Essay by Glenn Adamson- A Bowl of Heaven

A Bowl of Heaven

Glenn Adamson Senior Scholar, Yale Center for British Art


It took Shin Fujihira more than forty years to make a teabowl. Not that he was working on it the whole time – in fact, he purposefully avoided this most iconic of Japanese ceramic forms, feeling that the refined cult of tea ceremony (Chanoyu) was a “wicked world,” artificial and restrictive.

He felt this way despite his family lineage, which placed him the ceramic elite of Kyoto, a city famous for its ornately decorated and refined wares. No less a personage than Kanjiro Kawai helped foster his talent, even bequeathing him his given name, Shin. And yet he rebelled, becoming an unorthodox and individualistic talent.

In Japan, of course, unorthodoxy is its own tradition. The ideal of the Chinese literati, who withdrew from court intrigue to concentrate on their own artistic visions, was adopted by such figures as Matsuo Bashō, the Edo period poet, who is considered by many to have been the greatest composer of haiku. For example:

A snowy morning—
by myself,
chewing on dried salmon.

When Fujihira did finally decide it was time to create teabowls, he achieved just this sort of elliptical, compressed style. Handbuilt rather than thrown on the wheel, each is as eccentric as the artist himself, no one contour the same as any other.

The one I have before me has a cinnabar glaze, a pink-suffused celadon somewhat reminiscent of Chinese Song Dynasty jun wares. It is made of earthen materials, and its lip travels round it irregularly, like a mountain path. Yet it also contains a cloud, a gorgeous gray smudge that runs through the glaze: a portion of heaven. Bearing the bowl’s light weight in the hands is pure, giddy pleasure; I can imagine it lifting of its own accord, rising to up the sky.

I can also imagine it filled with green froth. Fujihira may not have admired the rigorous conventions of chanoyu, but then, those conventions have themselves shifted in recent years. It’s easy to imagine a contemporary tea-lover falling in love with this bowl.

For me, nothing he ever made was more poignant than this bowl. It’s at once unpretentious and transcendent, like snow and salmon and everything else under the sheltering sky.

A Great Success! An Art of Imperfection: The Beauty of Japanese Ceramics panel at Japan House LA

Yesterday’s panel with artist Izumita Yukiya prompted a profound discussion with unique perspectives and was energized by an amazing audience full of enthusiasm for Japanese ceramics and culture. Thank you to everyone who attended and to panelists Gordon Brodfuehrer, Hollis Goodall, Yukiya Izumita, and our Ippodo NY gallery director, Shoko Aono.

If in LA, Be sure not to miss @japanhousela’s current exhibition, ‘Keshiki’ The Landscape Within: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics from the Brodfuehrer Collection, guest curated by @hollisgoodall, Curator of Japanese Art at LACMA.


Register today! Free panel and workshop at JAPAN HOUSE, LA featuring Yukiya Izumita

YUKIYA IZUMITA: Panel Discussion & Workshop

Hollywood & Highland Center
6801 Hollywood Boulevard, 2F and 5F
Los Angeles, CA 90028


An Art of Imperfection | The Beauty of Japanese Ceramics

JAPAN HOUSE welcomes four distinguished speakers to discuss the unique and alluring aspects of Japanese ceramics: collector Gordon Brodfueher, ceramic artist Yukiya Izumita, gallerist Shoko Aono (Ippodo Gallery), and Hollis Goodall, Curator of Japanese Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Date: May 23rd, Thursday
Time: 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Location: JAPAN HOUSE Salon (Level 5)
Fee: Complimentary


Ceramic Artist Yukiya Izumita Master Class

For his class at JAPAN HOUSE, Izumita will incorporate local clay and soil to produce a ceramic that is truly native to Los Angeles. In just one and a half hours, participants will witness the planning and creation of a vessel, with narration and explanation throughout, including his innovative use of traditional tools and techniques.

This master class is open to all, from professional ceramicists to amateurs or fans. After the class Izumita will donate the piece to JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles, where it will be displayed throughout the end of the exhibition period.

