The works of Bizen saikumono artist Hikaru Shimamura break from traditional Bizen ware in their distinctive style and presence. His saikumono [figurines and other types of ornamental ware] are imbued with a sense of humor, nostalgia and poetry. Never cloying, his works have a purity about them, as if testifying to the "cleansing" effect firing is said to have on pottery. The appeal, in a word, is grace, which emanates from within.
Shimamura was in his fifties when he first exhibited. Until then, he did not produce works for sale, but only what he desired to create, and this attitude remains unchanged today, when he has many solo exhibitions under his belt. Shimamura is an artist who doggedly pursues his own unique path. The quintessence of his work is arguably his uncompromising sense of purpose and asceticism.
The artist maintains his trademark stubble and bare feet, which he keeps in Japanese zori sandals, regardless of the season, for the reason that he wants to keep his feet firmly on the ground at all times. His works are high-fired, unglazed yakishime ware made from fine-textured Bizen clay. Subjects are often cats, sparrows, scenes of kiln sites and other familiar motifs. "I find it very relaxing to prepare clay, imagining what the fired work would look like. The character of the clay determines what I make with it," says the artist. The act of handling clay generates shapes, wherein lies one of the greatest fascinations of pottery, and the freshness of Shimamura's works.
When he was in his twenties, Shimamura aspired to become an avant-garde artist. He changed course when he first saw the work of Tetsumi Kudo, an extraordinary artist whose caliber Shimamura felt he would never match. After returning to his hometown, Shimamura started producing Bizen ware saikumono, which had been familiar to him since childhood. One senses, however, that intact at the root of Shimamura's creations is the avant-garde spirit kindled in his youth, which continues to defy the conventional and predictable.
Shimamura keeps his expressions concise, and never overloads them, much like a diner who chooses to eat in moderation. This is probably because fussiness is not conducive to successfully conveying the essence of his work. This approach is a direct reflection of the artist's attitude toward life. It is the space left unfilled that captures the imagination.
The present series began from the question of why the cat, one of the animals most familiar to humankind, was not chosen to serve among the twelve animal signs of the Eastern zodiac. The query prompted the birth of the artist's own "thirteen zodiac animals." This exhibition presents the latest version of his zodiac, which includes a rabbit playing a violin, the entire figure modeled with a "pleated" surface; a wide-eyed cat wearing a smart pinafore dress; and other figures that look as if they have emerged straight out of a storybook.
Mori Koichi, Art Critic, Executive Director, Japan Ceramic Society
|Date||28 June - 3 September, 2018|
|Open Hours||10:00 - 18:00|
|Closed||Wednesdays, August 11-15 & 26|
|Planned and organized by||LIXIL Corporation|
|1942||Born in Osafune Town (present-day Setouchi City), Okayama Prefecture|
|1962||Graduated from the Painting Department, Naniwa Junior College (present-day Osaka University of Arts Junior College), and took a craftwork-related job|
|1975||Chose a path as a ceramic artist, inspired by early-modern Bizen ware handicrafts|
|1978||Opened his own 'anagama' kiln (a type of climbing kiln) in Osafune Town and began to work as an independent ceramic artist|
|1990||Moved to Kugui, Bizen City, and opened his own climbing kiln|
|1997||First solo exhibition: 'Thirteen Animals of the East Asian Zodiac—A Cat who Has Shown up Late' (Shibuya Kuroda Toen / Tokyo)|
|1998||Solo exhibition (DAI ICHI ARTS / New York)|
|1999||Solo exhibition (Asuka Garo / Okayama)|
|2000||Solo exhibition: 'Small Treasures—From Fall to Winter' (Shibuya Kuroda Toen / Tokyo)|
|2001||Duo exhibition (Kobo IKUKO / Kurashiki)|
|2002||Solo exhibition: 'Play with Bizen Ware Handicrafts—A Sketch of the Kiln-side' (Okayama Tenmaya / Okayama)|
|2003||Solo exhibition: 'A Landscape of the Kiln-side—Works—' (Shibuya Kuroda Toen / Tokyo)|
|2004||Opened his own anagama kiln|
|Solo exhibition: 'Hatsugama—Hohin Teapots—' (Shibuya Kuroda Toen / Tokyo)|
|2005||Solo exhibition: 'Tea for Two with Hohin Teapots' (Okayama Tenmaya / Okayama)|
|2006||Solo exhibition: '63 Heartbeats' (Shibuya Kuroda Toen / Tokyo)|
|2007||Solo exhibition: 'Saikumono' (Ceramic Handicrafts) (Okayama Tenmaya / Okayama)|
|2010||Solo exhibition: 'Pots' (Shibuya Kuroda Toen / Tokyo)|
|2013||Designated as preserver of “Bizen ware creative techniques,” an intangible cultural property of Bizen City|
|Solo exhibition: 'A Sketch of the Kiln-side' (Okayama Tenmaya / Okayama)|
|2015||Won the Okayama Prefecture Cultural Prize for Encouragement|
|Exhibition: 'Preciousness of the Timeless—Hikaru Shimamura and Old Ceramics' (Kurozumikyo Homotsukan / Okayama)|
|2016||Won the Sanyo Shimbun Award for Cultural Merit|
|Won the Marusen Special Award at the Marusen Sports & Culture Award|
|2017||Exhibition of Hikaru Shimamura, Yuho Kaneshige, and Ryuichi Kakurezaki (Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art / Okayama)|
|Solo exhibition: Hikaru Shimamura Exhibition—'Weaving Clay' (Tenmaya Hacchobori Gallery / Hiroshima)|