Japanese ceramics and artisan made housewares
A Short Dialogue with Hideo Sawada
A new collection of Hideo Sawada sculptures will be available in the online shop from Sept 18th to the 23rd. We took the occasion of the arrival of the new pieces to ask Sawada-san a few questions about his life and work.
It has been several years since I first encountered your sculptures. Since then, there have been significant events societal and personal, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the reloaction of your home and studio from Saitama to Kyoto. How have these experiences changed your state of mind, and have they had any impact on your work or style?
I must confess that I don't have a distinct artistic style or specialization. During my student years, I had an interest in various materials and techniques. I dabbled in stone carving, created terracotta and bronze sculptures, experimented with dry lacquer sculptures, attempted sculpting in glass, and even welded metal to form shapes. It seemed like everyone around me at the art school was determined to establish their own artistic style, but I never consciously pursued such a notion. I never thought of sculpture as a means of expressing my inner self. Instead, I was motivated solely by a desire to understand the rational beauty of materials like wood and stone and the beauty found in living creatures.
In middle school during a art class, I remember cutting a fish out of a board using a coping saw. That fish isn't much different from what I am creating now. If one were to consider an artistic style as a person's habit when creating something, my style hasn't changed. I believe it remains unchanged even in the face of societal events or changes in my environment.
From the perspective of those who observe my work, I believe it may appear that my artistic style has changed over time. When comparing what I used to create during my student years to what I am creating now, it doesn't seem like the work of the same individual. When I mentioned that the fish I made in middle school is similar to my current wood carving, I meant that it reflects a return to my inherent sensibility. The period of one's student years has both positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, it's a time for learning and acquiring knowledge, but on the negative side, it can sometimes stifle one's true artistic sensibilities. I now think of it as a kind of zero point, where I started to find my true self again. I went to art school with youthful enthusiasm, driven by the desire to become a sculptor, but after graduating, I experienced unexpected internal conflicts that persisted for a long time. To put it differently, it was through experiencing these conflicts that I became the person I am today. It took me a long, long time to return to my true self.
For this occasion, you have used new materials. Was there any particular inspiration or motivation behind choosing these materials?
I decided to try using woods that I hadn't used before for this project: Japanese horse chestnut, black walnut, and Yakushima cedar. Traditionally, camphor or Japanese cypress (kusu or hinoki) are the woods I most often work with, but it felt somewhat negligent to stick with them without trying something different. As I actually started using these new woods, I made some discoveries and felt the potential they offered.
How do you approach creating new work, including the preparation for exhibitions. Where do you draw inspiration for their forms? Is it from accumulated influences? Do you decide on the shapes beforehand or let the process of creation flow intuitively as you handle the materials?
When I create objects, I typically start by cutting the wood to an appropriate size, often splitting it with a hatchet. At that moment, it's like a blank canvas. If you stare at the wood for a while, it seems as though the wood is teaching you something. Ideas don't feel like something I come up with myself; they naturally emerge as if received from the wood. I have a sense that when I'm doing nothing, reducing myself to zero, something becomes visible.
I was a philosophy enthusiast, even though my intellect wasn't particularly sharp, and I couldn't fully understand the content. It might sound like a peculiar hobby, but I enjoyed keeping books I couldn't comprehend on my bookshelf. Whether observing nature or delving into complex books, I believed it was essential to maintain an awareness of the incomprehensible. I thought that not understanding something led to discoveries and fueled one's motivation and energy to live. In the realm of creating objects, I also strive to leave some aspects unexplained rather than providing overly straightforward explanations.