It's not easy to make profound changes in a ceramic style that has a 1,000-year history. Take, for instance, the style known as Bizen. Bizen pottery is one of Japan's most celebrated high-fired unglazed ceramic styles, and continues to be so to this very day. Forms that started with farmers' needs in the 12th century morphed with the demands of the tea ceremony in the 16th century and basically have never changed, ever.
How does a grand old tradition find meaning in the present day? Most likely it won't come from any person born and brought up within that tradition — there are too many indoctrinated blinders, and the "Emperor's New Clothes" mentality is still at work. No, most profound changes come from an outsider; they are usually more willing to break the mold. For Bizen, there is one artist who did just that: Ryuichi Kakurezaki. And now, a stunning retrospective covering three decades of Kakurezaki's work is on show at the Musee Tomo in Tokyo until March 30.
Kakurezaki was born in 1950 on a small island that is part of the Goto Islands of Nagasaki Prefecture. After high school he found his way to the Osaka University of Arts where he studied design and then went to work as a graphic designer before switching to clay. That designer background served him well when it came to re-thinking the forms that lay dormant in Bizen's clay. After studying with a few teachers, namely Bizen's current Living National Treasure Jun Isezaki, Kakurezaki established his own studio in 1986, yet not before being accepted into numerous prestigious exhibitions while still in training. Afterward, the awards came flooding in.