Shima Kara Shima E 

An exhibition of collaborative work by Ashley Howard and Risa Ohgi 

13 September to 12 October 2014

As part of this year’s St Ives September Festival, the Leach Pottery will bring together two contemporary potters for an exhibition of new work which explores the ongoing creative dialogue between East and West, specifically England and Japan, and questions ideas of cultural integrity, identity, influence and the intermingling of both historic and present day cultures.

The joint project began when Ashley Howard became intrigued with the surface patterns of a Risa Ohgi stoneware dish on display at the 2011 International Society for Ceramic Art Education and Exchange exhibition. This prompted a series of conversations that led Howard and Ohgi to embark on series of collaborative works which emerged as Shima Kara Shima E (From Island to Island).

For the works in this exhibition, each took charge of the processes they felt most close to: Howard used the wheel to produce ceramic forms, always keeping in his mind Ohgi’s approach to decorative mark making, and then Ohgi took over his work, and using slip trailing as her main technique covered their surfaces with leaf and flower motifs. Working around the theme of tea drinking and its associated utensils, Howard’s ceramic forms are loosely inspired by historical industrial designs from Stoke-on-Trent, while Ohgi’s surface decorations are informed by Japanese textile patterns.

The exhibition also includes a small selection of Howard and Ohgi’s individual work which will better allow visitors to compare collaborative elements.

‘The dialogue between the East – in particular Japan – and the West is always present in my work. I believe that replication has played a significant role in western studio pottery, and that a ‘faux-Japanese’ look and style can become something of a cliché. Shima Kara Shima E aims to acknowledge the separate ceramic traditions of East and West and explore ways in which they may sit literally side by side. At a beautifully simple level, Shima Kara Shima E has been about just seeing what happens; then to come away with more exciting and stimulating questions rather than seek out any significant answers.’ Ashley Howard

‘It is known that Japan was influenced by China and Korea in old times, and by Europe and the United States in modern times. If our Japanese culture could be defined as being developed by the acceptance and intermingling of these foreign cultures, then I am definitely a carrier of this heritage. Generally speaking, the intermingling between two or more characters brings forth something new, but at the same time the comparison with others often leads to highlight one’s personality. Every cultural attraction I was drawn to influenced my ceramic work. As my knowledge of foreign countries deepen, my works become more and more abundant with the identity of myself as a Japanese.' Risa Ohgi

‘Leach made this connectivity between cultures into a life’s mission and at its heart was the collaboration of artists. It seems to me that Howard and Ohgi are searching, too, for a sort of transcendence in their collaborative practice. They have had to come to an accommodation without losing their own creative identities. To come together the two makers have had to refine their temperament: to enter into dialogue. Their partnership of equals has been a knowing and an intuitive project. It has come at a moment when collaborative practice between craft artists has reached something of a high water mark, certainly in the UK.’ Professor Simon Olding, Director of the Crafts Study Centre, University of Creative Arts, Farnham

‘Both England and Japan are alike in their environment as both are surrounded by sea. Their insular independency allows their cultures to accumulate and ripen, to create identities of their very own. As the title goes ‘From Island to Island’, I am glad that this opportunity will deepen the relationship between our two countries. St. Ives, where this exhibition is to be held, was a place of friendship between Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada and is also a historic place, deeply involved with the Japanese Mingei Movement. The beginning of new relationships is brought about by new generations. I sincerely hope this exhibition will give us a new start to our long lasting friendships.’ Professor Fumio Shimada, Ceramic Department of the Faculty of Fine Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts and President of the ISCAEE

Ashley Howard is currently lecturer in Ceramics at the University of Creative Arts, Farnham. Risa Ohgi started her career as a ceramic student at Tokyo University of Arts - Geidai, where she now works as a Lecturer on the Basic Crafts course.