What is Toubokuga all about
Toubokuga stands for paintings on a glazed ceramic plate that were heated up to high temperatures and they were the very collaboration of natural elements, which is earth, water, fire and wind. They were created by an Indian ink artist, Yu-ki Nishimoto.
By firing them at temperatures in the range of 1,200°C, an uneven but mystical touch gets mixed well with the powerfulness that is unique to Nishimoto’s works. A new world that can never be seen in works that uses Washi (a Japanese traditional paper) shows up.
When the glaze cools down after the firing has been done, very thin cracks called 'Kannyu' come out with intricacy and beauty. The underglaze melts under the heat as well and together, these fascinating decorations look just like the waving clouds and the soft flow of water. The way the cracks are reflected in all directions is also appealing. There is a divine beauty in his works that humans are unable to achieve.
Nishimoto wholeheartedly works on painting Toubokugas, which requires him to paint without making any mistakes. He has to anticipate the outcome of the painting and has to follow his intuition. He struggles yet at the same time, enjoys dealing with the power of nature.
You can tell how much attention to details he gave to his paintings and feel how lively it is just by touching every single brush marks. -'The art of life' that will remain eternally- This is the best expression to describe his Toubokugas.
How did Toubokuga came about
An enterprise that owns a pottery kiln in Fukui - known to possess one of the six oldest kilns in Japan - called 'Echizenyaki', invited Nishimoto to try porcelain panel painting in the summer of 2015. This is the beginning of Toubokuga.
Nishimoto mostly does live art. This is what is called 'temporal art', where the completion is influenced by the place’s atmosphere. For this reason, majority of his live painting works were discarded instead of preserved.
Unlike his live art works, a ceramic plate preserves its quality indefinitely. Nishimoto got interested in it because painting on this material allows his works to be handed down to posterity.
Painting on ceramic plates is completely different from painting on Washis, ranging from the touch of the pen to how the ink is soaked into the canvas. Nishimoto could not adapt his method of painting on papers to Toubokuga and thus, he had to restart from scratch.
The first thing he worked on was making the underglaze, which was similar to Indian ink. Indian ink is painted with the gradation of the only color, black, whereas, for porcelain panel painting, you can only see how much the color will change after it has been heated up. The completion depends on temperature, length of firing, humidity and so forth. It was very hard for him to establish his method of painting Toubokugas.
It was not until he used trial and error that he found out a new approach to creating art on glazed ceramic plates. This is how the brand new painting style using porcelain plates, 'Toubokuga' came about. (Trademark registered)
How is Toubokuga made
Original copy of painting
The only Toubokuga that was painted
directly on a ceramic plate
by Yu-ki Nishimoto
With every stroke, Nishimoto very carefully places his brush dipped in the glaze used solely for Toubokugas on unglazed porcelain plates. Nishimoto says, “Painting on Washis is like subtraction. Painting on ceramic plates, however, is like addition.” He means to say that in case of Toubokugas, some parts that were painted repeatedly become a deeper and darker black after the firing process.
The actual colour of the painting can only be known after firing it. Creating hand painted Toubokugas has always been challenging for Nishimoto.
The ceramic plate is fired in a kiln after it dries completely. The first firing process starts at 1000°C. After removing it from the kiln, it is painted again and then made to dry before returning it to the kiln. This process is repeated until Nishimoto sees fit. Lastly, a transparent glaze will be painted on the plate and it will be fired at 1200°C.
However, the rate of success for this is less than 20 %. The possibility of accidents – such as the glaze splattering or the plate crazing after repeated firing – makes the rate low.
Even so, these accidents sometimes bring about positive outcomes that he has never thought of. The chemical reactions between earth, water, fire, and wind make it possible to create colours that cannot be seen in reproductions.
- Placing the work in a frame
Nishimoto chooses a frame amounting to the intensity of the work.
Click here to see his hand painted Toubokugas
Duplicate copy of painting
The other type of Toubokuga
whereby duplicates of
Nishimoto’s works are digitally made
- Creating a data
Nishimoto’s works were scanned into a computer in order to analyse the gradation of black used. This is to make printable versions of his Indian ink paintings.
It takes three months just to get this done. This is the most difficult yet necessary process to differentiate the shades of the Indian ink.
The duplicates were made by putting a special ink used solely for reproduction on the same unglazed plates as the original copies of the Toubokuga. We cannot tell you the exact reproduction process due to its distinctive method, but we selected Nishimoto’s best works carefully and transcribe them on the ceramic plates wholeheartedly.
The rate of success for perfect reproduction is 80 %, since it is still pottery even if it was called a duplicate. Any subtle mistakes – such as colour splattering or ceramic crazing - are not allowed.
- Placing the work in a frame
Nishimoto himself chooses a frame that is suitable for each works.
Click here to view his duplicate works