Shinya Yamamura

Infinity in the palm of your hand –URUSHI decorations

November 19, 2009 - December 26, 2009
Shinya Yamamura

Transcendental beauty. Beyond time and distance. Infinity in the palm of one's hand. It is the ultimate aesthetic of Shinya Yamamura. His lacquer works on display at Ippodo gallery NY feature lidded Way of Tea utensils -- tea caddies and incense containers -- and each one of them exists in the tranquility of a miniature universe.

Shinya Yamamura, currently a Professor at Kanazawa College of Art, was born in Tokyo and, after making his way to Kanazawa to study urushi lacquer, has remained to master the urushi techniques and to build on them to create contemporary beauty.

The design roots of Japan's traditional arts and crafts are often said to be the treasures of the 8th Century Shosoin of Nara, the Eastern terminus of the Silk Road. Yamamura has uncovered sources of inspiration more broadly, discovering his own sense of beauty in the shape of archaic letters or in contemporary Western arts and crafts magazines. Truly this is cosmopolitanism in the figurative arts. The motive force that breathes life into tradition in the contemporary world might be the hunger for fundamental beauty that continually strives after fresh creativity.


Saying "traditional lacquer techniques", glosses over the uniqueness of each region of Japan. In particular, the traditional crafts of Kanazawa are known worldwide for their miyabi (aristocratic elegance, one of the traditional Japanese aesthetic ideals). Famously, maki-e (the gold powder lacquer work) and taka-maki-e (embossed gilt lacquer created by layering pure gold) are characteristically glamourous examples of their lacquerware. Marie Antoinette, the 'heroine' of the 18th Century French Revolution, was said to be so enamoured with small maki-e lacquer boxes that she would not part with even as she was being sent to the guillotine, and only at the last moment entrusted them to a friend's hand.

Collecting the scarce fluid from the urushi tree and filtering it for use as natural pigment and as an excellent adhesive, Japan's lacquer culture has refined coating and decoration. Yamamura employs various techniques in his quest for the ultimate in lacquer beauty -- raden style with mother-of-pearl from the southern oceans shining like the emerald green of a butterfly's wings and maki-e sprinkled with the finest gold and silver dust to create tiny galaxies. Yamamura's technique astonishes even those familiar with antique Japanese lacquerware. His works are truly treasures of the 21st century that master the core of Japanese aristocratic elegance.

Striped lacquer, small box
21-2009
Shinya Yamamura
Shinya Yamamura