© 2020 Shohei Ono All Rights Reserved.

A Serene Perspective

Discreet and bold. Delicate and yet, dynamic. Shohei Ono’s artworks create an universe of wonder, where contradictory elements seem to coexist. As it can be called ‘the art of clay and fire’, pottery is often being described as a way of expressing the organic existence of nature as it is. But Ono's view seems to be slightly different.

‘Kneading the clay, shaping it, and firing it in a kiln. The basic process of pottery making has not changed so much from ancient to modern times. However, the environment that surrounds us is completely different from what it used to be, and it is still constantly changing every minute. People do not live surrounded by natural objects only, but if you look around you, there are many artificial objects such as home appliances and digital gadgets, and so on. This world does not consist of one single element, but various elements entangle together and coexist in harmony. That’s what I find exciting.’

So, where does Ono's multiple and serene perspective come from ?

‘When I was young, I was a type of child who was sensitive to the reactions of others, and was rather shy and unassuming. Because of allergies, I had a lot of constraints on food and activities, so I often used to stay home, and drew pictures on drawing papers with colored pencils, or played making robots by connecting clothes pegs. At the same time, both my parents are artists, so I had the occasion to spend most of my childhood during elementary school in various South East Asian countries, such as India, Thailand, and Indonesia. This experience allowed me to witness and learn at an early stage, how the world is composed of various races and cultures, and how they mixed and blended together. It could be my personality and my life environment that influenced each other, and gave me unconsciously the habit of comparing the possible relationships between what comes inside of me, and what surrounds me, and try to figure out the best balance out of it.’

He had once started to work, but decided at the age of 25, to seriously pursue the career as a potter, and serve his apprenticeship under Ryoji Koie. He still remembers clearly what Koie had told him, soon after he became his apprentice.

‘At that time, my master was not in good health, and could not create his works as he wished. One day, my master came and told me, "I cannot teach you how to use the potter's wheel, but I can show you how I will deteriorate." I was surprised by what he suddenly said, but while looking at the way he worked from close, I came to feel that, creating an artwork was more than creating an object intentionally, and the way the artist lives his life, and the surrounding environment have more impact on the result. This discovery released me from thinking in a stereotypical view that ‘pottery must be like this’, or ‘a vessel should be made like this’, and gradually, it allowed me to face my work more freely and purely, and only pursue what I truly find beautiful.

But, what is "beauty" in the first place ? Is the general concept of beauty, a phenomenon that abounds in vivacity, moves your heart and inspires your imagination ? But besides that, something that careers an intense energy, having a mysterious appeal, or that deteriorates over the years, for example, can also be fascinating and captivating. With his unique conception of beauty that some may disagree with, and through his particular perspective, Ono created the series "Rusting Shape" using iron glaze.

‘Unlike ordinary vessels, the series "Rusting Shape" consists of objects that were created having absolutely no specific function or purpose. The motifs are industrial products that surround us, to which people pay no particular attention, such as air conditioner ducts, electric wire bundles, smart speakers, and so on. These objects are not designed intentionally, but when you sometimes see them being exposed, and damaged over time, I can feel a certain ephemeral beauty of the moment. When I realized this fact, I decided to try to capture that moment with my own hands.’

The way Ono engages in his work by digging the clay with his own hands and producing independently, is surprisingly honest and pure. On the other hand, it shows that he does not get caught in the closed atmosphere of the crafts industry. He thinks in a flexible manner, and continues to diversify his artistic activities by transcending the borders of the art of pottery.

‘Living in this world, I feel that it's natural to create by being influenced by the circumstances and time we live in. But, I still want to react honestly to the sensations that spring from my body. This leads me to expressing myself in my own unique way.’

TEXT by Hisashi Ikai










TEXT by 猪飼尚司/Hisashi Ikai