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Composite Memories: The Clay Art of Kishi Eiko


One of the foremost women artists working in the field of Contemporary Japanese clay sculpture, Kishi Eiko (b. 1948) has achieved international success, consistently winning awards in the US, Japan, and Europe. She has set herself apart from the field by flouting tradition. Leaving function behind and perfecting her own signature technique, Kishi creates powerful poised, and architectonic sculptures.

In Composite Memories: The Clay Art of Kishi Eiko, opening at Joan B Mirviss LTD on September 10th, Kishi's inimitable mosaic-like chamotte-inlay technique (saiseki zogan) will be front and center. This is a painstakingly slow process in which minute geometric shapes are delicately carved into the surface of her clay forms and are then inlayed with colored clay. A single sculpture requires several months to complete. The highly textured, multicolored surfaces are mesmerizing, drawing in the viewer for closer examination. Once coupled with dynamic multiple planes and tilted axes, these latest sculptures resemble - not merely the walls and materials of specific structures, but on a grander scale, actual cityscapes. These works conjure up the bracketed roofs, sloping eaves, rhythmic patterns and stone or tile floors of the temples, shrine and buildings in her historic home of Kyoto. As she walks among these buildings, she is inspire to infuse her art with their spirit. While critics, curators and collectors describe her work as abstract, Kishi doesn't agree, stating:

I look closely at the forms, colors and surfaces I encounter daily. Later I wonder why they left such an impression on me. Reflecting upon them further, new shapes emerge from these recollections. I then translate these new forms into sculptures that capture the essence of the original sculptures.

Kishi Eiko first studied at Kyoto Seika University where she explored archeology, anthropology, art history and textile dying before focusing on ceramics. Unburdened by formal ties to a ceramic tradition, she forged her own path in the Japanese clay world. Since that time, she has exhibited extensively, including receiving the rare honor of a one-person exhibition at Minneapolis Institute of Art. Most recently, Kishi participated in a major exhibition at Tsinghua University Art Museum in Beijing, China where she was asked to lecture.