Tsuji Masashi

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.

1959   Born Wajima City Ishikawa Prefecture
1988   Graduated from the Ishikawa Prefecture Wajima Lacquer Institute
Learnt lathe techniques from father Tsuji Yoshio
1998   Commenced lacquer art
2001   Millenium Prize Lacquer Project Mitsukoshi
2004   Began the study of ‘kawari-nuri’ under the guidance of Kitamura Tatsuo
Solo exhibition at Gallery Tamamo Nanao City Ishikawa
2005   Selected Exhibitor The Lacquer Show Pola Museum Annexe Ginza Tokyo
2006   Exhibited work in ‘Aroma’ Australia-Japan Year of Exchange Official Event Hamilton Art Gallery Victoria Australia
Exhibited Wajima Lacquer Museum ‘Aroma’
Selected exhibitor 11th Annual ‘Ranpuu’ Art Exhibition Nagano Prefecture
2007   International Asian Art Fair New York Lesley Kehoe Galleries
Group Exhibition Gallery Time Ginza Tokyo
2008   International Asian Art Fair New York Lesley Kehoe Galleries
Selected Exhibitor Isehan The Return of the Edo Cosmetic Itabeni (Lipstick Palette)
2009   Prize Young Artists Create Wristwatch Dials Ginza Tenshodo 130th Anniversary Exhibition

National Gallery of Victoria Australia
Private collections Japan, Australia


Tsuji Masashi
Lesley Kehoe