RED EARTH: New Work by Ogawa Machiko
Over a lifetime of productive creativity, acclaimed clay artist Ogawa Machiko can be called a true master of her medium. Her illustrious career is characterized by bold sculptural forms that recall archaeological finds, excavated minerals, and volcanic remains. Opening for Asia Week New York's fall edition, her latest solo exhibition at Joan B Mirviss LTD is inspired by the Japanese concept of the vessel, utsuwa, as well as by the unique red-colored earth of Burkina Faso, West Africa, where she lived as a young woman for several years. Evoking the geological cycles that have long informed her works, RED EARTH brings this venerated artist full circle to her origins.
Akai utsuwa, “Red Vessel”
Unglazed porcelain and stoneware with iron-oxide glaze
16 x 13 3/4 in.
Ogawa Machiko (b. 1946) was one of the first women to earn a degree from the Ceramics Department at the prestigious Tokyo University of the Arts. She studied under the guidance of three Living National Treasures: Fujimoto Yoshimichi (Nōdō) (1919-1992), Kato Hajime (1900-1968), and Tamura Kōichi (1918-1987). She furthered her studies at the École d'Arts et Métiers in Paris and then joined her anthropologist husband in Burkina Faso, West Africa, where she was exposed to their ancient methods of forming and treating clay.
In this new body of work, artist Ogawa Machiko has moved from sculptural forms that resembled unearthed minerals, sometimes of an otherworldly nature, to richly colored red vessels that retain her signature quality of timeless discovery. Her desired deep red color is achieved by rubbing the glaze with a cloth over the surfaces. This hand-applied method creates subtle variations in the resulting matte red effect after firing. Tall standing conical red vessels reveal, through torn mouths and sliced edges, a constrasting white porcelain vessel nestled inside. Fitting together up to three vessels in such a manner, she achieves unprecedented depth in a single artwork. Through such layering of forms, Ogawa calls into question the very idea of utsuwa (container) and its function.
Akai daichi, “Red Earth”
Stoneware with iron-oxide glaze
9 3/4 x 19 3/4 in.
In creating this latest series, Ogawa Machiko was inspired by the particular hue and texture of the red earth of Burkina Faso, West Africa. The basin-like red vessels with torn, curling rims contain surprises in their interiors. In the bottom of some of these double-walled vessels, Ogawa has incised a botanical design of leaves on a stem, which reflects her understanding of Nature as outside of and beyond temporal awareness.
"I have a glass jar by my window filled with sandy red earth that I brought home from Burkina Faso in West Africa, where I used to live long ago. That jar is part of my daily life and I look at it every day… It is as if the red color has become etched in my memory and embedded in my very body."
Akai utsuwa, “Red Vessel”
Stoneware with iron-oxide glaze and raised decoration
14 1/4 x 17 3/4 x 14 1/4 in.
This torn, open horizontal conical form vessel appears as if excavated from a long-forgotten civilization. Bringing together the many threads of her artistic inquiry, this work looks like it was once a closed standing vessel, but in its current fragmented state from "aging," it can no longer function as a container. With the addition of raised, linear patternings on the surface that suggest the markings of an unknown society lost to time, Ogawa further explores her archaeological interests in RED EARTH.
Ogawa Machiko is one of the most celebrated ceramic artists today, male or female. She won the Japan Ceramics Society Award in 2000 and their prestigious Gold Prize in 2018, a remarkable feat as she is only the third woman to be so honored. Already the subject of two major museum retrospectives in Japan, Ogawa's works have also been exhibited in and acquired by museums outside Japan, such as: the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); Ashmolean Museum of Art, Oxford, UK; and the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth. In 2019, her 30-piece commissioned installation was displayed in the entrance hall of the National Museum of Qatar for its grand opening.
Kinsai wan, “Gold-glazed teabowl”
Stoneware with gold glaze
3 5/8 x 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 in.
Alongside these large-scale sculptural red vessels, Ogawa Machiko presents teabowls covered in metallic glazes. The roughly textured and cracked bowls, shimmering in gold or platinum, further questions the identification of these traditionally shaped vessels as appropriate for tea drinking. The contrast of the gold exterior, as if a precious nugget was scooped and brushed from the earth, with the smooth and richly gold interior, as if that very nugget had been cracked open to reveal the luminous treasure inside, exemplifies Ogawa's perennial interests in geology and archaeology and her exceptional skill in exploring them through clay. For this exhibition, she realizes this excavated, cracked teabowl concept in silver, white gold, blue ash and black glazes.