Challenge of the Warring-States Period
We Japanese artists continually strive to achieve the unique aesthetic of “wabi” (subdued, austere beauty), and for this exhibition I have used the keyword, “modern classics,” to create my own interpretations of famous tea bowls from the past, such as the Kizaemon Ido chawan or the Tsutsu-i-zutsu chawan.
In addition, I have also branched out to create ornaments based on traditional Japanese armor in what is a new challenge for me. By so doing, I was able to realize afresh the imaginative beauty embodied in Japanese armor and was amazed by the ingenious designs employed by some of the helmets, which find their inspiration in animals, insects and even vegetables. I am sure that the samurai of the Warring-States period must have competed to impress each other with the beauty and imaginative ideas displayed through their armor. My attempt to capture this beauty has resulted ornaments that simultaneously express the art form that is armor.
Challenge of the Warring-States Period
Kohei Nakamura has completed a series of armor-themed objets d’art, entitled Challenge of the Warring-States Period.
In 1993, he showed series of objets d’art in New York, entitled Resurrection, that seemed to reflect the social unease of the times and which proved extremely popular, causing a stir when one of them was acquired for the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Given the unique concept and their novel design, everybody believed he would choose to work in America rather than Japan, however, he soon abandoned contemporary art and New York to return to Kanazawa where he began producing tea bowls.
Starting with reproductions of works by Koetsu or Chojiro, he went through a period of thought and struggle until he succeeded in creating a series of outstanding tea bowls, entitled Modern Classics. It took a long time, but his Black Raku and Red Raku were adopted as the main bowls (omojawan) in tea ceremonies.
The 19-centimeter-diameter Ido tea bowl he exhibited in the “Master Teabowls of Our Days” at the Musée Tomo in 2013 astounded the museum’s director, the late Seizo Hayashiya, and attracted a lot of attention, becoming known as the “Heisei-period Ido” or “Kohei Ido.”
One of the things most sought after in bowls for the tea ceremony is the appearance of unintentional elements, but in Nakamura’s case, these “unintentional elements” are added intentionally. However, for some reason these carefully planned bowls are extremely successful, possessing a great dignity and elegance.
In 2012, Nakamura produced his first work of contemporary art after a long break. Entitled Rules of Form, it consisted of 5,000 pieces of porcelain and was created for the “Art Crafting Towards the Future” exhibition curated by Yuji Akimoto, the then Director of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. Exhibited in the vast space of the museum together with his Throne of Idea, it radiated an aura of elegance and opulence.
Standing in front of this vast work of contemporary art, I asked him to create something other than tea bowls and after waiting for many years, he has finally produced the Challenge of the Warring-States Period series. These objets d’art resemble the helmet and sword that an old feudal lord might display in the alcove of his room—a helmet and sword made of clay.
The tea ceremony was developed during the Muromachi period (c. 1336 to 1573) and was studied and enjoyed by members of the warrior class as a symbol of refinement. The tea ceremony is an important facet of Japanese culture, its aesthetics and the utensils it employs being gradually developed as they were passed down through the years. Moreover, it was during the warring-states period that tea ceremony utensils became highly treasured..
The theme of this exhibition is “The Challenge of the Warring-States Period” and we hope that it will serve as a homage to the samurai spirit that has since been lost, encouraging people to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. At the same time, we believe that it will allow Kohei Nakamura to grasp victory in his field.