Tsujimura Shiro : Ceramic Glazes as Abstract Art

‘For a look at some of the most expressive abstract painting around, check out the new ceramics by the Japanese artist Shiro Tsujimura …’ So wrote the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning art critic Holland Cotter (read full article here) earlier this month with regard to the ceramic works on exhibit at Koichi Yanagi Oriental Fine Arts in New York. Cotter would appear to have no reservations about blurring the boundaries between fine art and its often less well regarded cousin, ‘craft’, in this metaphor. Note also that he refers to Tsujimura as ‘Japanese artist’ not Japanese potter. In fact, we dare suggest that this acknowledgment of artistic creativity and genius, regardless of medium, is a growing trend.

Tsujimura actually started life learning oil painting but, attracted by an Ido tea bowl, transferred his commitment to ceramics. This was in 1965 and was followed by several years in a Zen monastery. The Yanagi catalogue shows Tsujimura with a large brush engaged in Zen painting. These bold yet considered brush strokes are also evident in the landscapes of his ceramic vessels, part of the abstract landscapes noted by Cotter.

Tsujimura is a self-taught potter, but in accordance with the Japanese custom of reverence and mastery of past traditions, gives an individual flair to the much loved ceramic traditions of Iga, Shigaraki, Shino, Bizen, Ido, Kohiki and so on.  Traditional tea bowls of course feature in his works, but so too do vessels with a distinctly contemporary inspiration, ‘With their ruddy surfaces and burst-open mouths, his spherical jars…look both vegetal and fantastic, like some intergalactic species of mushroom.’ (Holland Cotter)

Hamilton Art Gallery in regional Victoria has a significant collection of both traditional and contemporary Japanese ceramics now enhanced by the acquisition of a superb Oribe-Kuro (black Oribe) chawan (tea bowl) by Tsujimura from the New York exhibition. It joins three other Tsujimura chawan selected by Director Daniel McOwan as contemporary examples of some of Japan’s most important ceramic traditions.

Chawan, and the practice of tea, embody the aesthetic principles of Japanese art – function is an essential part of the aesthetic. Function influences form and once that function is fully understood, both the technical and conceptual skill of the artist can be fully appreciated. The revered tradition of the way of tea ensures that chawan are generally at the top of the financial tree. More accessible, and equally expressive of the enjoyment of a purpose-created art vessel, are guinomi- sake cups. There is a Karatsu style chawan in Tsujimura’s New York exhibition featuring a Zen enso (circle) whose miniature version rests in a signed box in our gallery, part of our rich collection of sake vessels, many by Tsujimura, and each with its own ‘ expressive abstract painting’.

Karatsu style Tea Bowl by Tsujimura Shiro
Image courtesy of Koichi Yanagi oriental fine arts

Karatsu Style Guinomi (sake cup) by Tsujimura Shiro
available from LKG email sales@kehoe.com.au

Tea Bowl by Tsujimura Shiro
Image courtesy of bpracticalpottery.wordpress.com

The Elusive Tea Bowl Workshop with Tsujimura Shiro – Courtesy of HarvardArts Youtube Channel :