The Shikokenkyukai : Reinventing Lost Art


Secret techniques went to the grave with traditional Japanese lacquer masters causing severe limitations to the achievements of the followers in the field. Mastery of technique is taken as a necessary prerequisite for self-expression in all fields of Japanese art thus the loss of technique is a barrier to development. Contemporary lacquer master Unryuan Kitamura Tatsuo has made the rediscovery of lost techniques part of his mission as a 21st century lacquer artist. With academic specialist Professor Yamazaki Tatsufumi, Unryuan has formed a group of specialists from different fields to study and reinvent forgotten speciality techniques.

Sponsored by cosmetic company Isehan, a group of some 30 specialists and young emerging artists combined their talents in a unique project to recreate the Uwajima Date Incense Set. This set dates from the 18th century and is held in the inventory of the Date Museum in Ehime Prefecture. Special permission was granted to the group to study the piece in detail. Recreating this set involved not only lacquer artists, but also metal, ceramic, painting and textile professionals as well as consultants in the art and etiquette of the incense game. Lesley Kehoe Galleries artists Kitamura Tsuruyo and her teacher Iida Seppo and popular young metal artist Kise Hiroshi were part of this select group.

To national and international acclaim the completed work was recently exhibited at the Isehan Museum in Tokyo. Two years of intense research, experimentation and commitment by this group of artists has resulted in a work that is testament to the future possibilities of lacquer art in Japan. Young artists were nurtured and given the opportunity to handle and study masterworks from the golden age of lacquer and to work side by side with master artists from a number of fields. Now discussing their next project, the group forms one of the most exciting repositories of artistic creativity, talent and technical prowess in the preservation and development of the traditional arts of Japan.