Echoes: In the Beginning Was Clay
27 March 2019 – 30 September 2019
Yo Akiyama (b. 1953) is a pioneering figure in the expansive and diverse history of Post-war Japanese art. He was a pupil of the groundbreaking sculptor Kazuo Yagi and the influential Sodeisha movement, which sought a sculptural synergy between instinctively understood and specifically Japanese techniques of ceramic production and Western art and literature references. Akiyama dedicated two full years of his life to the production of Echoes. The large scale sculpture was first exhibited in Kyoto, Japan in 2018 to celebrate Akiyama’s retirement as Chairman of the Department of Ceramics, Kyoto Municipal University of Arts and Music.
For Akiyama the creative process always starts from a highly developed and intimate relationship with raw clay, the potential of that material itself, and in turn that material’s own relationship with the geological and physical forces that formed it and continue to act on the finished work. Most ceramics are encapsulated at the moment they come out of the kiln, but Akiyama incorporates iron filings into the clay to subvert this convention. Once fired, he paints the work with vinegar, beginning an oxidisation process that gives the piece an ongoing life reacting to its surroundings.
He steered away from traditional strands of vessel-based Japanese pottery production, right back towards the universality of natural forces. With specific characteristics of his chosen clay as a starting point, he has managed to free himself from the constraint and nostalgia for Japan’s deep historic relationship with ceramics with spectacular results.