Kyoto-based lacquer artisan Genta Ishizuka has won the 2019 LOEWE Craft Prize! His submitted sculpture ‘Surface Tactility #11’ (2018) was chosen as the winning entry from 29 international finalists.
Ishizuka, born in Kyoto in 1982, has chosen urushi lacquer as his chosen technique for his sculptures, after graduating with an MFA in Urushi Lacquering from Kyoto City University of Arts in 2008.
His sculptures, such as the winning piece, are based on wrapped styrene foam balls in an elastic fabric to create three-dimensional surfaces. The shape of ‘Surface Tactility #11’ is inspired by the formation of oranges inside a mesh bag at the supermarket. The surface is finished with urushi lacquer using the kanshititsu-technique, where linen is applied to the surface and then hardened with urushi to form the base.
Urushi is a fluid that comes from naturally sourced sap of the urushi tree that is native to Japan, China and Korea. Its sab contains resin that becomes a very hard, durable, plastic-like substance when exposed to moisture and air. Ishizuka is drawn to the glossiness of the material once it is hardened and polished.
The bulbous sculpture of the shape of a bag full of oranges celebrates the material in its inevitable expression. “Because urushi is a fluid, it cannot hold its form alone,” Ishizuka explains. A prefabricated body provides the surface to which thin coats of urushi are applied. Consequently, the interior shape, similar to a mesh bag shaped by the oranges it’s holding, influences the lacquered finish. This connection between the interior and exterior presented in the appearance of the material is what Ishizuka hoped to transmit.
Jonathan Anderson, LOEWE creative director, commented on this year’s winner: ‘Ishizuka’s work proves that craft can be open and shows the freedom of creation. His use of an ancient lacquer technique in a contemporary form breaks conventions and represents a new sculptural vision in craft.’
Besides the innovative use of an ancient tradition (leading back to the 7th and 8th centuries in Japan) Ishizuka’ work shows a quality of depth in the finish that stands in direct opposition to the actual thinness its lacquer coat.
The Jury also agreed upon two special mentions: Harry Morgan, for the work ‘Untitled’ from Dichotomy Series, 2018 and Kazuhito Takadoi for the work KADO (Angle), 2018.
The winner and shortlisted works are exhibited at Isamu Noguchi’s indoor stone garden ‘Heaven’ at the Sogetsu Kaikan in Tokyo until 22 July 2019.
Genta Ishizuka / https://gentaishizuka.com
Loewe Foundation/ www.craftprize.loewe.com
All photography provided by LOEWE Foundation