Due to the fact that the Yakimono Gallery is putting several of his pieces on display, Naoki Maeda is quickly becoming something of a household name in some circles. As a result, people are starting to recognize him as a sort of leader as far as modern urushi lacquer work is considered. This is certainly a positive trend.
That being said, he’s now been pigeonholed as the sort who combines ceramics with urushi and nothing more. As a result, it might come as surprise to some observers to learn that one of his urushi ceramic combination pieces was actually used in an installation in a past exhibition in Japan.
The installation itself resembled something of a more traditional and relatively delicate ikebana floral arrangement. As a result, the lines between what is really traditional and what constitutes a postmodernist sort of movement were further blurred. For what it’s worth the piece was not only impressive as an academic consideration, but it’s also quite aesthetically pleasing.
Considering the great difficulty in making this kind of piece, this shouldn’t be a suggestion that it’s going to enjoy an incredible burst in general workmanship. It takes a special kind of person to make this style of art. However, with that kind of popularity, those who are so inclined will perhaps start to pick up on it. That’s a wonderful thing to say the least.
As they do, they could really start to spread the art form. Rather than encourage huge heavy-handed revolutionary changes in art, it could be said that curators hope that seeing Naoki Maeda’s unique designs encourage at least some people to pick up the art of lacquer working. Even if this particular style has been previously little known in the west, it’s due to become fairly well known.
What makes Maeda-sensei’s work so exciting is that each piece is the result of extremely extensive research and experimentation with classical Japanese material. Hollow clay and traditional Japanese lacquer weren’t mixed before him. Previously the artist’s work has been seen in the Czech Republic, Taiwan, Finland, Italy and in several other areas.
The artist has even suggested that his work is something of a duality. He combines opposites in a way, as he maintains moisture by mixing water and lacquer into the clay. One might even be able to apply some metaphysical study to this matter, as it seems that he capitalizes on the various properties to make his work stick.