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Excerpts from The Zen Master, the Potter and the Poet: Pottery and Japan?
No other country in the world regards pottery as an important part of its culture in the way Japan does. Other countries might prize other cultural items more highly, but Japan has a very real attachment to the humble pot, largely because of the tea ceremony which more than any other cultural activity has been responsible for pottery being elevated to heights unimaginable in the West.
Herbert Read, writing as far back as 1931, in his important book The Meaning of Art, said:
Pottery is at once the simplest and the most difficult of the Arts. It is the simplest because it is the most elemental; it is the most difficult because it is the most abstract. Before man could write, before he had a literature, or even a religion, he had this art...in fact the art is so fundamental, so bound up with the elementary needs of civilization, that a national ethos must find expression in this medium.
He concluded, 'Judge the art of a country, judge the fineness of its sensibility by its pottery; it is a sure touchstone'. (I think many might take issue with that.)Japan 1974.
Fujiwara Kei, Living National Treasure of Bizen pottery, is being honoured with a retrospective exhibition to celebrate his 77th birthday. In Japan the age of 77 is of special importance and potters from many parts of the country were attending the opening, indicating their esteem for this man, important both as a potter and as a human being. This anniversary exhibition was held, not in an art gallery, but in the Okayama civic centre more accessible to a larger number of people. The opening ceremony was a who's who of Japan's most important potters.
I visited the exhibition four times and on each occasion went with a different person either from the Fujiwara Yu household (his son) or with those who worked in the workshop. I was interested to get some individual reactions to the father's pots and on each visit to the exhibition asked my companions which of all the many pots exhibited was the one they preferred; there were some interesting responses. The Fujiwara Kei exhibition was most impressive, especially for someone who had never before seen so many pots of this .........
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