Rinpa: Silver Waves: Lacquer works by Tohru Matsuzaki

Ippodo Gallery is pleased to present its latest exhibition, “ Rinpa: Silver Waves”, a solo showcase of lacquer wares by Tohru Matsuzaki (b. 1944) will be on view for November 1 - November 21


His deep understanding of Japanese artistry has flourished through a lifelong journey of vitality and self-discovery, leading to unique and inventive works which remain useful and subtle in design.



Tohru Matsuzaki lives and works in a beautiful gated residence in Motegi, just north of Tokyo. It is a stone’s throw from the renowned pottery center of Mashiko, where ceramic artist Shoji Hamada first cultivated the folk art movement Mingei in 1930. And so, past and future coexist in this quiet enclave, as our artist continues to create. Today, he is widely celebrated, and heads the Kougeibu (Craft Division) of the influential artists’ association Kokugakai. 



Matsuzaki’s appreciation of form and function was fused by his unprecedented work ethic. Seemingly rough around the edges but equally familiar and kind, the artist’s sense of self is synonymous with the pieces on display. Although his father was a Nihonga painter, in 1974, Matsuzaki’s pursuit of lacquer study proved he was as fascinated by its significance in traditional Japanese culture as by its humble, functional origins--particularly Mingei, or folk art. As such, Matsuzaki’s experimentation remains exceptional, essentially creating his own genre.



At first, he worked solely in the natural tones of the red and clear lacquer on wood, only adding the matte-finished black lacquer to his portfolio. This stands apart from the typical works of the period, in what Asian art specialist Martin Barnes has called, “tactile in a very unpretentious way, not obviously rustic like some Mingei lacquer.” 


Matsuzaki approaches the process with his trademark energy and unique eye. He hollows out the wood, shapes it, then applies and reapplies the thick coats of fresh lacquer, accenting with cinnabar for red. In this methodology, he has uncovered a means to express his individuality: a technique rooted in simplicity and strength. The beauty of Matsuzaki’s work lies in this dual significance. The silver waves tell the story.


These silver waves evoke the whimsy of the Rinpa movement, the Japanese art category established in the 17th century. As director Shoko Aono explains, “His sculptural works capture the viewer’s heart.  Carved from single pieces of 400-to 500 year-old zelkova, horse chestnut or chestnut timber that have been dried for more than twenty years, they do not warp. The beauty of the numerous coats of black or vermillion lacquer awake ancient memories of the Jōmon period that lie dormant within us.”