Repair is rebirth for Japanese glass artist Yukito Nishinaka, who highlights the beauty of imperfection.
Offering a unique interpretation of the Japanese mending technique developed in the 17th century for tea bowls : Yobitsugi, Nishinaka san is dedicated to glass and the art of repairing broken objects. The Yobitsugi technique traditionally used lacquer mixed very visibly with powdered gold, silver or platinum as glue to join the broken parts together and gold leaf finishing, poetically enhancing the imperfections. Nishinaka’s distinctive take involves, either using urushi lacquer and molten glass to join the broken parts and incorporate fragments from other objects, purposely leaving the repair visible. Or fusing fragments from a broken vessel onto the surface of a free-blown glass core, around which sheets of gold and silver leaf have been wrapped.
Cited as saying “I break my own vessels, in order to go beyond myself, and join the parts together to be reborn”, Nishinaka san takes on the concept of rebirth, and the specifically Japanese philosophy of beauty as a harmony of imperfection, with a new intensity.
Born 1964 in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, he first graduated in 1988 with a degree in pharmacy from Hoshi University. Yet, after a life-changing moment of seeing molten glass for the first time, Nishinaka san went on to study Sculpture and Glass at the California College of the Arts, Oakland, USA, in the early 90s.
The immense fragile power of this artist was first brought to my attention when I visited one of his main works, an installation in Kyoto, last autumn. The 2019 work is a permanent Glass Zen Garden, at the Honen-in Temple. The experience of the garden changes as the glass plays with light and colour of the season and time of day, blending into the trees and rocks of the preexisting garden.
Nishinaka’s work is held in many International public collections, including London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, Paris’ Musée Cernuschi, The Daiichi Museum, Nagoya, Japan and The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford.