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The combination of Japan and metalwork suggests the tradition of the samurai sword, and whilst the pre-eminence of Japanese craftsmanship in this area is unmistakeable, less commonly acknowledged is Japan's more diverse history of superior craftsmanship in metal.
Box about 1890-1900
Iron, with a shibuichi panel decorated in gold, silver, shakudo, and shibuichi
From iron and bronze casting, ancient bronze bells and Buddhist regalia, to the world of accessories to the sword in which precious metals combine with magical alloys of copper, gold, and silver to create visual and technical miniature masterpieces, Japanese metalwork bewitched and intrigued the European world when Japan opened its doors to foreign trade after 250 years of relative isolation.
Hamilton Art Gallery
After the Meiji Restoration (1868) the abolition of the samurai class and the banning of the sword, metal craftsmen turned to the newly emerging European market. Their skills and sensibilities were applied to the creation of decorative objects for the series of international great exhibitions at the end of the nineteenth century.
Pair of Samurai Figures. Circa 1890
Bronze, thick gilding, silver and shakudo
These large international art expositions, for example the Metalwork World Exhibition at Nuremberg in 1885, provided a reciprocal stimulus between Japan and the West. New techniques, designs and materials were introduced; large inlaid bronze vessels and vases, jewellery and cutlery, all saw the application of Japanese inlay and alloying techniques.
-Incense Burner (Koro) M72 Circa 1890Silver, shakudō, shibuichi, gold, silver
And a shakudō-copper mokume alloy.
Audiences accustomed to form over surface, and preciousness over creative input were astounded by appearances of silver, gold, bronze and copper in seemingly endless variations of hue and tone, by masterful casting and intricate inlays. Works of this period, still highly sought after by international museums and private collectors alike, paved the way for today’s dynamic and original work.
-Soft metal inlaid iron incense burner,Meiji Period, signed Mitsutaka (Kajima Ikkoku II) andHogashiyama (Hogashiyama Motonobu)Christies New York 2018-
Japanese metalwork is situated in a different value structure from European tradition where preciousness of material may be esteemed above the effort put into the creation of the object.
Japanese artists pay respect to the inherent characteristics of the material with which they work. Exploiting the fluidity of the metal, its capacity to hold colour and textures and its richness in being just what it is – it matters not whether it's inexpensive aluminium or expensive gold.
Copper Drops #30
What may be regarded as ‘weakness’ or ‘faults’ in material or technique are often highlighted, even exaggerated, to become an integral part of the beauty of the work. This may also be seen as an inherent characteristic of the Japanese aesthetic, evident also in the worlds of ceramic, the practice of tea, and in the art of flower arranging.
-Mitsumoto TakeshiHan 反 Antipode-
CONTEMPORARY JAPANESE METALWORK
Contemporary Japanese metalwork artists are moving away from the constraints of traditional processes, much like contemporary Japanese ceramic artists, towards ones that allow more creative freedom and exploration of the full range of potentials of their medium.
Hyatt Regency Yokohama 2020
Still faithful to the Japanese aesthetics that embrace beauty of function, imperfection and the changeability inherent in nature and natural phenomenon; contemporary metalwork artists adapt traditional techniques and materials to the modern world.
-Mitsumoto Takeshi波濤の花器 Hatō no Kaki
Swirling WatersRecently Available Work-
View On A Wall
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