The artist Michael Toenges is both a painter and a researcher. He investigates the question of what colour actually is. Even if it allows to create intangibles, to express ideas, feelings, drama and silence, it is first and foremost material.It is not by chance that he feels a kinship with Japanese ceramics. For the Japanese Raku and Oribe masters, ceramics is the material with the help of which they express philosophical thoughts and immateriality.
Besides Toenges this exhibition presents the works of contemporary artists who carry on the tradition of Raku and Oribe ware, which was started by the 16th-century tea master Sen no Rikyu and his disciple Furuta Oribe. Sen no Rikyu and Furuta Oribe are said to be the pioneers of Japanese contemporary art. Sen no Rikyu was a master of the tea ceremony. The important point of Rikyu's tea ceremony is that he rejected the established sense of values. Japanese art before Rikyu regarded Chinese and Korean works as superior, and Japanese people imitated those excellent works.
In the 16th century, the economic power of the emerging samurai and merchants made expensive tea utensils from overseas highly appreciated and demanded in Japan. On the contrary, Rikyu loved natural trees and plants more than expensive and luxurious things. He had his potters make simple, unadorned vessels such as Raku tea bowls. He also reflected the spirituality of Zen Buddhism in his tea utensils. This Rikyu's revolution in aesthetics became the first step toward Japanese contemporary art.
His disciple Furuta Oribe, following Sen no Rikyu's teachings of 'doing some-thing different than others,' created a dynamic 'beauty of discord' contrasting with Rikyu's tranquility. The seemingly unsuccessful crooked tea bowls that he had potters make brought a new sense of beauty to the Japanese people. Oribe was also influenced by the culture of Portugal and Spain, which first entered Japan in the 16th century, and sublimated them into unique Japanese designs. Since the 16th century, the peculiar Japanese pottery created by these two aesthetic reformers is still being made in Japan.
The works of the seven artists in this exhibition convey the aesthetic spirit of Rikyu and Oribe to the present day.
Press release courtesy Galerie Albrecht.