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Toyoshige Mizuno, Toshiko Nakazawa, Tadao Okazaki
Sumi-e, Haiku, and Ceramics

June 19 ~ July 18, 2007
Opening Reception: 6/21 (Thu.) 6 ~ 8pm

Mizuno, Red Shino White Kesho Vase, 2000, 14 x 12.5 x 7.5"
Mizuno, Red Shino White Kesho Vase, 2000, 14 x 12.5 x 7.5"

  This show features the work of Tadao Okazaki a sumi-e painter who uses mulberry paper with which to convey his fragmental abstracted mindscapes. The ceramics of two major Japanese masters Toyoshige Mizuno and Toshiko Nakazawa are combined with the ink paintings of Okazaki to produce the harmonious relationship that has always existed between these media. Furthermore, Haiku poetry by Okazaki and also Davidson is part of this project and will be read during the opening reception. Haiku also embellish Okazaki’s paintings as is the custom in both Chinese and Japanese ink work.

Mizuno with a patron at the opening reception with sumi-e by Okazaki in the background

Mizuno, Oni Shino Awase Vase, 2002, 17 x 8 x 7"; behind: Okazaki, Releasing a Tune onto the Night: Take ONe to Nine, 2006-07, 22 x 30"

 The title of the show refers both to what the Chinese consider the three friends meaning the pine, prunus and bamboo plants, and to the Zen tea ceremony during whose ritual ceramics, sumi-e and poetry played a crucial role. The difference between the works of Nakazawa and Mizuno is that of Seto versus Rakuwares. Seto ceramics became popular during the early feudal period becoming elevated from utilitarian form to artistic expression because of the trade of celadon-wares from China and Korea and the transmission of Buddhism into Japan. Rakuwares were rougher and thicker looking than the more delicate slipped Setowares and were developed in the 15th century for the tea or chanoyu ceremony meant to suggest the qualities of simplicity, and understated elegance. Accidental effects may not have been acceptable in China but Japanese masters were not trying to copy Chinese ceramics instead they were incorporating interesting elements into their native vernacular. Whereas asymmetry held sway in Japan the opposite was true in China where balance was the cannon. Unevenness and serendipitous effects were greatly appreciated in Japan where the Chinese painter Xia Kuei’s inkworks with their one corner compositions were extensively collected.

From left to right: Mr. and Mrs. Okazaki, Mr, Mizuno, Thalia Vrachopoulos, Rev. Okui

Gallery visitors during the opening reception

 While Nakazawa creates delicate pottery that is inspired by natural forms and in its delicacy is akin to the Setowares of Murata Shiko, Mizuno’s work because of its accidental effects relates more to the experimental Rakuwares of Honami Koetsu who collaborated with Sotatsu for some of his ink paintings. The finesse and smoothness of Nakazawa’s slips is contrasted with the bumpy unevenness of Mizuno’s surfaces. Nakazawa’s effects are related to Ko Setowares that exhibit a refinement in shape, elegant decoration and a perfecting of technique akin to Chinese Song Dynasty ceramic aesthetics. While Nakazawa’s colors are pale shades of green gray and her textures smooth and shiny, her shapes relate to the water lily a Buddhist symbol of rebirth. Mizuno’s thick splatter pattern glazes, many in crackled white the forerunner of Shino-ware produced during the Momoyama period, result from the carefully controlled manipulation of the oxidation process at a low kiln temperature. The shapes of his wares relate to tea ceremony pottery such as water jars, tea bowls, storage jars, and to floral containers.

Like the Zen ink painters before him Okazaki’s swift brushstrokes hold only the briefest relationship to reality and for the most part his landscapes are abstract. However Okazaki’s paintings although may hold some tentative relationship to the past in their use of accompanying text are contemporary fragments that can be read individually or collectively. Like Sesshu Toyo the greatest of Japanese ink painters Okazaki engages in the painting of the seasons changing our perception of the landscape from an unchanging universal to the immediacy of the moment. Like Sesshu’s haboku the free and broken ink landscapes of Okazaki both demonstrate the facility of his brush as well as his embrace of the element of fortuitous accident and suggestiveness. Few masters can convey with ink and incredible economy the landscape’s essence while maintaining its spirit.

According to Chinese legend one member of the three friends the prunus is associated with early spring and new life as well as the five clans of China. Another, the bamboo is respected for its durability and fortitude. Finally, the pine because it is an evergreen is known as an emblem of longevity and is metaphorically considered the friend who remains constant even through adversity. Like these historically important plants and their motifs, the three arts of haiku, sumi-e and ceramics as represented by the paintings and poetry of Okazaki, and the ceramics of Mizuno and Nakazawa relate to Japanese continuity but also its diversity.


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