b. 1975, Japan

Masayasu Mitsuke Biography

Born in 1975 in Kaga City, Ishikawa, Japan. Masayasu Mitsuke currently lives and works in Kaga City. He creates his own original style of Kutani ware, a traditional Japanese porcelain style known for its use of bright colours.

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Mitsuke was drawn to Japanese traditional arts from an early age, learning and eventually acquiring a teaching license in Japanese calligraphy. This early interest in working with brushes undoubtedly laid the foundation for his impressive brushwork in decorating Kutani ware. The artist realized his interest in Kutani ware in high school, when he visited a Kutani pottery training centre.  He studied at the Ishikawa Prefectural Kutani Ware Technical Training Center, and continued his training under the tutelage of Buzan Fukushima, a prize-winning master in the traditional craft of Akae saibyo.

Kutani ware was first established in the eponymous village in the 17th century—now part of Kaga City where Mitsuke lives, and became popular in the late 19th century. The artist’s geographical proximity to Kutani’s origin, and the region’s familiarity with Kutani ware drew him to the craft. Mitsuke was also attracted to the meticulous details in which the art form enabled him to work.
 
The porcelain on which Mitsuke works is created by other artisans. The artist takes over from the decoration stage, painting his complicated designs onto the pottery through Akae saibyo, a painting technique that entails using a thin brush to paint red iron-based enamel on white porcelain. It is the distinct quality of the red pigment that allows the artist to paint in fine details. Pigments such as green and blue are used simply to add colour. Like other Kutani ware, Akaeporcelain traditionally depicts familiar and quintessentially Eastern scenes, such as floating dragons and bamboo trees. At first glance, Mitsuke’s work appears to be traditional designs that emulate ornate cups and plates dating back to porcelain ware’s Chinese origins. While the artist incorporates such traditional elements, especially decorative Edo period (1603~1868) geometric shapes like youraku patterns and overlapping circular shippo-mon patterns, which are both found on Buddhist altar fittings, his designs are modern and inspired by unique sources that range from jewelry design to church interiors.

Mitsuke’s success and popularity transcend the circle of traditional Japanese pottery. He is a contemporary artist with unworldly skills, and through an old craft, he creates an intricate and expansive world—almost like peeking into a kaleidoscope—that had not been attempted through Akae in the past. He composes a general design before he sets off on a piece, but imagines and fills in details as he paints. His paintings have often been compared to artwork produced by computer graphics, owing to the flawless fine lines he creates, and also to lace fabric, due to their delicate patterns. Mitsuke simultaneously works on multiple pieces, several dozens, in fact, at a time.
 
His work has been featured at “Art Crafting Towards the Future” at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (2012). His work is also part of the public collections of the same museum, along with that of the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art and the Kutaniyaki Art Museum. 

Text by Makiko Arima

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