Master of Empty Space

Sixty –four year old Japanese potter Taizo Kuroda is widely revered for his extraordinary white porcelain. He studied in Paris with Tatsuzo Shimaoka before moving to Canada where he worked with Gaeten Beaudin. “Gaeten Beaudin was not very rich – so sometimes I had to wash dishes at night in restaurants to make a little money… As I washed dishes for an hour, or two hours, it is as though I went into a trance. I wasn’t making white porcelain at the time, but that is what appeared before my eyes, white porcelain.” After fifteen years in Canada, he returned to Japan and began making many small objects, first in stoneware, and then, wanting  an absence of color, in porcelain.

He writes, “The Japanese people like tableware more than objects. When we eat, we are allowed to hold a bowl, but in Korea or China, that would be considered bad manners. That may be why the Japanese love pottery so much – they see and hold objects.” Kuroda is a maker of pots, but his vessels, which embody the essence of simplicity, are for contemplation rather than the table.

Kuroda dwells in a rarified strata of potters, miles away from those of us who make cups and bowls for use. His prices range from $1500 to $8000 per piece. Yet somehow, his work also exudes a Zen-like simplicity. He told Jodido that he has set himself three conditions in his work: “The wheel, white, and utsuwa.” He explains, “ In Japanese we say utsuwa –this has a very deep meaning. It is what we don’t see and what we see. It is the border between what we can see and what we can’t see…I want to make what we don’t see, and that means I must make what we see. My work is a container for what we don’t see.”

Taizo Kuroda by Philip Jodido is as serene, as pristine, and as meditative as Kuroda’s work. Jodido includes quotations from Merleau- Ponty, James Turrell and many from Kuroda himself, each beautifully surrounded by white space on otherwise empty pages. He has full-page photos of the work, the atelier and close-ups of Kuroda’s hands in clay. Integral to the book are a thoughtful preface by the fashion designer Issey Miyake and introduction by architect Tadao Ando. The volume is a work of art. It is a pleasure to slowly turn the pages, to read, to reread and thereby absorb Kuroda’s philosophy and his art. Though I surround myself with clutter, and am drawn to earthy pottery, I liked reading about Kuroda’s life and particularly liked reading his own explanations of his work.

Gossip: Eric Clapton was an early collector of Kuroda’s work.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

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