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I titled this exhibition ‘Home Museum’. I am not talking about a grand ‘art’, rather I am talking about something that has come from the rawness of hand and material, the survival of objects that went through extreme heat, and what that reveals about the making process and my everyday life. It is my 3D sketchbook.

This new collection is directly related to my recent booklist. I was a psychology student 20 odd years ago and I have been reading a lot about the human brain lately. ‘The Brain That Changes Itself’ by Norman Doidge triggered my interest and led me to other related books in psychology, sociology, biology, neuroscience and religion, written from the view of brain function. Surprisingly there are many books in this area that can be understood without specialist knowledge, and can be easily related to our daily lives.

I went to see some Impressionist paintings recently, described in the exhibition guide as ‘unfinished’ in comparison to conventional descriptive paintings, and therefore not taken as ‘proper’ painting at the beginning of this art movement. In the world of craft, it was not the creators of art work, but connoisseurs who found beauty in the unpolished, peasant craft work of Japan. These pieces were called ‘gete-mino’ (the translation from Japanese to English is ‘grotesque’ or ‘badly made things’) and were supposedly second class artifacts. Soetsu Yanagi, the founder of the Mingei movement, rebranded it as Mingei folk art, since the phrase ‘gete-mino’ had negative connotations.

Symmetrical perfection, regularity and preciseness are easy to understand, as the standard perception of beauty is based on physical strength. On the other hand, I wonder how and why some people (like myself perhaps) are attracted to the unrefined quality of objects, including some forms of art. These brain books I read might explain how we come to find beauty in ‘unpolished’ work.  Physicality is one kind of strength, but on the other hand, as demonstrated in the high speed sketching of a skilled artist, flexibility, adaptation and plasticity are also strengths. The spontaneous movement of making or drawing projects our unconscious or subconscious mind, whereas the process of polishing and adding more precise detail can actually disguise or delete some quality hidden deep within our mind. Akiko Hirai, May 2016

Akiko Hirai | Home Museum is on show at New Craftsman from 28 May to 2 July. Paintings and prints by Lieke Ritman and screenprints of the work of Lucie Bray accompany the show.

Image: Dry Kohiki Mug, Grey

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