Ajiki Hiro Exhibition
Keio Department Store
Shinjuku, Tokyo - July 2002
In the caption to a photo of his hat blowing away in a distant land, chawan (tea vessel) artist Ajiki Hiro wrote: "I became the wind in Mongul." This metamorphosis aptly describes Ajiki. Like the wind, he is carefree, indulging, at times silent, and at other times quite boisterous. I've rarely met another potter like Ajiki. His wit and talent are quite refreshing in the often uptight and stagnant chawan world. I recently went to his chawan (tea bowl) exhibition in Tokyo.
I felt pure joy upon entering the gallery and I was quite overwhelmed by the variety and depth of Ajiki's chawan. Alongside the first counter were his "service"' chawan -- open-faced ones with lively colorful drawings of flowers and dragonflies. The boxes themselves were also painted and were works of art themselves. See the two photos below (click for larger image).
Ajiki had also lined the room with his calligraphy and drawings, adding greatly to the otherwise dull and stuffy department-store atmosphere. His chaire (tea caddies) were also quite nice and reminded me of the work of Raku Kichizaemon XV and Kakurezaki Ryuichi.
Tea Caddies (Chaire) by Ajiki Hiro
Actually, Ajiki and Kakurezaki are good friends and some of the Bizen chawan in the exhibition were fired in Kakurezaki's kiln.
Bizen Chawan by Ajiki Hiro
At a dinner I attended some years ago with both gentleman, Ajiki wryly remarked: "Kakurezaki's work is so popular that at exhibitions his work flies off the counter -- he has no time to even enjoy his own work! Yet for me, I'm not popular at all so I can relax in a gallery, kickback and enjoy my creations."
Well, the current exhibition proved him wrong. The gallery was always full while I was there and many works sold.
There were some intense jet-black chawan that had a fine depth in Raku and Seto-guro styles. Also on display were some splendid Shino chawan that rivaled those made by Suzuki Goro (I would go as far as saying that some were even better).
Three black chawan by Ajiki Hiro
Shino Chawan by Ajiki Hiro
There was a rhythm and playfulness that one rarely sees in Shino these days. Ajiki also is a master of salt glazes and he often embellishes his faceted chawan with silver, gold, red, and blue patterns very much in a Kenzan mode. One chawan was a rich shinsha red (copper red) with an underglaze cobalt blue flower -- it was outstanding.
(L) Salt-colored chawan and (R) Copper red with underglaze cobalt
I tried to find a sign or mark on the chawan but there was none. After inquiring as to the reason, he said that, like Hamada Shoji, the work itself is the signature and why would he sign something before it's finished. He had to fire the work and what if it was a failure and bore his signature? Picasso never signed a work until it was complete, he added. I told him he could always smash the works he doesn't approve of like Kato Kozo does. Ajiki just smiled.
I asked him if I could take his photo and he proceeded to run into a corner and plopped himself down on the floor and stared off into space (see photo at top of page). What a character!
I guess he's been that way ever since dropping out of Mushashino University of Art where he majored in oil painting. After taking leave, he traveled the world and has continued to do so ever since. It was in 1974 that he entered the Shimane Prefecture Ceramic Center and soon thereafter built his studio and kiln in the same prefecture.
I can imagine him late at night staring at pictures of the great chawan of the past, those by Chojiro, Koetsu, Kawakita, Tokuro, and others. Many tips of his hat were put into his chawan to these ancient mentors.
Three white chawan by Ajiki Hiro
More of Ajiki's sense is revealed in the below prose:
Travel on Ajiki-san and continue to put your heart-soul-spirit into the magnificent chawan that surely stimulate all of those lucky enough to have held one. By the way, Ajiki will be having an Oribe exhibition in Okayama at Tenmaya, from Sept.3 to 9, 2002, for any fortunate enough to be in the area.