Pottery is one of the oldest human inventions, while contemporary pottery is no longer limited by functionality in traditional concepts, it has become a work of art that can be appreciated. The new generation of ceramic artists express their creativity and aesthetics through shapes, colours and symbols, as well as symbolisation, association and allegory of the visualised forms, to reflect their own rethinking of modern culture.
In an era of rapid technological advancement, artificial intelligence and virtual networks derived from the infinite imagination of human beings make our lives more convenient, so the famous Japanese ceramic artist Mizumoto Kayoko believed that free thinking and imagination are more indispensable nowadays. Based on the shape of daily life utensils, she boldly adds figurative and decorative elements: eyes, rabbit ears, horns, hearts, and stamens, which depart from the definition of vessels as we understand them, such as eyeballs that extend around like tentacles, and rabbit ears that grow between flowers. The extraordinary shapes of artworks illustrate the surreality mixing with dream and reality, the more mysterious, the more fascinating. In 2021, Mizumoto caught everyone’s eyes at the ‘The Assemblage of Colours, The Assemblage of Paintings Japanese Contemporary Ceramic Painting’ exhibition of Touch Ceramics. In April this year, Touch Ceramics will exhibit Mizumoto’s latest series of surreal artworks - ‘Strange Dream’.
Mizumoto's artworks incorporate a variety of styles, from traditional to modern, reality to fantasy, which can be traced back to her previous life experiences. She was trained in the studios of Kaga Yuzen for eight years and was an apprentice at the studio of Kutani ware, such experiences provided a solid foundation for her traditional painting techniques. Under the practices of traditional techniques in many years, the common flower patterns of Yuzen dyeing, as well as the bright Japanese-style pigments in green, yellow, red, purple and indigo of the classical five colours style (’gosai-de’), have all transformed into the inspiration for her creation. For a period of time, because of her interest in Latin American culture, she travelled to Bolivia, Mexico and other places alone to experience foreign customs, so her artworks are also captivating for their exoticism.
When simplicity is popular nowadays, Mizumoto’s artworks are the opposite, showing her unique aesthetic style. Her artworks are intertwined with various details and protrusions, and they are colourful, such as red, pink, blue, purple, black and gold. The brushstrokes draw reference from shojo (literally meaning ‘young woman’) manga, and the lavish patterns, polka dots, black and white grids, stripes, amaze the audience with strong visual impacts. When I first saw her artworks, I was both surprised and lost in many details, so I could only attempt to understand and interpret her mysterious artworks from the clues one by one .
‘I think "container" and "body" are the same.’ Mizumoto compares the container to the body, pours the soul out of nothingness through processes such as firing and colouring, and expresses the inner emotions through the eccentric forms of the artworks. Therefore, each piece seems to be alive, with familiar elements linked to our own experiences and perceptions.
The big rabbit ears that sprout from the utensils can hear all sounds and are a symbol of sensibility. It associates our appreciation for beauty. Eyeballs signify the awareness of ‘seeing’. While appreciating the artwork, because the eyes of the artwork are also looking directly at me, I strangely had a feeling of ‘being watched’. Simply looking directly at it already makes people nervous, maybe this is also the creator's intention. Usually, we may not be able to deal with all the complicated and turbulent affairs in our lives, or even want to run away from them. However, the calm eyes of Mizumoto's artworks are like pioneers, they teach us to regain the courage to face the things in front of us.
‘Beauty, for me, is the powerful screams, the clumsy impulses, and the purity that shines in the depths of the grotesque.’ Eccentricity, especially the elusive changes in adolescence, is the theme of Mizumoto’s creation, and it is also the worldview of shojo manga that accompanies many of us to grow up. The horns that grow out of the container are impulse and power, like the strong feelings of adolescence. The paintings in the style of shojo manga are reminiscent of childhood memories, the pure pursuit for fantasies and dreams, also a longing for growing up.
With Mizumoto’s creative interpretation, her artworks have established a new and unique style in a tribute to the traditional craftsmanship. The artworks contain the artist's understanding of growth and real life, and become a bridge of communication between artists and audience, linking their imaginations and experiences. Transformed from ordinary containers to whimsical works of art, the exaggerated decoration embodies the enthusiastic emotions of the creator. The strong contrasts of ordinariness and extraordinariness overlap in the eccentric ceramic artworks, such uniqueness makes people unable to take their eyes away, and is enchanted in the artist's extraordinary fantasy world.