Officine Saffi presents the first solo show in Italy by Yasuhisa Kohyama.
Considered as one of the most influential Japanese masters of ceramics at an international level, Kohyama has been working with clay for over 50 years. His pieces are exhibited in important public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
The exhibition presents eighteen new pieces that encapsulate the approach that the artist has developed over the whole of his career. Works that celebrate the history of Japanese ceramics, with a modernist interpretation of sculptural composition. In fact, Kohyama is one of the master ceramists who rebelled against certain doctrines of form and moved towards abstraction, influenced by Western avant-garde currents.

The essence of Kohyama’s works lies in their process of creation. The artist is in fact the conductor of an orchestra consisting of the primary natural elements: earth, water, air and fire are the sole components of his work, and they are also the only tools that he uses.

His sculptures are built using raw clay sourced in the Shigaraki hills. They are fired in Anagama wood-fired kilns of ancient tradition, during which the flames create shades of colour, flashes of light, imprints and graphic motifs on the surfaces.Wood-firing is a very long and tiring process, but it also generates excitement and suspense. Before lighting the kiln, according to Japanese tradition there is a ritual of good tidings in which the artist has to sprinkle sake and salt, say a prayer and clap his hands twice. This marks the start of a procedure that requires a mental state of great attention, in which silence and self-control are fundamental. The artist stokes the kiln with wood every twenty minutes, for seven days and seven nights. Inside the kiln, microclimates are produced in which there is an alternation of oxidising and reducing atmospheres. When the temperature has reached 1,280-1,350 degrees centigrade, the wood ash vitrifies onto the ceramic surfaces, creating colour effects that vary according to position. The pieces at the centre of the kiln acquire shades of colour varying from red to orange; at the back of the kiln, where oxygen levels are lower, intense blacks and browns are created. After seven days during which the temperature rises continuously, under close control, the kiln is left to rest for another seven days. Each firing is an adventure and a challenge that combines natural forces, human effort, respect for tradition, and contemporary culture. This gives rise to works of remarkable expressive intensity. Enigmatic objects of silent, powerful beauty, that seem not to have been made, but that were simply born.