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Yasunaga Masaomi


Masaomi Yasunaga produces “ceramics” with glaze (glass). He presents the diversity of “ceramics” by removing the main material “clay”.

Yasunaga studied ceramics under Satoru Hoshino, a second-generation proponent of the avant-garde ceramic group, Sodeisha (in kanji, 走泥社 literally means, crawling through the mud). Founded in Kyoto in 1948, in the aftermath of WWII, Sodeisha broke away from long-established conventions of Japanese ceramics, resolving to create non-functional sculptural works.

Continuing with this ethos, Yasunaga developed idea of “ceramics” focusing on using his physical body as unlimited unconscious intelligence, , and explore an possibility of functional and fine arts.



[ Biography ]

Born in Osaka Prefecture in 1982. Lives & works in Iga-shi, Mie Prefecture. While at University, Yasunaga established his creative direction at the laboratory of Satoru Hoshino, a coterie of the avant-garde ceramic group “Sodeisha”. While pottery is often made of clay and baked in a kiln, Yasunaga takes the form of pottery using glaze for his creations instead. Yasunaga masters creativity by combining unique raw materials such as feldspars, glass and metal powders, with his own methods such as creating glazed vessels with increased viscosity which are then pit fired in sand.



1982     Born in Osaka
1988     Moves to Nabari, Mie Prefecture
2000     Admission to the Osaka Sangyo University Department of Environmental Design
2003     Start a pottery to enter the Satoru Hoshino laboratory
2006     Receives Masters Degree in Environmental Design from Osaka Sangyo University
2007     Establishes a pottery studio in Iga
2010     Becomes a creative resident at The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park
2011     Newly builds a firewood kiln
2013     Becomes a creative resident at ARCTICLAY 3rd SYMPOSIUM in Posio, Finland
2014     Becomes a creative resident at National Tainan University of the Arts



 [ Selected Solo Exhibitions ]

2019     “Masaomi Yasunaga Exhibition”, Nonaka-Hill gallery, LA, US

               “Masaomi Yasunaga Exhibition”, Gallery Utsuwakan, Kyoto, JP
物空 Things Empty”,  一票票 Piao Piao Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan

2018     “Memory of Orient”, Gallery Utsuwa Note, Kawagoe, Saitama, JP
2017     “Masaomi Yasunaga Exhibition”, Garb Domingo, Okinawa, JP
               “arid landscapes”, pragmata, Tokyo, JP
               “Ceramics of Masaomi Yasunaga”, Utsuwa Kyoto Yamahon, Kyoto, JP
               “Masaomi Yasunaga Exhibition”, Gallery uchiumi, Tokyo, JP
2016     “Ceramics of Masaomi Yasunaga”, Utsuwa Kyoto Yamahon, Kyoto, JP
               “Masaomi Yasunaga: Ceramics”, Art Salon Yamagi, Osaka, JP
2015     “Ceramics of Masaomi Yasunaga”, Utsuwa Kyoto Yamahon, Kyoto, JP
               “Masaomi Yasunaga: Ceramics”, Art Salon Yamagi, Osaka, JP
               “Masaomi Yasunaga Exhibition: Production at Yaso and Daily Work”, wad, Osaka, JP
               “Masaomi Yasunaga Exhibition”, Gallery uchiumi, Tokyo, JP
               “Masaomi Yasunaga Exhibition”, Gallery Utsuwakan, Kyoto, JP
2014     “Masaomi Ysunaga: Pottery Trilogy”, Gallery Yamahon, Mie Prefecture, JP
               “Masaomi Yasunaga: Ceramics”, Art Salon Yamagi, Osaka, JP
               “sand dunes, pragmata”, Tokyo, JP
               “Hollow”, Pioa Piao Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan
               “The corpse”, National Tainan University of the Arts, Tainan, Taiwan
2013     “Ceramics of Masaomi Yasunaga”, Utsuwa Kyoto Yamahon, Kyoto, JP
               “Masaomi Yasunaga: Pottery Exhibition
                 – Yakimono Biyori”, TRI Gallery Ochanomizu, Tokyo, JP
               “Masaomi Yasunaga: Ceramics”, Art Salon Yamagi, Osaka, JP
               “Masaomi Yasunaga Pottery Exhibition

                – Work by sand mold, and then”, Gallery uchiumi, Tokyo, JP


“Sensory Massage”
Text by: Ryosuke Kondo


At first, its deformed shape looks as if a part of the ground or a sandy beach were cut off and then rolled or rounded. If you look at it closely, you can see that countless fragments clump together and somehow seemingly form a mouth. Masaomi Yasunaga’s work is too unstable to be used as a “vessel,” but cannot be called an “objet d’art” because it arouses the viewer’s sense of touch. For the time being, let us call this unknown thing yakimono (fired thing).

