Communities: En Iwamura & Shigaraki Village

The first instalment of a new series telling the stories of artist communities worldwide.

October 21, 2022

En Iwamura working in his ceramic studio

Starting with Japanese artist, En Iwamura, a short film explores the artist’s connection to the historic ceramic-making community of Shigaraki – a rural village in the Kōko district of Shiga Prefecture, Japan.

Communities draws inspiration from the experience of meeting not only artists, but the contexts that they work within. Melting pots of learned wisdom, technical expertise and new ideas. The series sets out to explore the ways in which communities worldwide – no two the same, but each one similarly intricate and esoteric – emerge organically and allow those within them to forge their own artistic paths in tandem with one another.

four artists sat in a studio chatting
five sculptures of tanuki lined up outside
a train passing through a green countryside in Japan
a local artist in Shigaraki working into clay

En Iwamura

En Iwamura is one of Japan’s most prominent contemporary artists, establishing a distinct style that merges traditional philosophies of space with contemporary influences including cartoons and manga. Raked lines of Zen Buddhist gardens are combined with vivid colours and wry humour in a playful reimagining of ceramic traditions.

In 2019, the artist took part in Shigaraki’s reputable Ceramic Cultural Park’s Artist in Residence programme. He then established a permanent studio in the village. Now, he advocates the future of traditional craftsmanship that has been honed for centuries, encouraging more young artists and sculptors from across Japan to do the same.

I would like to act as the bridge between different countries, cultures and people.En Iwamura
En Iwamura surrounded by colourful ceramic sculptures with his dog

En Iwamura moving a ceramic sculpture on a forklift

Shigaraki

Shigaraki’s affiliation with ceramics dates back nearly 800 years. Within Japan's prosperous ceramic history, Shigaraki is one of the country's most notable producers – home to one of only six ancient kiln sites remaining in the nation.

In the face of Japan’s rural decline and ageing population, a new wave of young artists, makers, and organisations want to ensure that the heritage of Japan’s provincial artistic communities will survive. Growing up in Shigaraki or being drawn in by the village's artistic aura, they are committed to keeping the country’s rich and unique cultural tradition alive.

By connecting references from Japan's contemporary visual language with the preservation of ancient techniques, En spotlights the diminishment of historic art and cherished practices.

two artist climbing some stairs within a ceramic studio in Shigaraki

an old man leaning in a window of a ceramic studio

Neo Jomon: Geometric Fantôme

From one ancient medium to another, our first collaboration with Iwamura represents the artist’s first time working in marble.

En Iwamura’s Neo Jomon: Geometric fantôme preserves ancient principles of space through modern, minimal design. A pair of sunglass-framed eyes animate each abstract form to endearingly peculiar effect.

Contributors
En Iwamura
Shunsuke Kato
Tsuguharu Kanzaki
Shusaku Kanzaki
Keiko Masumoto
Tomonari Hashimoto

Crew
Director · Nick Dwyer
DP · Sam King
AC · Earl Louis
Sound and mix · Jeff Ruiz
PAs · Sammi Li and Gentaro Ishima
Photography · Sara Aiko Coe
Composer · Nami Sato
Editor · Sam King
Colourist · Flavio Gusmao
Translator · Akane Saiki

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