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An exhibition of ceramics and paintings

YASUHISA KOHYAMA WILLIAM WILKINS 8th - 30th November 2017 Private View Tuesday, 7th November, 6-8pm Artists present

15 Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London, W1S 4SP +44 (0) 20 7491 1706 | mail@erskinehallcoe.com | www.erskinehallcoe.com


YASUHISA KOHYAMA Pottery, the great twentieth century art critic, Herbert Read, wrote in 1931, is a “fundamental art”. As soon as men and women began to settle, ten thousand years ago, they turned to clay. They used this abundant material to construct their homes, to create their vessels and to communicate their intense feelings for the environment - animal, vegetable and mineral - in which they found themselves. Indeed, Read continued, pottery is “so bound up with the elementary needs of civilization, that a national ethos must find its expression in this medium.” It is to these most ancient roots of pottery that Yasuhisa Kohyama’s magnificent pots return us. Using the gritty Kibushi and Gairome clays especially dug for him in his native Shiga prefecture, Kohyama builds and carves pots that seem to capture in their accomplished, asymmetrical stillness all the human impulses of balance and celebration that mark a civilization. Each pot bears openly the marks of its construction: the sharp edges where the steel wire has cut; the incised lines of decoration; the ragged edges where the clay has torn; the precise seams and ridges. More than exercises in pure form, their dramatic shapes allude to the world around him - to chimneys or roof tops; to axe-blades or cliff-faces; to bones or shards of ice; to the human figure or ancient vessels; to running water or curling flame or to the wind or birds in flight. Then they bear a skin formed in the wild fire of the anagama kiln, to which Kohyama surrenders his creations. In this furnace, accidents of wind and wood ash conspire with the gradations of temperature to produce the varied shades, from dark brown or steely grey to warm reds, mossy greens and ethereal pale blues, of Kohyama’s pots, and to accentuate the lively textures of their unglazed stoneware bodies. Yet, for all that these pots echo back through history, and especially the specific history of pottery in Japan, they are also unmistakably contemporary. Besides their sculptural vocabulary of forms, these are individually expressive vessels, each one a separate proposition. And while ostensibly bottles or vases or bowls, function is one idea they hold in suspense rather than the necessary condition for their existence.

Suemono, 2017 43 x 28.5 x 10 cm (YK-0084)

Kohyama was born in 1936 in Shigaraki, one of the most important historical centres for ceramics in Japan. The early death of his father required him to start work at fifteen, when he joined one of the largest ceramic factories in Shigaraki, Oumi Kagaku Touki. It was while he was here that he encountered the ceramicist designer Sakuzo Hineno, to whom he became apprenticed, specialising in tablewares, whilst also taking evening classes in basic ceramic techniques, such as throwing on the potter’s wheel and glazing. The factory had a reputation for creating bespoke tiles with relief decoration and Kohyama seized opportunities to work with designers and architects on major projects. He worked with calligrapher Toko Shinoda, for instance, on architectural tiles for the Nichinan Culture Centre in Miyazaki prefecture, designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize winning architect Kenzo Tange, completed in 1963. In 1964 he contributed to avant-garde artist


Taro Okamoto’s tile installation for the Olympic stadium in Tokyo. These close encounters with architecture are still evident in Kohyama’s potting, with his keen sense of structure and the monumentality he achieves whether on a large or small scale. When Kohyama set up his first solo studio, in 1968, he continued to produce traditional wares, such as tea bowls and water jars, and also to create ceramic wall-tile installations for many institutions. Alongside however he had begun to experiment with cut surfaces, enjoying the contrasts of rough striated textures with smoother surfaces, of uniform planes with jagged edges. Without a predrawn plan, he works instinctively, using the piano wire to create his distinctive forms and textures. As he says, “At the moment of cutting is where the adventure begins.” (1) Another key decision was to build his own anagama (single chamber, wood-firing kiln) in 1969, in order to recreate the firing experience of Japan’s earliest potters, depending, as he has put it: “only upon the wood, the weather, the temperature…that is to say, upon Nature herself ”.(2) Critical to this decision, and to the beautifully understated surfaces of his pots, were the archaeological digs which took place in the Kinai-Yamato regions near Shigaraki during the 1960s and 1970s. These unearthed pots made in the Sue region by domestic potters from the 5th century AD, adopting techniques brought to Japan from Korea, which were less richly-glazed than previously known pieces, and of a more muted tonality, relying for their beauty on the liveliness of the clay body itself, as transformed in the kiln. It is with this particular suemono cultural tradition that Kohyama identifies, using the techniques of the old potters to find a contemporary expression for his own intimate connection with his birthplace. One strong admirer of his poetic pieces has been the painter William Wilkins. Wilkins has often featured the ceramics of Lucie Rie and also George Ohr in his thoughtful, shimmering, pointillist paintings. More recently, he has discovered Kohyama’s work, of which he owns two pieces. Through the Derek Williams Trust, he has also been instrumental in works by Kohyama entering the National Museum of Wales. He tells me, “Kohyama has introduced a new dimension into my appreciation of what can be done with clay.” For him, he adds, what is interesting about the ceramics of Kohyama is that “they are the domestic equivalent of great architecture; a perfect marriage of the space within and the character or quality of the skin without.” Wilkins’s new paintings are based on eight vessels Kohyama has lent him. And while Wilkins appreciates the quality of celebration in Kohyama’s vessels, as in his winged forms, he also notes a darker tone, a sense of struggle. He comments, “There is an obvious masculinity about them.” It is these qualities he hopes to capture in his beautiful paintings: “I want” he says, “these objects to radiate their presence to me as clearly as possible.” Emma Crichton-Miller, 2017 author and arts journalist 1) and 2) Quotations taken from Susan Jeffries, “Tradition and Innovation in the Work of Yasuhisa Kohyama” in Yasuhisa Kohyama: The Art of Ceramics, Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2015

