Japanese Bamboo Art
Bamboo is an incredibly expressive and demanding medium. It takes an artist many years to acquire the basic skills and techniques of harvesting, processing, splitting, dyeing, weaving, bending and knotting. Mastery is a life-long process. The 20th century saw the development of radical new ideas about what a bamboo basket could be. The first completely sculptural bamboo works emerged in the postwar period. Today’s bamboo artists continue to expand and refine these traditions with the understanding that the artist’s creative vision, whether expressed through a sculptural form or a functional vessel, is as important as their technical mastery.
Water's Edge, 2019
madake bamboo, rattan
6.5 x 17.75 x 11.75 in
Oki Toshie is a self-proclaimed introvert who, instead of using words, expresses herself through her artwork. Her strongest desire is to create works that will move the hearts of viewers. “I try to balance my emphasis between representation and beauty of form,” she says. “It is a constant process of trial and error, but I am proud to say that I put my heart and soul into each piece I create.”
The last student of Living National Treasure Iizuka Shokansai, her engagement with Japanese bamboo art began at an exhibition she visited while in high school. She was amazed that a utilitarian object such as a basket could become a vehicle for artistic expression. “Japanese people are good at communicating within the limitations of a fixed form, such as in haiku and tanka poetry,” says Oki. In a similar way, Oki expresses herself within the constraints of vessel forms, creating elegant and evocative trays and flower baskets.
Twin Currents, 2020
madake bamboo, nemagari, and rattan
20 x 30 x 9.25 in
Born in 1959, Honma Hideaki is the leading sculptural bamboo artist of his generation. The artist began creating brilliant sculptures using Sado Island’s local bamboo in 1987. He made his public regional debut in the 1990 Niigata Prefectural Art Exhibition. The following year, Honma participated in the nationwide Japan Contemporary Kogei Exhibition, and in 1992, his work was accepted into the prestigious Nitten (Japan Fine Art Exhibition) for the first time, kicking off a successful career.
Honma would go on to serve as a judge three times for the Japan Contemporary Kogei Exhibition and become one of the organization’s council members. He has won the Niigata Prefectural Art Exhibition Grand Prize once, the Encouragement Prize twice, and is currently serving as a member of the Prefectural Exhibition Committee. He has won several awards at Contemporary Kogei Niigata Exhibitions and serves as the chairman of this association. He has also been awarded the Tokusen Prize twice at Nitten (in 2014 and 2018). Besides Iizuka Rokansai and Shokansai, Honma Kazuaki and Hideaki are the only father and son bamboo artists to each win two Tokusen Prizes in the organization’s 115-year history.
Auspicious 8, 2020
madake bamboo, rattan
13.5 x 18 x 5 in
Nakatomi Hajime decided to pursue his carrier as a bamboo artist when he first saw the electrifying works of Shounsai Shono, a living national treasure of Japan in bamboo art. After he studied bamboo arts at Oita Prefectural Bamboo Crafts Training Center and under Syoryu Honda.
Nakatomi approaches his work like an engineer. The calculation of parameters is the basis of his work and passion at the same time. In his world of numbers, he finds the beauty of geometry and symmetry, sees the elegance of simple circles, triangles, squares, ellipses, and figure-eights. Repeated many times, pure geometry can also take on organic form, comparable to a macroscopic view of microscopic structures inherent in nature.
Nakatomi delivers to our eyes mysteriously intertwined objects, weightless and repetitive with a masterful delicate and dynamic visual effect.
madake bamboo, rattan
6.5 x 23.25 x 8.5 in
Most young Japanese people interested in learning how to make bamboo flower baskets gravitate to Beppu to study at the national school for bamboo crafts and research, but Honda Sekai took a different path. Instead of taking a train to the south he stayed home on Sado Island. Over 100 years ago Sado was an important bamboo craft center, and its last remaining master, the sculptor Honma Hideaki wanted to revive Sado Island’s bamboo tradition by establishing a school. He was joined by Kawano Shoko who would teach vessel making techniques. Honda gravitated to vessels and over the last decade has created a personal style that has recently shifted from beautiful formal trays to include experimental sculptural works. Honda Seikai studied under master bamboo artist Hatakeyama Seido after graduationg from the Sado school. His first submition piece to Japan Traditional Craft Arts Exhibtion was purchased by the Imperial Household Agency.