When Tea Ceremony first came to Japan, it was elaborate and “Chinese Oriented”, but everything changed with the introduction of “Wabi” by Zen monk Murata Juko, who introduced simple and rustic aesthetics vs the richness and elegance of the Chinese arts.
Like Alex Kerr writes in his brilliant book “Another Kyoto”, “Wabi” was born from the identity crisis in the 15th century “and this moment arose from the idea that everything in the world comes in three levels, formal, semi- formal and informal.” They were named Shin, Gyo and So.The best example of Shin would be palatial Ming Porcelain, Gyo- something in the middle (see stoneware or Korean ceramics) and So -clunky, earthenware objects like the genius of Raku tea bowls.
What in the beginning was a rebellious act against the foreign influence, with time, “So” aesthetics became beautiful and better than “Shin”. “The concept of imperfection-something broken, something worn-very “So” and not “Shin”- came to be revered as the highest aesthetic. This immense history and centuries-long evolution is the reason why Japanese contemporary ceramics are so rich, diverse and stunning.
Few examples of some my favourite new generation Japanese ceramic artists at the moment…