The tea bowls by Goro Suzuki that we have on display in Frank’s International House of Ceramics, Part Three attract a lot of questions from visitors. Suzuki-san works in a range of traditional and contemporary Japanese styles which can be unfamiliar to our audience. Even the titles can be hard to decipher, although they hold the key to identifying the style of each of the works. Here’s a very basic guide to some of the forms and styles you can see in our current exhibition.
Classifying these works becomes simpler once you know that their titles function as descriptions of the style and form of each piece. You might notice that the title of each tea bowl includes the word chawan. This translates simply as “tea bowl” in English, so it describes the basic function of the seven works. The words preceding chawan are specific descriptions, indicating the style in which each piece was made.
For example, Kiseto Chawan refers to a tea bowl that was made in the Kiseto style, which originated in the Mino region of Japan during the fifteenth century. Kiseto ware developed from early attempts to imitate Chinese celadon glazes, but was soon pursued for its own unique qualities. With an ideal surface texture resembling that of fried tofu, this example of Kiseto ware also features the incised iris design and splash of green glaze that are common to the style.
The work titled Yobitsugi Chawan is a tea bowl that was formed in the yobitsugi, or “patchwork” style. Traditionally a method of repairing broken ceramics, yobitsugi refers to the practice of using gold or silver lacquer to combine ceramic shards of differing styles into one vessel. This patchwork aesthetic can also be achieved deliberately through the purposeful breaking and restoration of works, as is the case here.