Contact detail
Beyond the Vision

...Despite the fact that what is called "avant-garde craft" of Japan is highly acclaimed in the international scene; the appraisal it receives is integrated in the field of "contemporary art" whose mainstream is painting and sculpture. Therefore, it is difficult to say that Japanese "avant-garde craft" exists on an equal stratum with other media. The appraisal is bound to the categories of material or medium, and "avant-garde craft" is a secondary or a minor field compared to "contemporary art", and is ranked as a lesser domain. Reason being, in the Western standard, it is hard to recognize the value of craft as "art" simply by removing its practical use. Westerners would say, the materials and techniques are conspicuous in such works that in many cases, the artistic purpose of the creator is imperceptible--hence you can only categorize them under "craft". Or perhaps they might say the importance placed on the materials, techniques, and the types of process spoil the work's entirety, the ornamentation weakens the expressive substance, and the practicality taints the aesthetic purity. No, it is not only Westerners who say so. Many art critics and specialists in our county hold a similar view on art. For example, in reviewing works of contemporary art, the terms "craft-like" or "decorative" often is used in a negative sense suggesting the "lack of depth in expression" or "fixation on technical details." ...still today, the criterion we use to look at art is more or less based on Western concepts. And as long as we use this yardstick to evaluate art , "craft," and other media outside painting and sculpture will be placed on the outskirts of "art" like the formative arts of non-western cultures of Asia and Africa.

[Excerpt from Susumu Koshimizu・Natsuki Kurimoto Exhibition, Otani Memorial Art Museum, Nishinomiya City 1994 Catalogue " The day God Has Yet Not Died -- Lacquer Art of Natuki Kurimoto-- Akihiko Inoue"]

The above is an obvious fact about the view on craft from the standpoint of the viewer. However, we should not forget the fact that there is latent propensity on the creator's side being unable to grasp the status of contemporary craft in the expense of art as a whole. To a craftsman, involvement with the material is inevitable, but as long as they persevere in creating expressions in name of possibility in formative art- - representing their inner world through some kind of a personal novel style or other-- there is probably no future in craft as art. It is especially true in the world of lacquer almost certainly exclusive to East Asia.

To lacquer, a liquid material, it is not an essential factor whether the form of expression is 3-dimentional or 2-dimentional. Neither is the categorization of the work as craft or sculpture is important, whereas what should be questioned is whether the particular mode of expression is an autonomous paradigm that convey the artist's view on craft. For instance, when we regard the practice of applying lacquer, the minimum and fundamental element here is to "coat." When we start thinking now about the act of "coating," various phenomenon regarding "coating" emerge. We should consider the relationship between subject and object that becomes clear though the act of "coating," the surfacing of a new contour, or the effects of symbols with special meanings. And not only may we study its result as a 3-dimentional work, but present it in photography and video, which should be recognized as a "craftsman's expression." If such work not only offers people a fresh impression, but provides an opportunity to realize the intrinsic nature of the act of "coating" that tends to be overlooked in everyday life, the craftsman's activity can be called art. What does it mean coat? What does one engaged in such an act think? What changes occur when things are coated? Expressions to answer such questions that point one's gaze to the unseen heart of the matter is indeed necessary for the world of lacquer to remain on the stage of art. The expression of lacquer should not only exist in the pursuit of possibilities in forms and techniques, but upon the extension of such a "vision" .

Kenji Toki


[Diary in UK] [Home] [Infomation] [Profile] [Artworks] [Research] [Articles] [Blog] [Press] [Studio]   copyright@ 2013 Kenji Toki@ Kenji Toki Studio