【 Interview 】Toshiya Shimozawa – Chairman of Hokkaido Ceramics Association

This year marked the 50th anniversary of the “Hokkaido Ceramics Art Exhibition”, a milestone in its long history. The “Transition of Hokkaido Ceramics Art vol. 2,” held as a commemorative event, was a great success. Mr. Toshiya Shimozawa who is a chairman of Hokkaido Ceramics Association, spoke with us about this commemorative exhibition and his future vision for ceramics in Hokkaido.

Mr. Shimozawa, please tell us about the main project of this exhibition, “Contemporary Ceramic Art Today”.

In the previous “2016 Hokkaido Ceramic Art Week,” we exhibited works borrowed from the collections of prominent Hokkaido-based ceramic artists and museums, including ceramic artists involved in the Hokkaido Ceramic Art Exhibition, painters and sculptors who had interacted with my father, Doho Shimozawa. In light of this past exhibition structure, I wanted to raise awareness of contemporary artists’ works in Hokkaido. Hokkaido has a short history in the field of ceramics, and there are few opportunities to actually see the works of contemporary artists who are active in Japan and abroad. I thought it was a wonderful thing that had to be done in Hokkaido. My hope is that by seeing together the works that leading contemporary ceramic artists have created, it can inspire local ceramicist and nurture young artists in Hokkaido

How did you decide which artists to invite?

We decided to invite a wide range of contemporary artists from among those who have been in contact with me, Mr. Mori, and Mr. Honjo, and not to go too far into the traditional style. Since the exhibition is entitled “Transition of Hokkaido Ceramics Art,” we asked artists who are active in Hokkaido and abroad, or who are from Hokkaido, or who are related to Hokkaido. I invited Mr. Rikizo Kawakami, Mr. Rokubei Shimizu, Ms. Tomoko Takahashi, Mr. Akira Minoe, and other promising young artists. However, for the most part, Mr. Mori took the lead in asking each artist to participate, resulting in a total of 128 works by invited artists.

I was surprised at the size of the exhibition hall at the Sapporo Art Park Museum, and it was truly spectacular.

We were able to exhibit with the help of many people, including Mr. Mori, the invited artists who cooperated with the exhibition, curators living in Hokkaido, and the Mori Art Museum Sapporo. As far as I can remember, there has never been an exhibition in which the front room of a museum was used so extensively, and it was a wonderful space. The most challenging part for us was the “exhibition composition”.Generally, the exhibition space is a little narrow in the first room, a little wider in the next room, and a wide space in the middle. This time, the works of the invited artists mainly filled the space as soon as visitors entered the venue, which had a very strong impact. Several of the visiting artists also commented, “It is amazing that we were able to exhibit so many works in one place”. In a sense, the exhibition was possible only because of the vastness of Hokkaido.

The workshop was a great success.

Ms. Hiromi Itabashi and Ms. Nami Takahashi are both internationally active ceramics artists. The ideas for the plates and bowls demonstrated by Ms. Itabashi was very interesting, and Ms. Takahashi’s casting technique, which is not often seen, was very helpful.

It was around 2006 that you took over the association from your father, Doho Shimozawa who was a founder of the association. Now that you have celebrated the 50th anniversary of the association, how do you feel looking back?

My father loved socializing and traveled to various places to meet with people, increasing the number of people who understood his ideas and loved his work, and he founded the Hokkaido Ceramics Association. He started the Hokkaido Ceramic Art Exhibition, a public competition, with the aim of spreading the culture of ceramics in Hokkaido. On the other hand, while helping my father with his work, I was creating avant-garde works under the influence of Sodeisha, and there was a time when I distanced myself from him because of the difference in direction, as the path I should take as an artist became clearer and I wanted to do things more freely. Around three years after my father’s death, an applicant for the association at the time consulted with me about the future management of the association. I thought, “The fact that I am being asked to do this suggests that my father must want me to take over,” and I became fully involved in the association at around age 46, having had no experience in public exhibitions. The judges who have worked for exhibitions include Mr. Shigeo Okuoka, art critic and former chairman, Mr. Norihide Abe, contemporary artist, and Mr. Tomoya Sato, art critic (and former director of the Sapporo Art Park Museum); They are well versed in the art world, have extensive interaction and can advise me on many aspects. Also, the Hokkaido Fire Mutual Insurance Cooperative Association, which sponsored the 50th anniversary of the Hokkaido Ceramic Art Exhibition, is also celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. We are always grateful for all the support we have received from various people on this occasion, which has enabled us to continue to exist.

The number of artists participating in these exhibitions seems to be on the decline on a national scale. How about your exhibition?

It is true that the number of applications has decreased this year due to the Corona pandemic. There is also the aging of the ceramic population. However, the number of participants in the ceramic art classes run by the association is increasing. It seems that more and more people are getting out of the things they have been holding back in order to Stay-Home and are thinking that they want to try something and cherish their private time.

Do you have any ideas for countermeasures?

I have thought about changing the application rules, but I think the most important thing is to make the exhibition more attractive. I hope that the public exhibition will motivate the artists to create their own works. By exhibiting your work at a venue, you can see it in a different way, as it is lined up among other people’s works. Public exhibitions are such an extraordinary space and a place where you can feel different things for yourself. re you can experience such unusual and different spaces for yourself.

What are the future prospects for the association?

In Hokkaido, which is not a production center of ceramics, we have been building a foundation for the past 50 years by making ceramics a cultural business and increasing the population of ceramic artists. The range of expression of our members and friends has expanded, and in recent years, the level of their skills, in particular, has steadily improved. First of all, we would like to make both of next year’s public exhibitions more interesting so that everyone will be able to appreciate the rich individuality of the works of art again.