Though using a basic stoneware clay, Akiyama's aesthetic pushes past any traditional concepts for ceramics; his art has much more in common with the work of contemporary sculptors like Richard Serra than the utilitarian ceramics for which Kyoto is historically known. Inspired by his teacher Yagi Kazuo (1919–1979), co-founder of the Sōdeisha ceramic movement and best known for pioneering the avant-garde aesthetic in Post-War Japan, Akiyama's major concerns revolve around the physical properties of clay as a material and his exploration, through the manipulation of his medium, of the tension between surface and form, between the ordered and the organic. This direct relationship with his materials and commitment to experimentation and reinvention has made Akiyama one of Japan's most important contemporary artists.
The third generation of a family of artists, Akiyama's personally developed, unique visual language is clearly present in this latest oeuvre. The deep fissures in his surfaces – which are created by treating wheel-thrown forms with an open flame before turning them inside out – juxtaposed against the clean, modern lines of the sculptural form creates a visual tension inviting both close inspection and quiet contemplation. These sculptures, with surfaces sometimes mimicking naturally occurring forms like volcanic rock or a dried river-bed, beckon the viewer in for careful observation. It is easy to be seduced by the rich browns and blacks which Akiyama attains in his patina using a surface treatment involving vinegar and iron-filings. The viewer is left to marvel at the seamless blending of his highly creative techniques together with his powerful visual vocabulary.
Last year, Akiyama received the 17th MOA Okada Mokichi Award, which Rupert Faulkner of the V&A deems one of the most prestigious Grand Prizes on the Japanese art calendar. This honor was made even more remarkable as 2010 was the first year artists working outside classical crafts were openly considered for this distinction. His works grace many important collections and museums in Japan and in the West, including: Museum of Modern Ceramic Art, Gifu; National Museum of Art, Osaka; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada; Contemporary Museum, Honolulu; Faenza International Ceramic Museum, Italy; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
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