PATRICK DAVIES IN CONVERSATION WITH YUTA - JUNE 2022
I have long admired the beauty and resonance of Yuta’s miniature creations. There is an intimate charm to these objects that are so tiny and devoid of function. They are extremely affordable, costing less than £100 for each unique piece.
YOU WERE BORN IN SHIZUOKA, JAPAN. DO YOU COME FROM A CREATIVE BACKGROUND?
I grew up in Shizuoka, part of a family of seven. I lived with my father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, and two older brothers. My parents had no connection or particular interest in art, and I was not very interested in ceramics.
WHEN DID YOU REALISE THAT YOU WANTED TO BECOME AN ARTIST AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE CERAMICS?
I became interested in ceramics when I took part in a short ceramic program as a university first-year student studying product design. I loved it and saw massive potential. As a result, I changed my course to ceramics. I didn’t have an interest in ceramics before this point, but I had liked reading historical novels about Japanese and Chinese history whilst I was growing up. Ceramics have been produced in Japan and China in various time periods, and they have been influenced by each period’s culture, geographical condition, economy, and ethnicity. My interest in history drew me into making ceramics.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF - ‘A CERAMIC ARTIST’ - A ‘MAKER’ - ‘A DESIGNER’?
I would say that I am an artist exploring ceramic materiality, such as texture of clay, beauty of glaze, and techniques of throwing. I am trying to make something new that no one has created by these explorations. I believe I am making art.
YOUR WORK CONCENTRATES ON SMALL-SCALE. WHEN DID YOU FIRST BEGIN MAKING TINY CERAMICS AND WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?
I am making tiny pots, which can be placed on one hand. It is a challenge to test the limits of what a human body can make on such a small scale. There is a charm and beauty to objects that are minute and have no function. I made my first miniatures in 2012 influenced by Scandinavian ceramic artists and Chinese emperor’s toy boxes that were made in the Qing dynasty. Small pots seemed very interesting and suitable for my ideas, because they did not need a large scale to express things such as beauty of clay, glazes, and shapes.
WHAT TYPE OF CLAY DO YOU USE?
I use many kinds, such as porcelain, terracotta, and stoneware, and I also use soil that I mine from the ground. Soil is difficult to control on a wheel, but it has an attractive texture. In the kiln, my works are usually fired at more than 1250 degrees centigrade.
AFTER GRADUATING FROM MUSASHINO ART UNIVERSITY IN TOKYO, HOW DID YOU CONTINUE TO DEVELOP YOUR INTEREST IN ART AND CERAMICS?
Following my BA course in Japan, I worked in China at a pottery workshop in Jingdezhen, which is a city famous for producing ceramics. I treated ceramics as one of the materials for making sculptures, and I was influenced by contemporary fine art and sculpture making at that time. I tried other materials and began cultivating a desire to work as a fine artist. Young artists of my generation were also making sculptures influenced by the rapid import of western culture into China. I thought, ‘Why are they making such insignificant works even though they have inherited great Chinese traditions and techniques of ceramics making, such as celadon and blue and white porcelain?’ That criticism applies to me too, because I was making similar sculptures when I learnt about great Japanese and Chinese ceramics. After returning to Japan, I began thinking about what aspect of ceramics was the most attractive to me. When I started studying ceramics, I originally felt a strong affliation to the work of my first tutor, Makoto Komatsu, as well as the artists Wilhelm Kage, Stig Lindberg, and Berndt Friberg, who were based in Gustavsberg, Sweden. However, I also liked postwar Japanese great masters such as Rosanjin Kitaoji, Munemaro Ishiguro, and Syoji Hamada. When I thought about what I wanted to make, I was drawn to developing miniature pottery, like Lindberg and Friberg. I believed I could make something new if I made use of Japanese traditions and techniques. So, I came to London and started to concentrate on making something new using the concept of miniature pots.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO LONDON TO STUDY AT CAMBERWELL FOR YOUR MA?
I think most contemporary Japanese artists have an inferiority complex regarding European and American art. I was also one of them. We believe that the main markets are in western countries and that mainstream art revolves around western history. I did not know how to make original work, so I just imitated western art. That’s also why I believed I had to experience the culture of New York or London in order to develop something unique. I chose London, which has a long ceramic history. In addition, it seemed like British ceramic artists were influenced by Grayson Perry, who explored the new presentation of ceramics, and a lot of them were trying to make something new.
WHICH OTHER ARTISTS DO YOU ADMIRE AND WHY? DO ANY DIRECTLY INFLUENCE YOUR WORK?
The Scandinavian artists Wilhelm Kage, Stig Lindberg, Berndt Friberg, Gunnar Nylund, and Carl Harry Stalhanem have made a very big impression. They create miniature pottery, and they were my starting point. I see my work as a continuation of their tradition.
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR WORK DEVELOPING IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS?
I have exhibited in Japan, China, UK, the Netherlands, Dubai, and India. Each and every country has a diverse ceramic culture that has developed individually. I want to obtain inspiration from as many as possible and to reflect that diversity in my work. The point of making is to leave evidence of my life in the world. My aim is to make hundreds of thousands of works, as many as possible.