Takeshi Yasuda has always been two steps ahead –so absorbed by the multifarious aspects of clay, always deviating from the more obvious conceptive routes. There remains in this most experienced potter an obsessive curiosity that takes him into quite new areas of operation –but his insights are rooted in his physical empathy with the material, and the wheel as his point of departure. Exhibitions like this are as much about ‘work in progress’ as they are grand summations. His empiricism –of ideas being born out of process –has made him, to this day, uncommonly open to new discoveries. There isn’t a ‘correct’ procedure. More than most, he has made a virtue of accidents, quick to extemporize and follow a fresh line of enquiry.
Looking at the new porcelain, it is tempting to view Yasuda’s career as – in part- a pursuit of structure. Form has grown increasingly important as decoration has fallen away. The splendidly opulent Sansai oxidised stoneware indicated a new direction, with its extraordinary formal innovations (the sprung-bottom pillows, pillow dishes, plateaux and soon). It showed his methods of ‘downwards throwing’ and manipulation, of contriving new constructive interventions. Procedures are there to be revised, inverted and reinvented –and his case – literally turned upside down. The creamware and blue-white porcelain have clarified these concerns. Austere and concentrated, they deal with the bonier framework of clay, but are still very luxurious with their soft rims, fluid corrugations and lush glazes. The blue-white has an abstracted intimacy –its creased and indented forms are particularly tactile.
Then, by contrast, there is a baroque swagger of his collapsed porcelain. Taking expressive freedom in throwing to an extreme, its conception seems comparatively spontaneous, different to his more complex assemblies. Having experimented with porcelain since the early nineties, it still took a while to acclimatise to a material both hard and soft, with its ‘narrow margin of error’. The vertical Unfolding series originated in early throwing failures which overstretched and collapsed.
Then hung upside down, they stretched back into their final form. These resurrections-seemingly still on the point of implosion –are a brave departure, but these buckled sagging objects have their own membranous strength, exploring the tensile plastic ambiguities of porcelain. They further his philosophy of reversal-arriving at shapes which, though appearing to melt, have actually reformed through the laws of gravity. With their dancing lines and contours, pulling and contracting, these are perhaps the simplest and the most demanding pots Yasuda has made –a lesson in the potential structural convolutions of the cylinder, but one that has barely survived its precarious conception.
Then, conversely, there is his Folding series –large platters that he fires on props in the kiln. During firing these ‘slump down’ to form the edge of the platter upside. So, as he reminds us, clay is plastic in extreme heat as well as on the wheel, another component of the natural performance art and improvisation in which he revels. His use of the wire to remove excess clay has become a form of the embellishment on his new bowls too, adding motion and delineation to surface. You can hang some of these platters on the wall for storage as well as decoration-another example of how Yasuda puts function first. If his pots work for food then they should succeed on other levels too, but it is for rituals of the table that they primarily serve (and he has little interest in the current vogue for ceramic installations, because they can negate the practical contiguity of pottery). Takeshi Yasuda is something of a maverick, self-possessed and self-contained. Yet his remarkable insights have populated our sensory world with majestic, playful and energised pots, and it’s a job to keep up with him.
- CAA Exhibitions