Yakimono is mostly done in three stages: “molding,” “firing,” and “carving.” (1) Mold the figure with a self-made glaze. Generally, a glaze contains about 60% water, but Yasunaga reduced this to about 25% so that the glaze could be twisted by hand. (2) Fire at a high temperature of 1,200 degrees. In order to maintain the brittle and fragile figure as much as possible, its exterior is supported by a combination of earth when entering the kiln. (3) After firing, make any modifications to the figure. Since the yakimono has transformed into a hybrid of melted glaze and earth while within the kiln, Yasunaga gropes the finished figure, peeling off and polishing any excess earth adhering to the yakimono in an intuitive and careful manner.



See the Sense of Touch

Yasunaga’s method, which does not require any special tools or techniques, is almost primitive. With glaze, earth, kiln, and a few inspirational ideas, the Jōmon could also do this. However, it is these “inspirational ideas” that are at the core of Yasunaga’s creativity, and which provide unique character to his yakimono.

The first inspirational idea is the foregrounding of the glaze. As is well known, glaze is usually used for the purpose of coating ceramic surfaces in the final stage of ceramics. When heated, it becomes a glassy film that adds not only durability and smoothness but also color and gloss to the vessel. In short, it is an indispensable material for enhancing the utility and beauty of ceramics. Beginning with the glaze, on the other hand, Yasunaga makes the film, i.e. the surface, the structure itself: a transparent object solely consisting of a layered surface.


It is easy to associate with death a figure that has lost its contents, and symbolic titles, such as “shell,” “bone,” and “void,” as well as Yasunaga’s personal experiences, such as the death of his grandmother and the birth of his son. On the other hand, the surface, i.e. transparency, also seems to represent a modern sense of visual culture. Even aside from Instagram and virtual reality (VR), the everyday world around us is covered with countless images. It is believed that this reality will grow as the resolution increases, but what is actually reflected in it becomes non-materialized like particles, and thus is estranged from reality. This is because the human eye captures not only shapes and colors but also tangible elements such as texture and temperature at the same time. We feel every trace of movement in the natural matter and energy in yakimono. Cannot yakimono, transparent but never reduced to an image, be interpreted as an attempt to connect vision to haptics again?



Return to Nature

The second inspirational idea is a paradoxical process of production. In general, pottery consists of three stages: “digging” into the earth, “firing” to fix the figure, and “dressing” with glaze. With this process, natural materials are brought closer to the artist’s own design. In contrast, in the case of Yasunaga, the process begins with “dressing” the figure with glaze, “firing” to make the figure flow, and “digging” again into the earth. This final stage is reminiscent of archeological “excavation” and, in conjunction with the image of death described above, brings to yakimono a time scale that extends beyond human life.


However, what we should note here is another aspect of the archeological relic, namely “anonymity.” Remaining anonymous deviates from the Western view of modern art that presupposes the exposure of the ego, and ultimately suggests the East Asian character of yakimono. Let us follow Yasunaga’s process again. The artist’s agency is limited to the first stage, at which the object is malleable, and is here comparable to the clay modelling of the West. In the second and third stages, nature always precedes the artist: in the second stage, creation is left to the natural principles of earth, fire, and gravity in the kiln, and the third stage is rather similar to woodcarving in terms of its irreversible condition, in which the artist must follow nature. Nay, when Yasunaga finally “excavates,” he is no longer an artist, but another person. In other words, he is an intermediary who discovers the images lurking in nature by abandoning the agent altogether and immersing himself into nature. In this way, on its way back from human hands to nature, the yakimono would gradually become distorted, shattered, and an outcome of coincidence.


To conclude, what is revealed in transparency and anonymity is the synesthetic and East Asian character of yakimono. This can be viewed as a “vessel” or touched as an “objet d’art.” In either case, encountering yakimono will dissolve our rigid perceptions, as the glaze melts in the kiln.



Text: Ryosuke Kondo

Ryosuke Kondo is an art critic. Born in Osaka, Japan in 1982, he writes and researches in the fields of art, garden, and landscape. He has a B.A. from the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, and a M.A. from the University of Tokyo.