumita carries four pounds bags back and forth to be used in his art. The heaviness of the earth gives way to lightness of the craftsmanship.


The salt-rich sands are in a subdued palette of red, yellow, and black, colors coming from nature. Izumita is influenced by the gestural style of Alberto Giacometti and Marino Marini, so the sharp shapes of his work maintain organic colors and natural lines. A recurring theme throughout the showcase is juxtaposition, challenging the balance of contradictory sensations in aesthetics and ideology.


Once the soil has been harnessed, Izumita begins the process of papering the pieces. He folds papers over and over, feeling the rhythm of the folding in his hands. As the tactile process takes shape, he envisions the natural landscape of the earth, and his spirit transcends the motion. This is the source of his artistic inspiration. Then he gets to his work, manifesting the evanescence in form. 

Izumita trained in Kokuji-ware under Gakuho Shimodake in 1992, opening his own workshop in Noda Village, Iwate Prefecture, on the border with the northern ceramic production area of Aomori Prefecture in 1995. Northeast Japan (Tohoku) is very severe, and Izumita drew strength from the coastal winds and the endurance found in seaside culture. 

Izumita has had a lengthy career, with extensive acclaim in Japan. His international acclaim began when he participated in SOFA New York in 2005, then exhibited in New Mexico and at Ippodo in 2012.  In Japan, Izumita has been the recipient of numerous accolades, such as the Excellence Award at the 20th Biennial Japan Ceramic Art Exhibition in 2009, as well as the Grand Prix at the Asahi Ceramic Exhibitions of 2000 and 2002. 


In 2011, his childhood hometown, Rikuzentakata, was swallowed away by Great Tsunami in 2011.  Ippodo Gallery continues to showcase his work as a testament to its mission in pursuit of the beauty of nature, with a sense of global consciousness for the fragility of the environment and the strength of quiet serenity.

Installation Views