EXHIBITION // Otani Workshop - Contes d’Awaji // Galerie Perrotin Paris

EXHIBITION // Otani Workshop - Contes d’Awaji // Galerie Perrotin Paris

.Otani Workshop - Contes d'Awaji -  March 16th to May 11th 2019

Galerie Perrotin
76 Rue de Turenne
75003 Paris

. www.perrotin.com

Make no mistake: despite the name, Otani Workshop does not  refer  to  a  collective  of  artists,  but  to  a  singular,  an  eminently  singular  sculptor  who  has  become  the  leading  representative of Japanese ceramics.

Silent  and  literally  bulging  heads,  figures  with  their  arms  raised   like   praying   figures,   monumental   middle   fingers   extended    upwards,    anthropomorphic    vases,    children,    animals, soils, bronzes: Otani Workshop’s bestiary is a world in itself, a world in which dreams and tales converge as well as  fantasies  and  daydreams,  a  world  in  which  the  queenly  imagination and the kingly gesture triumph, in which forces and forms meet.

Born  in  1980,  Otani  Workshop  knows  tradition  inside  out.  Because he learned the power of tradition during his artistic training. Because he travelled the Japanese archipelago for a whole  year,  looking  for  his  sovereign  forms  and  his  raw  materials. Because he is Japanese, and like all Japanese, he knows  how  much  the  past  inoculates  the  present  with  its  venom,  knows  how  many  lessons  of  modernity  there  are  beneath his feet and over his shoulder.

The earth is his kingdom. Not any earth: the earth of Shigaraki, the capital of pottery, universally renowned for the quality of its  clay,  which  is  extracted  locally.  Otani  Workshop  knows  the fascinating power of this soft earth from which anonymous artisans have been extracting dreams since the Middle Ages, this power that makes him work from evening until morning and makes him wake up every hour of every night to watch over the kiln from which increasingly monumental ceramics will soon emerge.

With  their  softened  outlines,  their  rudimentary  traits,  their  numb, almost automatic gestures, their unpolished, almost naive silhouettes, the figures created by the Japanese artist seem  to  stem  from  childhood.  Not  a  sickly  sweet  or  schmaltzy childhood, but a mute and anxious childhood, an impenetrable and poetic childhood, a childhood of art that Takashi Murakami inevitably had to claim, going so far as to defend and reveal it.

While the bronzes reveal technical virtuosity, with their fine chiselling  and  their  delicate  patina,  the  ceramics  of  Otani  Workshop  give  shape  to  a  world  that  is  literally  fantastic,  that same fantasy which, permeating the tales, leaves those who read, look and listen as though lost among their dreams.

With  their  mutist  faces,  their  elementary  triangulations  –  nose,  mouth,  eyes  –  what  do  these  unfathomable  beings  wish  to  tell  us,  now  weighed  down  by  sleep  and  dreams,  now  awake  like  puppets?  Recumbents,  praying  figures,  automatons,   Pinocchios,   tanuki:   are   these   fellows   as   painless as they seem? Don’t their petrified gestures, their crackle  and  their  cracks  bring  to  mind  that  death  that  is  capable  of  engulfing  and  burying,  as  in  Herculaneum  and  Pompeii?  Don’t  we  guess  that  the  island  of  Awaji  is  cut  across by the Nojima Fault, which was responsible for the Kobe earthquake in 1995? Don’t we see that this childhood is also age-old and fragile?

It is not a coincidence if Otani Workshop incorporates into his earth salvaged materials – wood, metal, various scraps. He works after the tornado, after the tragedy. His worksincorporate the dregs of the world. They are what remains when  there  is  nothing  left,  or  almost  nothing.  Nothing  but  earth,  eternal  forms,  buried  memories.  The  dawn  of  the  world when humankind picks itself up after the tragedy. As in the work of Hokusai, when the cherry trees blossom again after the tsunami of the Wave ...

As  a  result,  the  scenography  of  the  exhibition  is  entirely  composed  of  natural  or  reused  elements  –  planks  and  boards, forgotten wood and driftwood. Reinvesting scraps of  the  world,  whether  used  or  old,  the  artist  delivers  a  profound reflection on appropriation and recycling, givingthe  objects  a  second  life,  a  second  wind,  far  from  any neutrality and any impersonality.

This  singular  scenographic  idiom,  favouring  natural  forms  and  rudimentary  materials,  perfectly  raises  up  the  bronzes  and  the  ceramics,  as  though  engendered  by  a  gigantic  nutritive  and  matrical  earth.  To  enter  Otani  Workshop’s  exhibition  is  therefore  to  accept  to  enter  into  a  world,  a  universe, to enter the belly of the mother or of the whale, a child’s  bedroom,  a  primitive  cave  in  which  silence,  secrecy  and strangeness prevail. And so Perrotin gallery becomes a fabulous cave ...

Colin Lemoine

Born  in  1980  in  the  prefecture  of  Shiga,  Japan,  Shigeru  Otani cut his teeth at the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts,  where  he  soon  got  the  measure  of  the  poverty  threatening  a  lot  of  young  artists.  As  a  result,  the  young  student undertook a year-long journey across the Japanese archipelago,  a  way  of  familiarizing  himself  with  museums,  temples and cemeteries, a way of resisting the gloominess of sedentary life and, with it, the sadness of precarity.

In 2008, only four years after having returned to his university, Shigeru  Otani  aka  Otani  Workshop,  was  the  subject  of  a  solo exhibition at Shiga. Another show held in Tokyo revealed him to Takashi Murakami, who became his unfailing champion and advocate.

In 2017, the artist, whose exhibitions irresistibly confirm his talent, left Shigaraki, the epicentre of Japanese ceramics, for a studio on the island of Awaji in the Seto Inland Sea. There, in  a  former  tilery,  where  he  has  a  monumental  kiln  at  his  disposal, Otani Workshop continues to conceive a vast body of work, populated by immemorial figures in which subtlety wrestles with strangeness.

This  exhibition  is  the  second  to  be  put  on  by  the  Perrotin  galleries, after the show presented in Seoul in the summer of 2018. This is the first exhibition outside Asia.