Touching Stone Gallery logo

Touching Stone Gallery   Santa Fe, USA


Hiroyuki Wakimoto
Myth & Legacy
September 5 - October 10, 2003

See more of this artist's work:
2002 show, 2003 show, 2004 show, 2005 show, 2006 show, 2007 show, 2009 show, 2010 show, 2012 show, 2016 show 

 Hiroyuki Wakimoto   脇本博之

hey called it Feng-Huang, a mythical three-legged bird that would appear once every few hundred years. According to Chinese legends, the bird’s appearance was a good omen. Throughout Chinese history, this mythical creature has been depicted in various art forms. Among ancient Chinese pottery from the Neolithic era (12,000 – 2,000 B.C.), odd-looking vessels called gui with tripod legs and pointed spouts might well represent objectification of the creature. Ancient vessels like gui inspired Japanese ceramist Hiroyuki Wakimoto to create some of the most original forms in contemporary Japanese ceramics. One of Wakimoto's creations, "Myth", has the head of a prehistoric Pterodactyl, with strong jawbones and an enormous overhanging beak. A muscular faceted neck craned to the side supports the head, and its small body rests on three short pointed legs. It is plumed with beautiful natural ash glaze. The top of the head bears an opening, and the beak is grooved for pouring. Odd as it seems, "Myth" is functional either as a sake bottle or flower vase. Wakimoto’s innovative works were first shown outside Japan in his 2002 American debut at the Touching Stone Gallery. The show, which was enthusiastically received, firmly established Wakimoto as one of the brightest rising stars among contemporary Bizen ceramists.

Unlike many other Japanese ceramists, Hiroyuki Wakimoto was not born into a family of potters. He was originally from Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture in Kyushu. He first studied textile design in a prestigious art school, Osaka Art College. Not until he was in his senior year did he realize that textiles were really not his interest. He left college and went back to his hometown to help in his parents’ business. A visit to a college friend who was doing an apprenticeship with a ceramist in Bizen proved to be a turning point in his life. He was inspired by Bizen-yaki and, at the age of 30, he became an apprentice under accomplished ceramist Joji Yamashita. Nine years later, in 1990, Wakimoto established his own kiln and studio in Bizen.

As one of the six oldest Japanese pottery centers in Japan, Bizen has produced many exceptional ceramists, including a number of National Living Treasures. There is an enormous legacy for Bizen ceramists to live up to. Realizing that he must make up for his relatively late start in ceramics, Wakimoto concentrates on developing a personal style. His fascination with form compels him to create some of the most interesting works in contemporary Japanese ceramics. His pieces are instantly recognizable by the bold, meticulously conceived forms with clean strong lines and his signature fire markings.

The current show introduces some of Wakimotos’s more abstract works. He recalled, "In the beginning, I cared too much about making my work unique, and my hands struggled with the clay. Then one day, I told myself to just set my hands free to express my honest feelings without thinking too much about it. From that day, I felt so relaxed and my work became more spontaneous". Some of his latest works are sculpted from chunks of clay rather than thrown on a potter’s wheel. The technique, called "kurinuki", offers the artist great flexibility to create new shapes. His "Legacy" series, for instance, are covered vases reminiscent of mythical beings that evoke the minimalist forms by Isamu Noguchi. The "Monarch" and "Emergence" series are composite pieces inspired by the massive stone walls of old Japanese castles and rock gardens. Each piece is an interesting study of forms, colors, and texture.

Producing such a wide range of forms and effects requires foresight and experimentation. As an essential step in his creative process, Wakimoto keeps a notebook of new ideas that come to mind. He also takes great care to document his firing procedures, keeping detailed data on temperature and positions of the pieces in his noborigama (climbing kiln). This methodical approach frees the artist from haphazard guesswork, allowing him to focus on turning his abstract visions into tangible forms. Wakimoto uses his intimate knowledge of the kiln to produce the composite pieces, by firing separate components in different locations in his kiln to achieve contrasting fire markings on the same piece.

Despite his soaring reputation, Wakimoto keeps his sense of humility. In a recent interview, the artist mused, "As an outsider who arrived at Bizen almost by chance, I was taught everything about Bizen-yaki that had taken hundreds of years to develop. I hope someday I can contribute my share of knowledge to the continuous evolution of Bizen-yaki as a way of repaying the generosity of my adopted home town". For now, the impact of Wakimoto’s work, like a premonition brought forth by the mythical bird that once inspired him, may foretell an era of new spirit and creative energy from this ancient center of Japanese ceramic.

(from an article originally published in Ceramics: Art & Perception, no. 48, pp. 97 - 99, 2002)

Click on images to view selected pieces

Wakimoto_JomonBowl1b_Web.jpg (50245 bytes)Wakimoto_JomonBowl1a_Web.jpg (51177 bytes)
"Jomon Bowl Form I"
Ceramic bowl   8.75" x 11.5" x 11.5" (2 views)

Wakimoto_Legacy1_Web.jpg (41357 bytes) Wakimoto_Myth4_Web.jpg (37746 bytes)
"Myth #1"
Covered ceramic vase   7.75" x 5.5" x 3"

"Myth #4"
Ceramic vase/flask   9" x 9" x 4"

Wakimoto_Legacy2a_Web.jpg (41023 bytes)Wakimoto_Legacy2b_Web.jpg (42408 bytes) Wakimoto_Legacy3_Wa.jpg (127640 bytes)Wakimoto_Legacy3_Wb.jpg (45379 bytes)
"Legacy #2"
Covered ceramic vase   6 6" x 4.5" x 3" (2 views)

"Legacy #3"
Covered ceramic vase   6 6.5" x 5" x 3" (2 views)

Wakimoto_Monarch1_Web.jpg (45805 bytes) Wakimoto_Monarch2a_Web.jpg (41494 bytes)Wakimoto_Monarch2_Web.jpg (46732 bytes)
"Monarch I"
Covered ceramic vase  12" x 6" x 5"

"Monarch II"
Covered ceramic vase  10.5" x 7" x 6" (2 views)

Wakimoto_Monarch3a_Web.jpg (37747 bytes)Wakimoto_Monarch3b_Web.jpg (46723 bytes) Wakimoto_Monarch4_Web.jpg (24316 bytes)Wakimoto_Monarch4a_Web.jpg (29634 bytes)
"Monarch III" 
Covered ceramic vase  6.5" x 4.5" x 4.5" (2 views)

"Monarch IV" 
Covered ceramic vase   6.75" x 3.75" x 3" (2 views)

Wakimoto_Monarch5_W.jpg (27260 bytes)Wakimoto_Monarch5_Wa.jpg (25637 bytes) Wakimoto_Metamorphosis2b_We.jpg (35370 bytes)Wakimoto_Metamorphosis2a_We.jpg (38182 bytes)
"Monarch V" 
Covered ceramic vase  8" x 4.5" x 3.5" (2 views)

"Metamorphosis II"
Ceramic vase  9.5" x 7" x 7" (2 views)

Wakimoto_JomonBowl2a_Web.jpg (39050 bytes)Wakimoto_JomonBowl2b_Web.jpg (36439 bytes) Wakimoto_Gui_a_Web.jpg (25336 bytes)Wakimoto_Gui_Web.jpg (31629 bytes)
"Jomon Bowl Form II"
Ceramic bowl   5" x 9" x 9" (2 views)

Ceramic pitcher   10" x 6" x 5" (2 views)

Wakimoto_Vase_a_Web.jpg (30509 bytes)Wakimoto_Vase_Web.jpg (32207 bytes) Wakimoto_Tei_Web.jpg (34937 bytes)Wakimoto_Tei_a_Web.jpg (34154 bytes)
"Vase form I"
  Ceramic vase   8" x 6" x 5.5" (2 views)

 Ceramic bowl   6.5" x 5" x 5" (2 views)
New Mexico Museum of International Folk Arts Collection

Wakimoto_Dipper1b_Web.jpg (31741 bytes) Wakimoto_Dipper2a_Web.jpg (23980 bytes)
"Dipper I"
 Ceramic form   3.5" x 14" x 7.5"

"Dipper II" 
Ceramic form  5.5" x 15" x 5"

Wakimoto_Emergence1_Web.jpg (39108 bytes) Wakimoto_Emergence2a_Web.jpg (42551 bytes)
Covered ceramic vase   5.5" x 8.5" x 4.5"

Covered ceramic vase   6" x 5.5" x 4.5"

Wakimoto_IncenseBurner_Web.jpg (38732 bytes) Wakimoto_Emergence3_Web.jpg (33760 bytes)
Ceramic incense burner  5.5" x 3.5" x 3.5"

Covered ceramic vase   4" x 6" x 3"

Wakimoto_Void_Web.jpg (30034 bytes)Wakimoto_Void_a_Web.jpg (27292 bytes) Wakimoto_Vase2_Web.jpg (28381 bytes)
Ceramic  vase 5" x 5" x 3. 5" 
Ceramic  vase 6" x 6" x 3. 5"
Wakimoto_Nautilus_Web.jpg (29990 bytes)Wakimoto_Nautilus_a_Web.jpg (36367 bytes) Wakimoto_Day1a_Web.jpg (23389 bytes)Wakimoto_Day1_Web.jpg (18797 bytes)
Ceramic vase  8.5" x 8" x 6" (2 views)

"Day 1" 
Ceramic light sculpture  8.5" x 8" x 7" (2 views)

Exhibitions & Awards
1952    Born in Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture, Kyushu
1975    Osaka Art College
1981    Apprenticeship under Bizen ceramist Joji Yamashita
1990    Established own kiln in Bizen
           Honorable Mention, 52nd Itt-sui Kai Ten
1991    8th Cha-no-yu no Zo-kei Ten, Tanabe Museum
           2nd Biennial Ceramic Exhibition
           38th Japan Traditional Arts & Crafts Exhibition
           1st Yaki-shime Ten
           Honorable Mention, 53rd Itt-sui Kai Ten
1992    9th Cha-no-yu no Zo-kei Ten, Tanabe Museum
           30th Asahi Ceramics Exhibition
           39th Japan Traditional Arts & Crafts Exhibition
           54th Itt-sui Kai Ten
1993    Honorable Mention, 3rd Biennial Ceramic Exhibition
           31st Asahi Ceramics Exhibition
           36th Japan Traditional Arts & Crafts Exhibition, China Branch
           Asahi Contemporary Arts & Crafts Invitational Exhibition
1994    11th Cha-no-yu no Zo-kei Ten, Tanabe Museum
           Grand Prize, 2nd Yaki Shime Juried Show
           Chairman’s Award, Japan Arts & Crafts Exhibition, Chu-goku Chapter
1995    12th Cha-no-yu no Zo-kei Ten, Tanabe Museum
           13th Japan Ceramics Exhibition
           42th Japan Traditional Arts & Crafts Exhibition
1996    13th Cha-no-yu no Zo-kei Ten, Tanabe Museum
           34th Asahi Ceramics Exhibition
1997    14th Cha-no-yu no Zo-kei Ten, Tanabe Museum
           35th Asahi Ceramics Exhibition
           44th Japan Traditional Arts & Crafts Exhibition
           Nominated as a permanent member of Japan Arts & Crafts Association
1998    15th Cha-no-yu no Zo-kei Ten, Tanabe Museum
1999    37th Asahi Ceramics Exhibition
2000    3 - 4 shows every year in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kobe
2002    Touching Stone Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
2003     Kuroda Toen Gallery, Tokyo
           Tenmaya, Takamatsu
           Touching Stone Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
"Omen" - an article on Hiroyuki Wakimoto's work, by Tim Wong & Akko Hirano. In: Ceramics: Art & Perception, no. 48, pp. 97 - 99, 2002.