Like archeological photography, one approaches Shun Kumagai’s works as though looking through a dusty windowpane, their telluric beauty appearing as a relic trapped in a veil of mist.
“I wanted to create something I have never seen.”
“The act of making is similar to a prayer,” Kumagai was referring to the meditation and devotion championed by his process-driven work, which sees a constant push and pull between the stillness of time and his more vivacious channeling of the techniques.
The Chinese character “Shun” (峻) of his name refers to steep mountain ranges. We often attribute great importance to one’s moniker. Perhaps, then, it is by guidance that Kumagai was fated to create something no one has ever seen.
Everything is unpredictable before it breaks.
Kumagai’s glassware is based on a technique of casting molten materials, which begins with the creation of the mold. First, Kumagai recreates the original shape of each object using wax in a box, which he then fills with liquid plaster. Once the liquid solidifies into a mold, Kamugai empties it of wax, fills the mold with glass and fires it in a 1000°C kiln. The glass would then melt and join the clay and metal.
Cooling takes seven to ten days before the piece can be separated carefully from the mold. Vases in more sophisticated shapes require the complete dismantling of the mold, hence the necessity to create a new mold each time.
Kumagai favours the use of glass, clay and metal for the unpredictable interaction between their contrasting materials as the temperature changes, which, in their final state, reveals traces of fluidity. “Unpredictability may sound daunting, but I’m fascinated by the process of creating expressions through unstable chemical reactions, rather than calculated methodologies.”
Surprise is like a stream of consciousness charting unknown territories. Sometimes it exceeds one’s expectations, other times it diverts from them. There’s beauty in that which is born out of chaos. Each creation by Kumagai is a combination of hues and shapes that cannot be repeated.
Melding clay and metal, Kumagai’s glassware takes on varying expressions according to the light. In the dark it is characterised by clay, like pottery, but basking in light the glass shimmers, half liquid and half solid.
Born out of science, Kumagai’s glassware appears as organic creations, mysterious like dreamscapes.