Takiguchi Kazuo

Kyoto has always been the home of fancifully decorated ceramics since “The Three Great Masters” of Kyo-yaki (Kyoto pottery) Nonomura Ninsei (active in the Edo period, birth-death dates unknown) Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743), and Aoki Mokubei (1767-1833). Anyone walking up the slope to Kiyomizu Temple surely has seen shops full of such works all still under the influence of the ancient great trio. On the other hand, Kyoto is also the home of avant-garde ceramic sculptures dating to post WWII when the influential Sodeisha group was formed. The name means ‘crawling through the mud’, which was basically what aspiring ceramicists were doing at that time. Today we find Kyoto alive with ceramic arts from both schools, yet no one ceramic artist encapsulates both ends of this artistic spectrum as much as Takiguchi Kazuo (b.1953). Takiguchi was born and raised in Kyoto and grew up surrounded by clay, as his grandfather was a wholesaler, yet never really took to that side of the business; he wanted to create and create he has.

Let’s start with his organic, morphed forms where the emptiness within is as important as the form itself. In fact, the emptiness creates the form and harks back to what Lao Tzu said in the 6th century B.C., “Pots are made out of clay. But the hollow space in them makes the essence of the pot.” When looking at such Takiguchi works, all of which he aptly titles ‘No Title’ (無題-Mudai), our eyes pass over the unique forms and usually stop at the jagged opening, where we wonder ‘what lies within the form?’ Emptiness, or as a Zen monk might say, Mu! In that respect Takiguchi’s ‘No Title’ works are visual koan or Zen riddles that ask us more about the truth and beauty that we can’t always see.

He creates his Mudai with very thin slabs of clay that he places on cheesecloth—used for texture–that is attached to pulleys. He then pulls the cloth up in various angles to create the thoroughly original ceramic sculptures; no two are ever the same. His Mudai are found in important public and private collections within Japan and the world over. He’s also been awarded a slew of awards, including the Japan Ceramic Society Award and Kyoto Prefecture’s Culture Award in 1996. Hard to believe that he once dropped out of art school to become a truck driver for a noodle company.

Takiguchi also has what some call the most deftly talented brush and fanciful forms in all Japan. A recent exhibition in Tottori was based on passages from “Essays in Idleness” by Yoshida Kenko, with rabbits, horses, cicada, mice, hawks, sea bream and salmon, frogs and horses and cows atop the colorful porcelain pieces. Each had a theme to it. In one, a mouse stands atop a calculator, as if to say, “our desire for riches and material wealth have bogged us down and limit our potential, we have become slaves to money and attempt to calculate life.” That exhibition, ironically, sold out.





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