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<i>Saiyuki - Sagojo</i>
Harumi Noguchi
[Ceramic + Porcelain ]
Item Number:B9451
Since ancient times the Japanese people have believed in the existence of 'Kami', elemental spirits that inhabit the mountains, seas, forests, and rivers as well as plants and trees. Even today, when we walk in the country, we frequently come across shrines dedicated to the natural power of the forests or seas, where these elemental spirits, both good and evil, are worshiped as gods. The remarkably talented woman sculptor, NOGUCHI Harumi, has created images of some of these countless elemental spirits that inhabit nature, that she will present in this, her first ever overseas exhibition. NOGUCHI has possessed a strange sensitivity since childhood and the great earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, was particularly shocking to her. This disaster demonstrated to us that nature, which brings blessing not only to we humans but all life on Earth, also possesses the violent power of destruction. NOGUCHI questions the meaning of this, devoting herself, body and soul, to her work in clay. This exhibition will present 30 works to which she has dedicated herself in the aftermath of the disaster.

Born in Tokyo in 1954, from a very early age NOGUCHI Harumi loved to read myths, legends and fairy tales, developing a view on nature that resonates with that to be found in Japan's earliest writings, the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters, 712 A.D.) or Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan, 720 A.D.). As a child she created an imaginary world, in which the characters of myth and legend were her friends, she played with the spirits that inhabited the huge trees or forests, and whenever she stepped into the sea or a river, she believed she was in direct contact with the god of water. She did not begin to work in ceramics until she was in her 40s, then one day she produced a small mask. She showed this to the owner of Ippodo, AONO Keiko, who was fascinated by the sublime spirituality it expressed and wanted to discover what else lay sleeping in NOGUCHI's subconsciousness. AONO has always been very proud of Japanese culture, of its delicate sensitivity or the way in which nature is incorporated in people's daily lives and she has a strong desire to pass this on to future generations. NOGUCHI possesses a longing for Japan's past and an awe of the elemental spirits of nature, so it was probably fate that brought the two of them together. As a result of their meeting, NOGUCHI began to produce three-dimensional, clay sculptures - images of Japanese gods, sacred beasts, ogres, etc., seeming to flow from her hands. NOGUCHI Harumi is unique for the way in which she uses clay to give shape to the gods and spirits that lie at the root of the Japanese philosophy and way of life.

NOGUCHI's sculptures possess a strange texture making it impossible to guess what they are made of at first glance. Her material is a blend of clay with a high iron content from the Shigaraki (Shiga Pref.) and other areas, that is then given a coating of white slip. The works do not have an internal structure, she does not plan each work, the shape is simply formed through the rhythmical movements of her fingers. The clay takes on a life of its own, the gods and spirits presenting richly individualistic, dynamic forms as they become embodied in this world. These works share the same primitive power that is expressed in the story of the creation of the islands of Japan that appears in the Kojiki.

The majority of the animals that appear in her work are mythical beasts. For instance, the dogs are what are known in Japanese as koma-inu; they come in pairs, the one with its mouth open is enunciating the word 'Ah' and the one with its mouth closed, the word 'Un'. 'Ah' is the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet and represents the origin of all things, while 'Un' is the last letter and represents conclusions. In this way, they can be said to symbolize the universe itself and for this reason NOGUCHI refers to them as 'universe dogs'. The spiral designs on the surface represent the rhythms of the atmosphere or life and the protrusions, the stars.

The contemporary society created by mankind has undermined nature. The steady pollution of the seas and the shrinking of the forests, have led to the disappearance of the gods who inhabited them and the destruction of their spirits. Having spent her childhood days in tune with nature, NOGUCHI grew to love its soul and so after the terrible destruction caused by earthquake, she felt called upon to create these works. This exhibition at Ippodo Gallery New York is filled with a feeling gratitude towards nature and a prayer to life, serving as a monument that will act to highlight the problems facing the world today.

"The supreme energy that fills all things and shakes the heavens. This was once feared as being the wrath of gods or demons, but the environment that surrounds us today has been vastly changed in the name of civilization. However, can we be sure that the memory of this ancient fear will not be rewoken? In the shade of the trees of the forest at noon, at the edge of the green marshes, in the winds that create waves in forests, mountains and seas, or in the thunder and lightening that flashes through the sky, I am able to discern the fondly-remembered, yet frightening members of this supernatural race. Theirs are the images I want to bring out through my work in clay."


About the Artist
She breathes new life into clay to create her own interpretations of the gods that appear in old Japanese tales and legends. These ancient gods lead us back to ancient times when nature and humankind lived together in harmony.

1948 Born in Tokyo
1973 Worked as an illustrator
1994 Established own kiln in Higashi-matsuyama, Saitama Prefecture
Present: lives in Yoshimi Town, Saitama

Major exhibitions:

1999 “Season of Ogre” at Tokyo Ippodo Gallery, Tokyo
2003/2005 “Ogre of Ceramics” at Tokyo Ippodo Gallery, Tokyo
2006 “MONOGATARI” at Takashimaya Department Store in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture
2010 “Exhibition of HARUMI NOGUCHI” at Takashimaya Department Store in Nihonbashi, Tokyo
2011 “Beauty in All Things: Japanese Art and Design” at Museum of Arts and Design, New York
“An Exhibition of Sculpture by Harumi NOGUCHI, KAMI – The Elemental Spirits of Nature”
at Ippodo Gallery New York, New York
2012 “Art Crafting Towards the Future” at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art,
Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture
2014 “An Exhibition of Sculpture by HARUMI Noguchi OKAMI – Wolf & The Elemental Spirits of
Nature” at Ippodo Gallery New York, New York
2015 "Japanese Kōgei | Future Forward" at Museum of Arts and Design, New York