As a legend in the field of ceramic art, Shin Fujihira’s impact on Japanese ceramics was profound. His whimsical works lived in an imaginative world of their own and, since his death in 2012, only a very small number of exhibitions have showcased them. Therefore, it is Ippodo Gallery’s immense honor to present “Shin Fujihira: Ethereal Clay,” a solo exhibition of over 50 pieces by Shin Fujihira, ranging from the early 1980s to the late 2000s, on view June 13 until July 21 in New York. For this special occasion, we have essays in the show’s catalogue by Glenn Adamson, curator and Elizabeth Essner, who is an independent curator, writer and researcher specializing in modern and contemporary design and craft.
Fujihira’s legacy was shaped early on by a few key, formative circumstances. His family owned a studio in the well-known ceramic area of Kyoto, Gojozaka, where ceramicists often shared kilns. In fact, Fujihira’s family rented space in the kiln of mingei master Kanjiro Kawai (1890 – 1966) who gave Fujihira his name “Shin.” Growing up, Fujihira and his brother frequently visited Kawai at his home to watch him work. When the time came, Fujihira began studying art at the Kyoto Institute of Technology, but his studies were postponed when he became ill and was hospitalized for four years. It was during this time that Fujihira began sketching the world around him, honing his distinctive eye for the figures he would later incorporate into his ceramic works.
After regaining his health, Fujihira left the hospital with a newfound appreciation for the preciousness of life. His work became a celebration of life itself, filling it with the energy of light, happiness and heavenly spirit. Rather than throwing pieces on a wheel like many of his peers, Fujihira created both ornamental and functional pottery by pinching. This technique gave Fujihara the flexibility to explore the fanciful abstractions of his imagination and translate them into clay.
This upcoming exhibition of Shin Fujihira’s works is a testament to the success of this technique in portraying his vision—a woman throws her arms open to the heavens, balancing upon stairs leading nowhere in particular; a pair of squat owls rests atop an incense burner; a water dropper arcs, caves, distends. The fantasy is only heightened by Fujihira’s masterful use of dream-like, pale celadon and cinnabar glazes. It is easy to get lost in the etheral pinks, blues and greens that deliciously coat each piece. More than just ceramics, Shin Fujihira created pure magic, which continues to spark a sense of wonder in all who get a glimpse into his world.