Raised in the tumult of Japan’s industrial powerhouse, the 11 men and women profiled in A Different Kind of Luxury have all made the transition to sustainable, fulfilling lives. Based on Andy Couturier's popular articles in The Japan Times, this lushly designed volume has a wealth of stories about real people who have created an abundance of time for contemplation, connecting with the natural world, and contributing to their communities. In their success is a lesson for us all: live a life that matters. Read an excerpt of the book here or here. Read a review of the book here, here, or here.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Training to be talentless" The totemic interior world of Gufu Watanabe

I learned a lot about how to look at art from Gufu Watanabe, who I profile in Chapter 8.  This is only a small part of that chapter, and I'm posting it mostly so you can look at some of his ceramic work (I could only include a few pieces in the book.)  

I really recommend you read the whole chapter.  It took me more than four months of full-time writing to translate all the material and put together the chapter.  It touches on some of the more important themes in the book.  This part is just a taste of his wry view on making art.

(Many of these works are available for sale, although Gufu wouldn't publicize them himself.  Contact me if you are interested at andy@theopening.org  .  Prices range upwards from $250 each.)

Black clay ceramic totemic creations
inspired by tribal minorities in Orissa India.

It is as if Gufu is harvesting the world of all its amazing variety, amassing thousands of bits and pieces and storing them, either in his sketch book, in his garden or in his mind.

Gufu draws much of his inspiration for his pottery from the art of Asian tribal minorities. 
Gufu harvesting wild strawberries

Jonah and the Whale
"There's an odd humor to it, a strangeness" he says.  "It's as if the art itself doesn't care a damn about you.  It's not trying to attach itself to you, to say 'Please buy me and take me home.'

"Many craftspeople in Japan can achieve works of incredible refinement, but I find much of it uninteresting.  I want to make things that are artless, with rough, strange, childlike lines.  That's why I'm trying to train myself to be without technique, to be talentless. But I find it almost impossible to do." Watanabe is particularly inspired by the totemic animalfigures and religious items of tribal peoples of Persia and the Dekkan Plateau in South India.  "Their art doesn't reek of human interpretation," he says.  "Somehow it's distanced from the human character, impersonal. Their figures are almost expressionless,
but not quite.  I find that very fascinating."

Food stall in India from Gufu's travel journals

Hedgehog in black clay


The menagerie around the Tibetan monk in Bali

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