Date: May 25th, Saturday
Time: 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Location: JAPAN HOUSE Salon (Level 5)
Fee: Complimentary

“The Heart of the Matter” An Essay by Elizabeth Essner on Shin Fujihira’s cinnabar water dropper

In honor of the upcoming exhibition at Ippodo Gallery NY, “Ethereal Clay,” which pays homage to the great Shin Fujihira, Elizabeth Essner (Independent Curator, Writer, and Research) written an essay which takes a deeper look at one of his iconic cinnabar water droppers:


“The Heart of the Matter” by Elizabeth Essner

There is a water dropper, or Suichûby Shin Fujihira that so closely evokes a heart it nearly seems to beat. This heart is not the honeyed pink of Cupid’s arsenal, but in its deep-veined blush–coaxed from red cinnabar–it rises into the territory of a muscle, a working tool at the very center of aliveness.

This heart that I find in Fujihira’s work was perhaps outside the artist’s intention but, once imagined, now exists. For those of us in the West, it is in some ways a gift that little is written in English on this Japanese master of clay. While the plot points of his biography are known, the impact of his work is free from the weight of words. Instead, the eye, the hand, and indeed, the heart, can lead the way.

Accolades are not needed to know that Fujihira was a maestro—this can be seen in the universe of his forms. His material command need not be detailed in prose. It is shown in the tenderness of a budding spout or understood in the clay bodies he has pinched and smoothed to a satisfying plumpness, or sharpened just enough to become steps that lead to another place. The majesty of his cinnabar glazes are cooled by colbalt or celadon. To take it all in requires an extra breath.

It is clear Shin Fujihira was driven by a rich inner life, perhaps cultivated during his years of illness as a young man. His figures–animal and human–are captured not only in the positive space of clay, but also in their presence, which extends out into the air around them. The implied roar of an open-mouthed tiger, the fable of a windswept girl who is nearly lifted up and carried away.

But, it is Fujihira’s functional works that seem to be at the heart of his practice. The chawanand incense burners of the tea ceremony, the water droppers used to release the calligrapher’s ink all come alive in the hand.

Fujihira inherited the material legacy of Kyoto’s famed Gojozaka area wherehis family was among generations of potters who have known clay not only in their hands but in their bones. In his youth, Fujihira absorbed its depth, observing the one-ness between hand and clay of mingeimaster Kanjiro Kawai. Clearly the artist cradled these traditions, but his forms chart a path somewhere new.

To make his work Fujihira eschewed the potter’s wheel and instead used only his hands, pinching Kyoto’s clay between them. While we may never know for sure, this methodical pinching suggests a desire to reach beyond what we know and into what we feel. The tools he created are in service of their ritualsSuichû,tea bowls, incense burners–portals to release the most interior self found within the gesture of calligraphy, the bitter tang of tea.

Now the artist’s spirit has come to New York, taking his rightful place within the beating heart of the city’s boundless cultural impulses. Fujihira’s world is now known in ours.

Laura de Santillana’s solo exhibition, “Moon. From Kyoto to New York.,” is now on view at Ippodo Gallery New York

Laura de Santillana’s solo exhibition, “Moon. From Kyoto to New York.,” opened today, Thursday April 18, and will be on view through May 24! For this show, de Santillana conceived a series of small format tablets in which metal leaf is incorporated or applied to the surface, suggesting the perception of the moon in a night sky. Within strict geometric forms exist dreamy worlds of jewel tones, shimmering hues, and translucent glass in a color range of deep blues, blue greys and silvery greys.

Laura de Santillana from Shoko Aono on Vimeo.

Hafu Matsumoto featured in “Wallpaper*” for his collaboration with Loewe to create basketry using leather

In an inspired collaboration for Milan Design Week, premier basketry artists, such as bamboo-weaver Hafu Matsumoto, produced works using Spanish luxury brand Loewe’s leather. Accompanying these artists’ works are a variety of bamboo-basket-inspired bags and ornaments specially created by Loewe for this occasion. Ippodo Gallery is pleased to work with them to promote the impact of arts and crafts on new styles and traditions today. Read more about it in this article by Wallpaper*! 
This show is on view at the Loewe Milano Store Via Monte Napoleone, 21, 20121 Milano from April 9~14, 2019.


Hafu Matsumoto and the artistic director of Loewe, Jonathan Anderson with artwork, “Creel”



Thoughts from Daisuke Nakano

Nature always inspires me as a
blank canvas

Nature is beautiful because it changes.
Spring may come again but the same spring will never return– likewise, I slowly change as well.

Nature always produces beauty.
It is only a matter of how open I am to receive its beauty.
I trust my intuition so that it can inspire me at any time.

I often take walks.
I see things I would otherwise miss just by creating themes for my walks like: “let’s find a red thing today.”

Following the Nihonga (Japanese Painting) process, blank space is filled with gold and silver leaves, rejecting perspective. I find beauty in such flatness.
I then make a precise sketch to the exact size of the canvas.

At first, I trace the sketch onto jute paper at least 3 times, refining with fine point blush with sumi ink.
Only the necessary lines remain after exploring shape of every tracing.

Lines are the bones of Nihonga.

It takes courage for artists to refine their outline with thick, black sumi ink because it finalizes the composition.

Even though I paint animals, even though I paint flowers,
I never forget human beings.

Realism speaks the truth.

It is pleasing to paint when the pigment becomes something else.

I paint with nerve rather than feelings.
I paint with thought rather than emotion.



“Burst of Nature”- An Essay by Shoko Aono, Director of Ippodo Gallery NY

A nandina plant with red berries struggles under the weight of the falling snow while a marten holds its breath, its eyes gazing in our direction. The sweet perfume of a magnolia in full bloom almost wafts from the image as the carp stream against each other in crowded pools.

Nihonga-style painter Daisuke Nakano uses an animated method of expression which makes it appear as if living creatures are on verge of bursting out of the picture. He says, ‘I want to paint pictures that look as if they would bleed if you cut them,’ imbuing each line with life, each color with blood. He takes exhaustive care over every line, capturing movement inside a stationary two-dimensional work. Accurate down to the finest detail, they dominate regardless of size.

In this, the Nihonga works share something in common with the heterogeneity that allowed anime painting to shake the Japanese art world. The exquisite way in which the scenes are expressed provide the viewer with a wonderful sense of enjoyment, touching the heart profoundly, prompting a longing for nature and hinting at how we should think of life.

Nakano was born in the ancient capital of Kyoto and studied design in school. He soon grew fascinated by natural pigments and glue made from deer, so from the age of eighteen, he devoted himself to the Nihonga painting style.

He learned quickly from the flat world of the Nihonga, drawing particular inspiration from the method of using gold or silver leaf as a base that was developed by Itō Jakuchū or the Rinpa School. It wasn’t long before he created his own, derivative painting method, filling the entire surface of the picture with detail.

Depicting the overwhelming power of nature and the climax of life, he expresses the changes of natural world, its evanescence and sorrow. Flowers in full bloom will eventually fall and physical bodies return to the earth. This intoxication of paradox and life is to be found in the work of the ‘contemporary painter’, Daisuke Nakano.

We are delighted to announce that just as spring comes to New York, Daisuke Nakano will be holding his first ever exhibition outside Japan at the Ippodo Gallery, New York.

“Snowy World,” 2016, 71 x 71 in., Natural mineral pigments, silver leaf, Japanese ink, jute paper

“Magnolia, ‘Luminous Wind’,” 2018, 71 x 71 in., Natural mineral pigments, silver leaf, Japanese ink, jute paper

“Carp, ‘Entreat’ (Ten Aspect series),” H64 x W38 1/4 in., Natural mineral pigments, Japanese ink, jute paper


‘Even though I paint animals, even though I paint flowers, I never forget human beings.’

– Daisuke Nakano

Winter Ceramic Collection, just arrived from Japan!

We hope your year has started happily and with abundant health.
Although we are snuggling inside of our respective homes and waiting for warmer times, we would like to invite you to brave the cold to view our new collection of ceramic works, which have all just arrived from Japan.

For those who are living in the sunny South, we hope these pieces inspire classic wintery scenes in your imagination.
For those who are enduring this frigid weather, we believe these pieces offer a sense of warmth, as ceramics are the fusion of clay, water and fire!

We look forward to seeing you in New York.

For more information, please visit our exhibition page

Happy New Year 2019 !!


Happy New Year!

Thank you for your loyal patronage and friendship throughout the year 2018.

We at Ippodo Gallery firmly believe in the magic and art produced by humankind.

We remain committed to introducing the finest selected artists living in Japan today.

We are happy to share, support and celebrate living artists together with you.

Wishing 2019 to be a year of happiness and beauty for you !


Coming Soon!

Solo Exhibition :
Our Flowering World : Nihonga paintings by Daisuke Nakano
March 7 ~ April 6, 2019


Thursday, March 14, 6 – 9 pm, Opening reception with the artist


The image is the part of Daisuke Nagano’s screen work, “Snowy World.”