Japanese Kogei: by Five Ippodo Artists

Kôgei art springs from detailed technique and genuine internal soul. In honor of our artists’ participation in the Japanese Kôgei Future Forward exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design, Ippodo will be presenting the newest works by our five exhibiting artists: Shinya Yamamura, Toshio Ohi, Kohei Nakamura, Harumi Noguchi, and Yuki Hayama.

The word “Kôgei” is most often translated to English as “crafts,” but the unique sense of Japanese artistry and spirituality in craftsmanship does not translate. The shape, line, and texture of the Kôgei work in tandem with the object’s utilitarian purpose, thus setting the art form apart as immaculate.


In this case, the Ippodo artists exemplify personalized and regional diversity, using the longstanding tradition as a means of contemporary expression. 


Shinya Yamamura  (lacquer)

Shinya Yamamura, a prestigious craftsman and professor at the Kanazawa College of Art, manifests the marriage of technique and passion in Kôgei with an intensive multi-step process, which varies for each object. Lacquer work is influenced by humidity and temperature, thus the climate of the day can affect each aspect of the finished product. In many cases, Yamamura applies the many coats of lacquer in processes called shitaji (founding coat), sabishitanuri (primary coat) nakanuri (secondary coat) of lacquer to the cypress kiji (base), and finally kashoku, the decoration stage, in which he applies precious materials. His well-known designs include small boxes decorated with spirals inspired by the Jugendstil mastery of Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, much to the delight of viewers from varied audiences, and other works use gold/silver lacquer, abalone mother-of-pearl and eggshell inlay. Yamamura has shown work with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, and collected by the Freer and Sackler Galleries at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC among others. 


Toshio Ohi  (ceramics)

Toshio Ohi is based in Kanazawa, a city beloved for its heritage of craftsmanship. Born the eleventh generation of the prestigious Ohi Yaki pottery family (his father is Chozaeomon Ohi) Toshio Ohi received his M. F. A. from Boston University in 1984, and has gone on to hold honorary positions at Kanazawa University, Tainan National College of arts in Taiwan, and Rochester Institute of Technology in the United States. Notable exhibitions have been held in Icheon, Korea and Jiangxi, China. Ohi style is distinguished by which pieces of soft clay are fired at low temperatures for lustrous sheen, and hand-shaped without a wheel for unique results. Ohi is among the most elite tea bowl artists in Japan today.

Kohei Nakamura  (ceramics)

Kohei Nakamura is also from the traditional ceramic family, yet experiments with avant-garde in contemporary pieces since 1970. His contemporary art has been collected by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Namakura only began to study traditional tea bowls following his return from the United States to Japan. With an amazing skill and a sense of creativity, he references and imitates the history of the masters. His recent Ido tea bowl series is highly evaluated as “ Ido of the Heisei Era ”.

Harumi Noguchi  (ceramics)

Harumi Noguchi is the only female artist in the group show. Her works testify to a more independent spirit, and embody Ippodo’s passion for innovation—they take on a mystical quality. Harumi Noguchi is a self-taught female artist, born in Tokyo in 1948 and inspired to work the clay with her hands. Her figures depict whimsical fairies, animals, and even demons. Although the size is seen as scaling the imposition of the figure down, it also condenses the imagination of the artist, suggestive of a world apart. As a woman working with mysticism and earth, she takes on an otherworldly quality, ethereal and deified. The viewing at Ippodo will be Noguchi’s second in conjunction with a showcase at the Museum of Arts and Design.

Yuki Hayama  (porcelain)

Yuki Hayama opened his own kiln in 1985, in his hometown of Arita, Saga Prefecture. The element of whimsy is present with characters introduced from ancient legends and myths, once again creating a narrative in each object. Hayama has thoroughly studied varied forms of decorative patterning from around the world, and consistently questions meaning in his own work. The result is a pensive relationship to the viewer, prompting reflection on the past and future of design. Ippodo will hold a subsequent solo exhibition of Hayama’s work in December.