Stainless steel and titanium, spaceships and New York skyscrapers may seem strange bedfellows with the traditional material of urushi (Japanese lacquer), but in the creative work of master lacquer artist Akabori Ikuhiko, they come together in large panels and three dimensional objects exemplifying the infinite possibilities of lacquer art.
At 75, Akabori is a master, still ‘making’ but not ‘in the making’…originality, mastery and ongoing creativity come with long practice, life experience and wisdom, undoubtedly part of the reason why Japanese culture does not recognize mastery in mid-life.
Time and space have been a long-standing theme in Akabori’s work. Master of traditional techniques of makie, hyomon (sheet metal on lacquer) and Shibayama inlay, Akabori creates three- dimensional pictures on flat panels of lacquer, and a variety of objects using the plasticity of lacquer and the complementary lustre of metal.
In objects, Akabori remains faithful to the tradition of the functional vessel in Japanese culture, but in a flower vessel cuts away the framework of the lacquer to reveal the internal liner. In the New York series the vessels take on the architectural form of Manhattan’s skyline.
Akabori’s career is a distinguished one full of prizes and awards in Japan’s top competitive exhibitions and crowned with an Imperial Award in 2000. In addition to his artistic career, he has made a huge contribution to the arts in his prolific career as a judge, council member on a variety of arts’ institutions and a teacher.
Challenging conceptions of what can be done with lacquer art, his work is a constant reminder of the value of age and experience in creativity and originality.