⟨ Unexpected Welcome ⟩

Beyond Objects

Exploring the beauty of craftwork with Tadaomi Yamamoto

Words / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

三重縣伊賀市的丸柱,距離信樂車站近十公里,沒有任何公共交通工具能抵達,著實不是適合開設私人藝廊的地方,但偏偏這裡便有一家人們特地遠道而來探訪的工藝藝廊Gallery Yamahon。

10 kilometres away from Shigaraki Station sits a little town called Marubashira, a remote location inaccessible by any means of public transport that is hidden in Iga of Mie Prefecture. This is exactly the home to Gallery Yamahon, which is capable to attract visitors from faraway places regardless of its unlikely and inconvenient location.

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Many art and craft gallery owners tend to consider practicality and durability the two main factors when it comes to picking their selections. Tadaomi Yamamoto however takes a more abstract approach, “it depends on whether the work moves me. Apart from its shape, I also try to imagine the atmosphere that the work can create.” In his interview with glass artist Kiyokazu Tsuda, Yamamoto said, “I tend to look for the spirituality of objects, I would like to see their actual aura. […] Take Tsuda’s works as an example, the part that is subtly missing is the truly inarticulable sensitivity of his works of delicacy. Such non-verbal touch is what makes people wanting to own a certain object.” The beauty of craftwork has a subtle power to affect its surrounding atmosphere.

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山本忠臣成長的地方伊賀,是日本著名的土鍋生產地。由於父親是Yamahon陶房的經營者,山本忠臣自小便被陶藝器物包圍著,十來歲時使協助父親製作陶器,不過卻從沒認真想過要接手公司生意。大學時選擇了修讀建築,畢業後於東京的設計公司工作了三年,直到父親病倒,他才回到故鄉。2000年,他向父母租用了陶房的舊倉庫,改建成自己的工藝藝廊。內部建築與裝潢由他自己一手包辦,為了實踐他的信念,他特意將藝廊建成方盒子,牆壁素白,就如同現代藝術畫廊般。這樣的工藝藝廊,在當時的日本非常罕見。

The hometown of Tadaomi Yamamoto, Iga, is a city famous for its clay pot. Yamamoto grew up surrounded by clay products because of the Yamahon Clay Workshop owned by his father. He started to assist his father with the clay work from the age of 10, but did not intend to take over the family business back then. Yamamoto studied architecture in university and worked in a design firm in Tokyo for 3 years. He only returned to his hometown when his father got ill. In 2000, Yamamoto rented the old warehouse of the clay workshop from his parents, and refurbished it into his own workshop. He turned the space into a square box with pure white walls. This contemporary gallery solely recreated by Yamamoto was very unique to Japan at that time.

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「在我於2000年開辦畫廊時,不管在日本或是西方,藝術及工藝有著明顯階級差異。藝術是原創的、崇高的,而工藝則被普遍認為是沒有個性的。我想證明事實並非如此,於是製造了白色的鑑賞空間。工藝品可以欣賞的地方很多,就算是一個小酒杯,可供鑑賞的,不只邊緣、側面、內側或底部,還有整體的氛圍。製作者的氣息及意識,在工藝品上能感受得到。白色的空間能把作品的氛圍無瑕地展現出來。」然而若天花板與地板也被漆成白色,個性會過度強烈,因此山本忠臣很小心地選擇天自素材,打造出內歛、不會打擾作品的空間。

“When I first started my gallery in 2000, both Japan and the Western world treated art and craft with obvious partiality. Art was considered original and superior, whereas craft was seen as being in lack of personality. This white space that I created is my effort to prove these debates wrong. Work of craft has many aspects for appreciation. Be it as small as a wine cup, not only are the beauty of the rim, the sides, the inner surface and the bottom worth to be recognized, the ambience that comes along is also a main component of every individual object. With careful attention, one can slowly discover the personality of the craftsman through his or her work. This place painted in pure white is a perfect space to bring the objects’ aura to light.” Painting everything in white would however make the space overly dominating; Yamamoto therefore chose to use natural material for the ceiling and the floor, so as to create a subtle space that wouldn’t steal attention from the objects in display.

一幀照片能向你展示作品的外型,卻不能展示與它同處時的感受。山本忠臣認為互聯網太普及,使我們以為自己看了很多,但其實甚麼都沒看過。「即使你覺得放了花卉的空間很棒,但這跟實際地在家裡放在鮮花是不一樣的。在花瓶裡注水,放在桌上時嗅到花香,花卉逐漸凋謝,都是需要實際經驗,才會有所感受。」Gallery Yamahon最近為金藝師金森正起辦的個人展覽,金屬雕塑、燈飾、窗櫺、器皿等,看似隨意地擱在展場內,然而看得出每件作品的位置與距離都經過仔細的思考。金森正起創作的是工藝品,同時創造了它所存在的空間的氣氛,山本忠臣希望Gallery Yamahon能成為供鑑賞者耐心感受作品外,還有它存在的空間。

Photos can present to viewers the appearance of the object, but they cannot recreate the connection between human and that particular object. To Yamamoto, popularity of internet gives many people a false impression that they have seen enough. “Adoring flower display in a photo is not the same as having flowers at home. Pouring water into the vase, and sniffing the fragrance when putting down the vase are the necessary experience for getting the actual sensation.” Metal design artist Masaki Kanamori is currently having his solo exhibition at Gallery Yamahon. The display of metal sculpture, decorative lights, lattice window and containers may appear unplanned at first glance. The position of each exhibit and the distance in between are in fact the results of subtly careful calculation. One can indulge in the atmosphere create by these works of craft, and this is precisely the relationship Yamamoto creates between exhibits and viewers.

作品的氛圍並非絕對的,它會隨著作品安置的場所而有所不同,工藝的美也會隨鑑賞者、使用者的思緒與情感而轉變。「日本的禪語富有多重意義,究竟是甚麼意義,都全靠人們的解讀。工藝也一樣,工藝家是創作者,而其實鑑賞者也同樣是創作者。」

Atmosphere created by the same piece of work can vary along with different spaces of display; mood of the viewers, sentimentality of the users — everything can affect the beauty of the work of craft. “Zen has multiple interpretation when it’s being read by different individuals, so is work of craft. Viewers do not stay in a passive position as they are also one of the creators.”

民藝運動推手柳宗悅,一生推動「用之美」的觀念,對日本的美學文化影響至深,所說的不只是「Form follow function」的製作原則,還有年年月月使用過後而流露的美感。山本忠臣說,日本工藝家多以製作日常用品為主,且跟歐美工藝家的作品相比,造價便宜很多,是因為比起為作品定天價,他們寧願讓更多人能夠負擔得起,並使用到自己的作品。

The folk arts advocate Yanagi Sōetsu never ceased to emphasize the beauty of utilitarian objects, with his philosophy constructing a major part of Japanese aesthetics. On one hand there is the principle of “form follows function”, on the other hand he also appreciated the grace objects gain from being genuinely used. As told by Yamamoto, most of the Japanese craftsmen focus on making daily utensils, the cost is usually way more affordable than those created by European and American craftsmen. The affordable price reflects the Japanese craftsmen’s humble ambition of wishing to see more people using their creation.