Terumasa Ikeda: Iridescent Lacquer
Ippodo Gallery New York illuminates a modern lacquer technique that disrupts preconceived notions of the raden (mother-of -pearl inlay) tradition. Terumasa Ikeda: Iridescent Lacquer—on display from March 16th to April 20th, 2023—showcases Terumasa Ikeda’s revolutionary laser-incised raden technique, a method the artist spent eight years developing. Ikeda was born and resides in Kanazawa, known as the country’s preeminent hub for lacquerware production. Arabic numerals, computer screens, and digital signals—all assembled from abalone shell—adorn the twenty object boxes, tea caddies, and incense containers.
In various sizes, from cubes to hexagons to pyramids, Ikeda’s artworks are crafted from most precious materials: a base of Japanese native kiso hinoki wood is coated with innumerable layers of black urushi lacquer and decorated with gold leaf, gold powder, and mother-of-pearl. With a hand in each step of the fabrication, the pristine forms cut from wood and varnished with urushi lacquer perfectly accentuate the miniscule and intricate decorations of Ikeda’s design.
The truly unique interpretation of the rare technique has made Terumasa Ikeda one of the most sought after raden artists of the new generation. For Ikeda, this technique is a most natural progression in keeping with the times; where once raden was dominated by images of the divine, Ikeda’s cutting-edge artworks assert that magic—really, the laws and values of our modern society—is one to nine and everything in between.
Be sure to read Ippodo's journal, published weekly, including an upcoming feature on Terumasa Ikeda’s March exhibition. The artist will attend a forthcoming reception hosted by Ippodo Gallery at 32 E 67th Street to discuss his work and answer questions. All are welcome.
Terumasa Ikeda: Iridescent Lacquer
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, March 16 — April 20, 2023
OPENING RECEPTION with the artist, March 16, 5:00–8:00 PM
NEW YORK, NY – In celebration of Ippodo Gallery’s 15 year anniversary, we are pleased to announce Terumasa Ikeda’s first overseas solo exhibition. Coinciding with Asia Week 2023, TERUMASA IKEDA: IRIDESCENT LACQUER is an unveiling of the artist’s signature alluring raden lacquerware.
Since Japan’s first encounter with the cultures of Europe some 500 years ago, lacquer has become representative of the great treasures the archipelago has to offer the world and a long-favored subject of international trade. Thus, “lacquer” has become synonymous with “Japan.” Extracted from trees and mildly processed, lacquer is a varnish applied to the exterior surface of an object, forming a lustrous film with a mesmerizing sense of depth. Beyond its beauty, lacquer is a highly sustainable product completely devoid of harmful additives that prove toxic to the planet’s environment.
Terumasa Ikeda (born 1987) is an innovative lacquer artist who fabricates shimmering mother-of-pearl designs ingrained into the surface of wood in the raden technique. Ikeda’s idea is strikingly modern; the high-tech motifs that transform the surface into an electronic interface bridge the worlds of classical and contemporary lacquer. As if emanating luminescence from within, Ikeda’s works have become highly prized for the artist’s most technologically advanced method, and never before have his works been available for direct purchase by audiences outside of Japan.
Ikeda, who earned his B.A. and M.A. from the Kanazawa College of Art, was drawn to the city as Kanazawa is considered the historical hub for lacquerware in Japan. Under the tutelage of lacquer master Shinya Yamamura, Ikeda trained in the mother-of-pearl inlay technique's traditional and highly technical aspects. As a student, Ikeda’s experiences in Nepal fostered a deep appreciation for craftsmanship and everyday handmade objects. The vibrant and complex wooden architecture and the culture of making that included every generation of the family from elder to child sparked inspiration inside Ikeda. The Nepalese encounter pushed Ikeda to question the parameters of craftsmanship as an age-old method of interpersonal communication. In this modern day, is there a shared visual language? The visual language of raden, which began as ornamentation and opulent treasures part of the Shosoin Repository in the 8th century, historically projected images of kachōfugetsu, “the beauties of nature.”
The Light Not Lost"Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" – T.S. EliotShoko Aono
Director, Ippodo Gallery New York
The lacquers of Terumasa Ikeda, even among the great works of Japan’s lacquer masters, surpass all expectations of lacquerware. Born into the digital age, Ikeda studied lacquer technique in Kanazawa, a city on Japan’s northern coast renowned for its traditional handcrafts. If we accept the concept of Japanese kōgei (technical art craft) as being: where material meets sensibility—a cultural phenomenon (Sōetsu Yanagi), then it is only natural that the contemporary artist should not be satisfied with employing the long-established lacquer technique of mother-of-pearl inlay to merely produce traditional forms of decoration. Instead, he reflects the world he sees around him in the surface of the lacquer; unafraid to utilize modern technology, he strives to surpass the limits of the materials. This rigorous method means that he is only able to produce around thirty works per year, but his dazzling lacquer boxes capture the technically precocious quality of what Ippodo Gallery identifies as “kōgei of today”
Lacquer has a long history in Japan, used to produce personal items or as a reinforcing agent since the Jōmon period (c. 14,000–300 BCE), but it was not until the Asuka period (592–710) that the raden technique—decorative inlay of thin pieces of mother-of-pearl obtained from the inside of limpet shells—was developed. At that time, raden was a very rare technique, used only in the production of the most valuable objects, like the five-string Biwa (lute) contained in the Shōsōin Repository. This is the historical material on which Ikeda centers his attention. While attending high school, he traveled to Nepal to help work on the preservation and conservation of National Heritage sites. There, Ikeda became fascinated by the minute decoration he saw applied to the surface of buildings. Later, his visits to other places of worship, including the temples of Angkor Wat and Bhaktapur, as well as Cologne Cathedral, made him realize that it was the combination of numerous fine details that served to move people’s hearts and the more minute these were, the greater their feeling of sanctity. The traditional images of nature favored by the artists of the Asuka period did not represent the experience of living in the modern day, and so Ikeda finally arrived at the idea of numerals, symbolizing the IT age, as his motif.
Contributing Essays and Press
NEW VALUESFebruary 22, 2023Although undeniably revolutionary, Terumasa Ikeda’s use of numerals as decoration and his application of computer-guided laser cutting and ultrasound to the art of shell inlay in lacquer can be interpreted...
The Past Meets the Present: Terumasa Ikeda’s LacquerwareMarch 1, 2023With great virtuosity, Terumasa Ikeda transports lacquerware into the 21st century. He bridges the past and the present by using the same raden technique and materials employed by prior lacquer...
Design Miami E-Magazine: The BuzzMarch 3, 2023Ippodo Gallery in New York presents a solo exhibition spotlighting Japanese lacquer artist Terumasa Ikeda. Ikeda fabricates shimmering mother-of-pearl designs ingrained into the surface of wood with an innovative laser-incised...