I need help with this one. I was taken to Salon 94, Freeman Alley, down in the Lower East side of Manhattan. There in the midst of this former tenement slum with a high artist population and its ethnic mixes, Jewish and African eateries, bargain knock-off shops and drug dealers, has sprung some very chic art galleries. Salon 94 has been there a while as my friend Raphael de Villers had a show there a couple of years ago and apparently did well. I still have the invitation as his style with clay is about as close as one can get to Jim Cooper’s without either of them knowing the other in any way.
However this visit was to see the work of a Japanese artist in clay (the gallery does show a range of media) in one of their venues – there are several in adjacent alleys it seemed. This particular artist, so I was told, is the new darling of New York avant- garde art watchers and is booked be part of an international touring Japanese group ceramics show coming up in MAD, NYC, about now, and has been well shown in Japan at major galleries. His first institutional solo show will be in St Louis Museum of Art, Missouri in 2017. He has been picked up by one of the very influential Belgian galleries – Pierre Marie Giraud in Brussels. So I went to see with great interest.
Name: Takuro Kuwata, age 34 and graduate of Kyoto Saga Art College – Dept Fine Arts/Ceramics, in 2001. In I walked, stopped dead and my heart sank. Dead centre and confidently standing there was what initially looked a lot like a metre and a half high phallic number in an optimistic sky blue with a lavish splash of red fluid on top and a bright yellow ballet skirt. There was a very pink, shorter one topped with hundreds and thousands beside it. Never seen anything like it.
Gingerly moving closer one could see it was actually strange, at least the tutu was very strange, more like fluoro yellow meringue than clay in its varying textures but at least the red run on top was recognisably familiar. Fluid, runny red, low temp, highly reflective glaze.
Turning to the pink one the spots seemed to have actually burst through the clay matrix and sat there in glistening gold and blue perfection, almost, as a few seemed about to dribble downward and one or two had. Peering closer it was clear that these droplets had not been painted and lustred after the firing and fired again – too clean for that to have happened. They actually seemed to have burst through and lay there glistening and glowing on the matt, watermelon pink surface.
Nearby was a low table of all silver and gold works lavishly glistening and shimmering their precious metallic surfaces, forms mainly tower-like and overblown tea-bowls. Perhaps. Some were tea-bowl sized. One with what looked like rocks at top was for all the world like a partially unwrapped, starting to melt, Magnum or Memphis Meltdown!
It was necessary to look as closely as the vigilant gallery assistant would allow. (Unfortunately picking up to see the colour of the clay or measure the weight was very forbidden!) The gallery assistant assured me all works were porcelain. After looking and thinking at length I started to appreciate the control that was visible. It was not as wild as one might initially imagine. Again the drops had not, as far as we could see, been painted after the event but were molten when surfacing (if that was what happened…) They looked for all the world like they were solid gold that had come through in almost melted state…. but that’s not possible is it? Works were expensive, but not that expensive.
These two were simply stunning as well as enigmas
Looking closely at some, one could see small, evenly spaced holes or tunnels and looking even closer there were rods protruding or even fallen right out and it seemed it was they that held the meringue in place, or assisted the melt or….? And where the meringue clay had simply fissured rather than sagged fully they were clearly visible and had even lifted out with the movement and were floating, seemingly, in meringue. Like a small candle sagged into a failed pavlova perhaps…
And to further confound there was a video showing unloading for another show…
Anyone know what went down here? Any clues? I’d so like to know.
I ended up not loving everything, but I think that may have been more of a colour issue than anything else, but I did enjoy many of them, and would happily have taken a couple home had I been able to afford them. And had I ever got to the top of the waiting list and all those folk who had reserved works make up their minds which one or two to buy.
It was an interesting hour or two – anyone with a few clues is invited to put us all wise….please.
Anyone still pining after the soggy bottoms and cringeworthy puns of The Great British Bake Off, make a note in your diaries, for next week sees the launch of its somewhat messier cousin, The Great Pottery Throw Down.
Ten potters from up and down the UK will be making their way to the home of the British pottery industry, Stoke-On-Trent in Staffordshire, to begin their quest to be crowned Top Potter. They are a mix of ages, experience and gender with inevitably one black, one Indian and one gay along with British rural and urban types represented.
Hosted by radio DJ Sara Cox. Advised by the well-known potters Kate Malone and Keith Brymer-Jones, and produced by the same company as the Bake Off, the Throw Down will inevitably remind viewers of that sexy potter’s wheel scene from the 1990 movie Ghost. But unfortunately without Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore.
However, these contestants are more skilled than a couple of movie stars – all are already accomplished and part-time or full-time potters. The first episode of Throw Down will put the potters through their paces with a four day assignment making stackable kitchen bowls. Every episode apparently finishes with a kiln opening and judgement of the results. Then as is now the tradition in such dramas, elimination probably inevitably follows for one contestant each week. Oh, the tension. Could anyone who can get BBC2 keep an eye on this and let us know? It starts in the UK on Nov.3 at 9pm. Wow. Prime time viewing… Just what we always wanted and have not enjoyed since Dylan Tate and The Fletcher days!