Danpen, 2017 37 x 25 x 16 cm (YK-0072)


Suemono, 2017 23 x 18.5 x 8.5 cm (YK-0082)

Suemono, 2017 15 x 19 x 14 cm (YK-0078)


Kaze, 2017 65 x 45 x 10 cm (YK-0071)


Suemono, 2017 13 x 16 x 12 cm (YK-0079)

Suemono, 2017 26 x 20 x 10 cm (YK-0081)


Sora, 2014 48 x 48 x 48 cm (YK-0063)


Suemono, 2016 23.5 x 24.5 x 17.2 cm (YK-0065)

Suemono, 2016 19.5 x 17.8 x 14.5 cm (YK-0067)


Still Life III, Kohyama Vessels, 2017 46 x 45.5 cm (WW-0010, depicting YK-0065 and YK-0066)

Suemono, 2016 23.5 x 19 x 14.2 cm (YK-0066)


Suemono, 2017 12 x 10.2 x 14 cm (YK-0080)

Homura, 2016 20 x 17 x 8 cm (YK-0075)


Homura, 2016 19 x 15 x 7 cm (YK-0076) Homura, 2017 60 x 54 x 25 cm (YK-0069) Homura, 2017 35 x 34 x 17 cm (YK-0073)


Suemono, 2016 14 x 16 x 12 cm (YK-0068)


Still Life I, Kohyama Vessels, 2016 35 x 30 cm (WW-0011, depicting YK-0068 and YK-0064)


Danpen, 2010 30 x 83 x 25 cm (YK-0070)


Still Life V, Kohyama Vessels, 2017 25.5 x 36 cm (WW-0012, depicting YK-0068 and YK-0055)

Suemono, 2014 13 x 15.5 x 10.5 cm (YK-0055)


Suemono, 2017 58 x 48 x 38 cm (YK-0077)


Homura, 2016 35.2 x 28.6 x 12 cm (YK-0064)

Still Life II, Kohyama Vessels, 2016 28 x 26.5 cm (WW-0013, depicting YK-0068 and YK-0064)


Homura, 2016 35 x 28 x 18 cm (YK-0074)


Suemono, 2017 44 x 29 x 10 cm (YK-0083)


Yasuhisa Kohyama (b. 1936) Born in Shigaraki, a historically vital ceramics production centre in Japan, Kohyama was fifteen years old when he became employed by one of the largest local ceramic factories, Oumi Kagaku Touki. A well-known ceramic designer, Sakuzo Hineno visited the factory in 1955 and, following several workshops, Kohyama became Hineno’s apprentice and specialised in making tableware. Kohyama established his first studio in 1973. He played a significant part in reviving the use of the traditional Japanese ‘anagama’ wood-firing kiln, and was the first potter in the area to build such a kiln since the Middle Ages. He is also a contemporary master of the ancient practice of Sueki, a method that originated in southern China, which accounts for his unglazed yet glassy surface textures. Kohyama’s pieces are collected internationally and exhibited widely in Japan and overseas. His work is included in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Art and Design in New York, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. William Wilkins (b. 1938) Born in Kersey, Suffolk, Wilkins moved to Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire in 1940 and subsequently studied at Swansea College of Art and then at the Royal College of Art. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held throughout the UK and the United States, and several public collections have acquired his work. These include the National Museum of Wales and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Wilkins lives and works in Wales, and also paints in Venice.

Further information about both artists is available on our website.

All ceramics are anagama fired stoneware. Paintings are oil on canvas, and the dimensions listed are unframed. The exhibition is illustrated online at www.erskinehallcoe.com/exhibitions/yasuhisa-kohyama-2017/ Design by fivefourandahalf Printed by Witherbys Lithoflow Printing Photography of ceramics by Stuart Burford Photography of paintings by Mike Roberts


Yasuhisa Kohyama & William Wilkins  

Erskine, Hall & Coe is pleased to present Yasuhisa Kohyama & William Wilkins, an exhibition of 'anagama' wood fired ceramics, and paintings....

Yasuhisa Kohyama & William Wilkins  

Erskine, Hall & Coe is pleased to present Yasuhisa Kohyama & William Wilkins, an exhibition of 'anagama' wood fired ceramics, and paintings....