Ceramics and Indigo-dyed Textiles

In association with Katie Jones

13 Oct - 13 Nov 2010

This exhibition coincides with Asian Art in London (Thurs 4 - Sat 13 November) and we will hold a late night opening until 8pm on Mon 8th Nov as well as a Saturday opening on the 13th Nov, from 11am-4pm.

The quality of light in Anita's gallery is very special. It streams in from the west through double-height windows overlooking Albemarle Street, while to the east another expanse of glass is set against the sugar-plum confection of the Royal Arcade. What a space in which to show the work of two artists who are both so evidently fascinated by the myriad ways in which colour responds to the shifting play of light. And it will be October, when the skies lift to reveal the high blue of autumn or, as often as not, come pressing down with the damp grey of a London washed by rain.

Shihoko Fukumoto is one of Japan's most highly regarded indigo-dyers. Born in Osaka in 1945, her exhibition career began in 1969, the year after she graduated from Kyoto City University of Arts. I first met her in the early 1990s, by which time she had exhibited several times in the USA and continental Europe and was making her third appearance at the international textiles biennial in Lausanne. I remember her meeting me at the door of her workshop wearing white Wellington boots which unnerved me somewhat until I realised how wet it was between the rows of vats of indigo bubbling away at different stages of maturity behind her.

Simplistic a statement though this is, I am always amazed at and excited by the way in which works of art are born out of what seem like quite primitive and, although not in Fukumoto's case, disordered environments. It must have something to do with childhood memories of being taken on a tour of a car factory in 1960s Japan, or of being shown around the engine room of the ship on which I once travelled from Yokohama to Southampton with my mother and sister.

It was thoughts of this kind that went through my mind when, upstairs in the room above the dyeing workshop, Fukumoto showed me piece after piece of her exquisitely dyed textiles. Many were quite modest in size, but she did unroll for me one of the larger hangings she had recently made. It is, I think, Fukumoto's ability to work equally successfully on both an intimate and a grand scale that makes her such a fascinating artist. There is a transformative power about everything she makes, whether a scarf whose intense blues require a definite boldness on the part of its wearer or a massive sequence of hangings that totally redefines an interior or even, for she has produced outdoor installations as well, a whole building.

If Fukumoto has been active on the international stage for over 30 years (this includes an exhibition at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation in London in 2004), Mihara Ken is a relative newcomer who has arrived, seemingly out of nowhere, like a whirlwind. This may not be quite the right term to describe a person whose carefully crafted vessel forms are as wonderfully subtle and contemplative as they are, but it is remarkable how in the course of just a few years he has become an absolute must have for collectors and museums around the world. A key turning point in his career came in 2008 when, at the age of 50, he was awarded the highly regarded Japan Ceramic Society Award. Since then, ably represented by Tokyo's Yufuku Gallery, his light has truly begun to shine.

Fukumoto's and Mihara's works demand to be seen. I have an inkling of what they will look like displayed together in Anita's gallery and how their whites, blues, purples and pinks will dance together across its airy, high-ceilinged void. This exhibition is important, it should be added, not simply because it brings to London the work of two such highly accomplished artists. It is also important in the sense that it represents the joint efforts of three galleries or gallerists Galerie Besson, Katie Jones and the Yufuku Gallery who have done so much, and so much more than anyone else, to bring to London the best of contemporary Japanese crafts. Long may this triumvirate continue to thrive!

Rupert Faulkner, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Ken Mihara

"Ken Mihara is now one of the most sought-after Japanese ceramists today. Hailing from Izumo, home to mystic landscapes that gave birth to the great majority of Japan's legends, Mihara's works call to mind the spiritual aesthetics of ceremonial vessels such as ancient bronzeware. Yet at the same time, his ceramics embody a deeply introspective and zen-like tranquillity that encapsulates Mihara's very own artistic state of mind."  - Yufuku Gallery, Japan

Shihoko Fukumoto

"Shihoko Fukumoto uses subtle shades of blue and natural materials to create luminous wall hangings and installations that convey a sensation of deep and fragile space. She says of her work: "I have always felt that the colour of the natural indigo dye of Japan has about it a spirituality; a special purity and beauty. I feel strongly that indigo dyeing embodies in my work a certain consciousness of space that I contain within myself." Her works have evolved from a Japanese folk tradition of shibori and indigo dyeing dating from the Heian period (794-1192). She works with a variety of materials such as silk-covered washi, hemp and other natural fibres. Her innovations in labour intensive, age-old techniques create a fresh expression of beauty. " - Katie Jones

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