In the foothills of Mt. Fuji, the sunlight filters pleasantly through the trees, casting light on the still forest by the summer resort. In the winter, snow covers the ground in a blanket of white, accentuating the black line of the trees.
“The contrast is a sight to behold.”
Potter Naotsugu Yoshida’s home–studio sits ambiguously on the boundary with the forest.
“Another deer paid us a visit this morning. True to the laws of nature, sometimes we find them alive, and other times we come by their carcass. Seeing the tough lives of wild animals up close probably influences my work to some degree, whether or not I’m aware of it. Although I’m not consciously inspired, if I lived by a different forest, I might create more ornate forms.”
Having said that, Naotsugu did not choose this location himself.
He came to live here only by coincidence. Similarly, his path to becoming a ceramic artist opened up when he accepted an invitation from a friend in art school. “My life is a series of lucky accidents. Basically, I trust myself to chance.” Naotsugu is always like this, relaxed and laid-back.
“I do set beauty as my goal. That much is certain. But when it comes to defining that beauty, things aren’t so simple. I’m at a loss for words. If only there were a philosopher I could quote. One hint I garnered from a book of mythology was that the inside and outside of a vessel are two expressly different worlds. The inside, where we place the food, is a place for consuming life, or for holding the life that has been taken. The outside, where we humans touch and handle, belongs to us on this side. The boundary between the two worlds—the rim of the vessel—is a mediator between this life and the afterlife.”
Naotsugu works in a palette of black and white, and for the most part, his ceramics are free of decoration. For this artist, beauty dwells solely in the form. And the form is all about the outline. After years of contemplation, he has begun to see signs of a solution.
“If a vessel appears to have a jagged rim or a wobbly rim, it was made by hand. Those are feelings that you never get with industrial products, which are concerned only with function. For me, this ambiguous line that might be part of the inside or part of the outside—this is the Cinderella of my work.”
Just because he has a Cinderella does not mean he is a romantic, he jokes. “Either way, I just want to see myself.”
“I love vessels as independent objects. I’ve given this some thought, and at the end of the day, I don’t really mind where my inspiration comes from, as long as it gets me to start crafting the next piece. I am the closest to my own goals.
By nature, the longer time a potter spends using his hands, the closer he comes to reaching the solution he seeks. But Naotsugu never tries too hard to make a grab at it. He is probably taking a nap again today.
The vessels formed by this relaxed, laid-back creator are also putting their feet up, and when they feel like it, offering a shrewd glimpse of the world’s abyss.
Naotsugu Yoshida exhibition
4F 3-12-14, Nishihara, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Advance reservations are required for the first and second days of the exhibition. For details, please click here.