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.