20 November 2007

Jun Kaneko

This book was sitting quietly in the Oxfam bookstore; yet who could resist that cover? I flipped through and got very excited at the contents, but yikes the price.... It took a while to realise this was the work of a potter. This room might be a textile work -So might these pieces, at a quick glance:But these are undeniably pots:
And what pots! Enormous! Kaneko graduated from art college in 1971 and is still making huge work in ceramics. The caption to this photo says his pots are among the highest-priced pieces of ceramic art in the world.
I had to go back and buy the book, and am delighted with it, and to make the acquaintance of this artist. After completing graduate school in the USA 1971, he went back to Japan for a sojourn, and opened an exhibition in a friend's gallery, "underpinned by the idea of expanding his knowledge of the Japanese people. On the first day, he went to his exhibition of blank walls with a 35mm camera, an 8mm movie camera, and a tape recorder, to make a documentary, "in case anything happened." He had sent out invitations which were printed in white ink on white paper, crumpled almost beyond recognition, and stuffed into envelopes. It is difficult to read matt, colorless ink on a white background, so Kaneko knew that everyone who arrived at the exhibition had really tried hard to do so.

"Kaneko remembers that, in the first couple of days, very few people came, but as word spread, a larger audience showed up. Some stayed for hours and many the whole day, drinking tea, talking, sharing thoughts with one another. From the countless bars in the center of Osaka, scores of inebriated visitors dropped into the gallery. Kaneko was fascinated by their behaviour and took photographs of them. On one occasion, he handed out cameras and rolls of film, asking the public to take pictures of anything they liked and to return the film. Before long, he had collected numerous images, created in this unconventional manner. In retrospect, he feels that the vision of this peculiar audience, uneducated in matters of art, was the one from which he learnt the most. He spliced the rolls together unedited, and showed the film continuously in the gallery for a week."

He used the proceeds of his lecture tour to set up a two-week "clay festival" in a rented sewer-pipe factory near Nagoya, to give people a chance to experience working with clay. 700 people took part, and four went on to become ceramic artists - and "people all over Japan still speak of this exciting occasion".

Ah, those were the wild days -- "happenings" and wild hope.


Linda B. said...

What a find! Did you know of Kaneko before you saw the book? He's new to me, but some images here are very exciting - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Jun_Kaneko%27s_untitled_ceramic_tile_wall.jpg

Olga Norris said...

What a glorious delight! Thank you for the introduction to such an exciting artist.

Unknown said...

Fantastic find!

Julie Zaccone Stiller said...

Thanks for telling me about this artist Margaret! Now I know whose sculpture I was enjoying in San Jose the other day.