Blue•Shell•Urushi — Shinya Tanoue Contemporary Ceramics Exhibition

Introduction: The progress of civilization seems to be driven by accidents, but in fact it is inevitable. The emergence of ceramics is another inevitable event after human beings discovered and learned to use fire.
The first time to shape object, the first time to paint patterns, the first time to know the selection of materials, the first time to learn to glaze, the first time to know how to control the firing temperature…Every innovation on the road of ceramics is based on people’s practicality and Aesthetic needs. Each piece of work represents the subjective consciousness of the creator and the style of his time.
Therefore, based on such an era, it will naturally lead to more free artistic expression.

Ceramics is a kind of material and craftsmanship that express emotions. It can also be said that ceramics is an open material, and now it is also a world-wide artistic creation language. The production of ceramics is the encounter of soil and fire, which has left the veins of the development of human civilization in the development of ceramics for nearly ten thousand years.

Artist|Shinya Tanoue

Born and raised in Kyoto in 1976, Shinya Tanoue graduated from Doshisha University, Faculty of Theology and made his living as an office worker for two years. While he was in university, he joined a pottery making club. He was always interested to create things and decided to pursue his passion to study pottery at Kyoto Saga Art College. His talents were recognized from the beginning: he was selected in some important competitions such as Kyou Exhibition and Asahi Ceramic Art Exhibition in 2003 when he graduated from art university. His early works use the technique of molding with red clay, firing, and then adding fine lines with a needle. He started to use blue glaze in 2007 for his works. Afterwards, he has been pursuing his original expression to combine those two techniques. In 2019 he started to add a new challenge to integrate his original lining techniques and lacquer-coating techniques for his pottery. This lacquer-coating technique has been employed since the Jomon period and performed to stop pottery clay from leaking or being damaged by humidity. He painted Urushi lacquer on his pottery, then dried it and painted a different color of Urushi lacquer. He repeated this process and then polished the Urushi lacquer with sandpaper to finish his works.

In his artist statement, Tanoue mentions “blue”, “shells”, “Urushi-lacquer” and “Vessel” as his current keywords. As seen in the statement, he has always been pursuing the basis of what it means to be human through his works. His works are truly universal and attract not only collectors from Japan but also those from Europe and the United States.

Tanoue won a series of leading pottery awards in Japan: in 2007, Tanoue received Incentive Award, 45th Asahi Ceramic Exhibition, as well as the Excellence Award and Mainichi Newspaper Award, 19th Japan Ceramic Exhibition. In 2017 he received Special Judges’ Award Selected by Yoshitomo Nara, The 11th International Ceramics Competition Mino, Japan Exhibition. His works are a part of collection in several important museums such as the Museum of Kyoto, The Museum of Ceramic Art, Hyogo, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Appreciation|Blue • Shell •Urushi

On December 18, 2020, “Blue•Shell•Urushi——Shinya Tanoue Contemporary Ceramics Exhibition” will open in the Beijing Time Museum•Time Exhibition Hall. This exhibition uses “containers” to cross the boundary and “innovation” to create beauty , Presenting a conversation with the ocean and life for the public. The exhibition focuses on two art series.


From deep blue seas to soaring blue skies:the land on which we stand is enfolded in these two blues. The blue of sea, evoking life emerging from primeval oceans.The blue of sky, with its sense of life ending and going to its final destination.Blue is the color that brings out the viewer’s perceptions of life and death.


Eggshells, seashells, seed shells (husks):Shells go hand and hand with the growing of life. Shells donned by lives within.Shells broken, in their bid for the outside. There are sturdy shells of many layers,and fragile shells, delicate and fleeting.Shapes that swell from inside to out.Shapes that sink from outside to in.Shapes formed by me and the clay.Works may not have the shapes of living things, but they have a profound connection to life.

Urushi lacquered ceramic pieces have been around for centuries. Drawn by a different type of allure to glaze, artist have been painting and polishing Urushi lacquer on pottery. A technique employed since the Jomon period, Urushi lacquer-coating of ceramic ware was performed to stop pottery clay, with its propensity to absorb moisture, from leaking or being damaged by humidity. Not done for decorative reasons, artist suppose it could be described as the incarnation in which a piece achieves its purpose, its realization as a vessel.

The decoration that comes once realization as a vessel is achieved is fresh to artist now, and artist is liberated from any adherence or attachment to color.
The appearance of Urushi lacquer that artist saw, emerging in coexistence with clay, unlike glaze is very soft and warm, almost akin to living flesh. Artist create Urushi lacquer-coated ceramic pieces in the hope that they will serve as a cradle, cocooning the viewer.

When anyone asks artist what he makes, he replyed that is someone who makes “vessels.”

Vessels that differ only slightly from the more practical specimens all around people. The entangling of internal and external that vessels possess, the bumps and hollows caused by the nature of clay, a presence that repeatedly abstracts, and excises from, the solid object of the vessel: artist find “vessels” fascinating, and make them in the belief that people are drawn to them, perhaps because people are born and live with common, unremembered experiences that have emerged from inside people, to the outside. Artist hope my vessels make people aware of these experiences and memories shared by all regardless of sex, race, age or nationality.
Life needs a little creativity to not be so boring; design needs a little creativity to make the work possible to make people shine. Whether it is color or shape, it can evoke a person’s subtle emotions. In a sense, this “creative” is successful.