As the first presentation of the works of Shinichi Sawada in a European museum, this year's fall exhibition at the Georg Kolbe Museum features 20 ceramic objects by the Japanese artist. Sawada's work, which was presented for the first time in a context other than so-called Outsider Art in 2013 at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013, demonstrates a powerful sense of imagination. Diagnosed with autism at a young age, Sawada works with clay at a social welfare centre of the Shiga Prefecture to the west of Kyoto. Over the past two decades, the artist developed his unique formal vocabulary there, creating works that invite viewers to question conventional modes of thought.
Shinichi Sawada's filigree objects recall fantastic chimera, demonic masks, richly decorated totems, medieval beasts or elaborate Pre-Columbian artifacts—and yet they evidently derive from a world of their own. Covered with pointy thorns, these creatures by the Japanese artist (born 1982) that defy art historical conventions as well as contemporary market criteria seem to reflect the deepest and darkest recesses of human existence. With their wide-open eyes, bared teeth, antenna-like horns and protruding claws, Sawada’s striking beings sometimes make a shy impression, at other times they appear defensive. As a group, they simultaneously form a manifest unit—closely coalescing with each other in formal terms and yet drawing on an overwhelming repertory of possibilities.
While Sawada’s work seems like the expression of an inner dialogue that is extremely idiosyncratic and yet universal in its emotional presence, the artist himself speaks only rarely. An autist and autodidact, he has worked since the age of 18 in an assisted social welfare facility —the Nakayoshi Fukushikai Center in Shiga Prefecture, western Japan. After first experimenting with Sashiko—a traditional Japanese embroidery technique—he soon began concentrating on working with clay. Recognizing his talent, a simple corrugated hut with two kilns was constructed in the nearby untouched forest landscape that has served as a studio for him and the other ceramists at the facility. Deriving from millennia-old Japanese ceramic-making techniques, Sawada’s creatures have found their striking forms for nearly 20 years there completely intuitively manner, without any indecision or art historical references.
Organized in cooperation with the Museum Lothar Fischer, the exhibition in the Georg Kolbe Museum features 20 ceramics by Shinichi Sawada. As the first presentation of his works in a European museum, the show pursues an inclusive approach that contributes to the diversity debate in the cultural sector and encourages viewers to suspend their conscious or unconscious boundaries.
The exhibition catalogue has already been published and can be purchased for 9€ at the museum's ticket desk.
Parallel to the survey of Shinichi Sawada's work, the Georg Kolbe Museum is presenting the exhibition " Modernism and Refuge—Georg Kolbe’s Sensburg as an Architectural Monument of the Nineteen Twenties."