Mitsuo Shoji's work, like that of a number of Japanese ceramicists,
encompasses both functional and sculptural objects, united in an approach
to surface decoration.1 His repertoire of design ranges from gestural
brushwork in the traditional Japanese mingei tradition, to black-fired
works with torch-fired decoration of gold leaf and, more recently, works
with formal geometric decoration of coloured clay inlays. Using the square,
the circle and the triangle, the design of this large vessel is a synthesis
of Shoji's investigations into the relationship between volume and surface.
It reveals his interest in the marks of human intervention in the landscape,
scarification and the tradition of the Japanese tattoo. Like these tattoos,
which envelop the body and cannot be fully revealed at any one time, the
totality of Shoji's web-like decoration on a three-dimensional form can
only be sensed and partially glimpsed. Its lustred triangular sections
shift in and out of reflectiveness as one handles or moves around the
object, engendering a sense of close involvement with the object and its
structure, function and materiality.
1 See Eugenie Keefer Bell, The Japan Inspiration: Influence in crafts and design, Perth: Art Gallery of Western Australia, 1997, for a discussion of Shoji's work in relation to Japanese influences in Australian crafts.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra