Tsuji Masashi (b. 1959)
Tsuji Masashi sees beauty in the process of decay, the inevitable return to nothing. The contrasting landscape of red and black in traditional negoro lacquer, the result of centuries of caring use, is the starting point for his reinterpretation of this much loved lacquer ware. For him, the red and black are a metaphor for the existence of natural opposites- day and night, light and dark, life and death.
The topography of the negoro landscape however, is created by the underlying form. It is in the combination of form with surface decoration and patination that the secret beauty of negoro lies.
It is not only form that decays with time but also knowledge and technique. Tsuji’s forms echo the masterpieces of the past, but their serene resolution hides the painstaking commitment and experimentation required to reinvent lost techniques. Not only has Tsuji developed a new lacquer technique, he has also had to reinvent lost techniques of base construction and shaping.
In a studio that employed large numbers of craftsmen, lathes stand idle and mountains of turned bases for bowls and trays are stacked to the ceiling over three floors of a once prosperous business. The fast life style of the twentieth century leaves little time for the appreciation and enjoyment of lacquer ware in daily life. In this workshop, Tsuji Masashi learned lathe wood-turning techniques from his father in the family business, perfecting this over a ten-year period before he succumbed to the allure of lacquer art.
The combination of his experience in form and his study of ‘kawarinuri’ (unusual lacquer techniques) under the guidance of Unryuan Kitamura Tatsuo, has created an entirely new lacquer surface technique – ‘kannyuu’ or crackle glaze. This crackle glaze on the surface of deep red lacquer is Tsuji’s interpretation of the process of ageing and ‘decay’. He has created ‘Heisei Negoro’ – 21st century negoro.