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  • What is Tosaiga ceramic painting?
    The World of Tosaiga

Tosaiga, New Art Born from Arita Ware

“Tosaiga” is a new art form of porcelain panel painting originated by Kazuhisa Kusaba utilizing the 400-year history of traditions of Arita ware. Kusaba kept trial and error for over 30 years, and now his Tosaiga is widely admired as peerless art.

In "tosaiga", a white ceramic panel is used as the canvas on which a picture is painted with glazes. The painted panel is fired in a kiln, then a different color is painted to be fired again. This process is repeated more than 10 times. The entire procedure, including compounding glazes, delicate drawing, regulation of the kiln temperature, and the allocation of time to fire depending on glazes, requires a high level of concentration; nevertheless, once the piece is put into the kiln, a human cannot control anymore. The kiln is literally a world beyond human's thoughts and views where we have to entrust everything to the fire.These processes can finally make the piece radiate dazzling lights, and in some cases, breathtakingly beautiful even to exceed the artist's expectations.

How Tosaiga Piece Is Created

  • Completing the base

    Completing the base

  • First painting

    First painting

  • Second painting

    Second painting

  • Third painting

    Third painting

  • Fourth painting

    Fourth painting

  • Fifth painting

    Fifth painting

  • Sixth painting

    Sixth painting

  • Seventh painting

    Seventh painting

  • Eighth painting

    Eighth painting

  • Ninth painting

    Ninth painting

What is Tosaiga ceramic painting?

The Tosaiga painting "Fujihiten"

What is Tosaiga ceramic painting?

Painting with virtuosic and delicate brushwork, and firing adjusted to each glaze’s characteristics, the repeats of these processes realize a rich texture on each petal.
Outlines and some other lines are drawn using as thin lines as 0.1-0.2 mm, which is comparable to hair. Elaborate patterns and gold decorations are drawn by pure gold, which is to be polished carefully in the final step.

守破離 (shu-ha-ri), Japanese training process in Tosaiga

Japanese culture emphasizes a concept of the form called “型 (kata)”.Many Japanese traditional performing arts and martial arts have “道 (do)” in their names, such as Judo, Kendo, Sado, and Kado. 道, translated as journey, way, path, route, and such in English, signifies the long process of training and self-improvement, which is parted into 3 phases “守 (shu)”, “破 (ha)”, and “離 (ri)” from the point of proper attitude toward 型.

The first phase “守”, which means to protect and keep something in English, is to follow and keep “型”, the traditions and teacher’s precepts. After acquiring the given form, the second stage “破”, which is to break something, is the phase to expand the learning. In this phase, you must not be too particular about your school and teacher but study more widely including other schools and forms to develop your possibilities, knowledge, and skills. When you reach the final phase, it means that you are now fledged. “離” is to leave from something in English, and it is the phase to establish your own form without adhering to your past learning and teacher too much.

Then, what is 守破離 in Tosaiga? What was it like for me?
"守" was the phase where I learned porcelain techniques according to the 400-year tradition of Arita ware.
“破” was the phase of trial and error utilizing the traditional techniques I learned to realize the idea of porcelain panel painting. And at the phase of "離", I focused on titanium and adopted Persian luster eulogistically called lost phantom brilliance, to finally succeed in the realize of colors that show diverse hues depending on the angles.
Through these processes, the repeats of study and research on glazes and firing have established Tosaiga as unique art.
A Silvered Lusterware

A Silvered Lusterware

Over 20 years to reach the phase of “破”, and another decade to be in the “離” phase.Learned from the traditions, not stayed in traditions, and leaped from traditions, I finally completed a new art world named “Tosaiga”.

“自在 (Jizai, at will), - Sparkling Glaze -” Series, Longing for Unseen Sparkles

From 守破離, to 自在 (Jizai, ‘at will’ in English). I am strongly attracted to sparkles. Not to light but “sparkles”. The light tells us the shape of objects, and so does the shadow. The light exists thanks to the shadow, and the shadow exists thanks to the light.In this world where everything is essentially and constantly changing, the binary opposition such as light and shadow seems to practically mean nothing.

According to ancient Chinese Philosophy, obviously opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world. It also describes that “Supreme ultimate” or great harmony, the oneness before duality that generates both negative and positive, has no pole or edge.In a more familiar expression for European cultures, the positive and the negative are two sides of the same coin.And the sparkle is what originated from the conflict between the light and the shadow. It may also be described as the in-between life and death. Where we stand is always “in-between”.The sparkle is what visualizes the invisible world. And the sparkle which arises from the in-between life and death is the very sparkle of life. Nothing really stays in the same place even for a while. Everything changes every second, and the true satisfactions and pleasures of life lie in the changes.

My fascination with the sparkles brought me the attitude to welcome changes and express myself freely at will. The longing for the sparkles led me from the phase of “離” to the new stage, “自在 (at will)”.The new series based on this new frontier is named Sparkling Glaze.As the essence of Tosaiga, the series emphasizes the phantasmagoric sparkles that show diverse hues and impressions just like life itself has animated and expressive brilliance.In other words, the Sparkling Glaze series is the expression of my longing for a burst of energy and the radiance of life.And the kanji of longing, “憧”, is the combination of “心 (heart)” and ”童 (child)” to imply that longing is to seek something with an innocent heart. I would keep seeking sparkles sincerely and purely.

Tosaiga “Ryu no Tama - Nyoihohju -”

*Ryu no Tama = Dragon’s Orb
Nyoihohju = Cintamani, wish-fulfilling jewel

The "Ryu no Tama - Nyoihohju" is a series created as a new trial, which is based on the research on the technique of burning phosphorescent materials into Tosaiga.The phosphorescent materials absorb light and store it as energy when exposed to light, and glow in the dark by releasing the energy.It means that the phosphorescent paint, which is invisible in a bright place, can be visualized by darkening it.

The "Nyoihohju" series is painted with these materials, so that the artwork, which is simply vibrant and colorful in a light room, has a gimmick to suddenly show luminous orb “Nyoihohju” when you turn off the light.

The reason I found the phosphorescent materials interesting was that their character is suggestive of my theme of art creation: our spirit and soul would last long even after the flesh has decayed, and the love would survive by transforming its form of expression. Chasing only the visible does not lead you to what truly matters. The memory of "life", which is carved in us, is also invisible but it certainly exists. I wish to regain that greatness as a real feeling.

The treasure orb Ryus (dragons) are chasing is called "Nyoihohju", a wish-fulfilling jewel.
Left Photo: viewed in a brightly lit room / Right Photo: viewed in a dark room with light stored

Left Photo: viewed in a brightly lit room / Right Photo: viewed in a dark room with light stored

Where can we find it?
People are often constrained by the phantom that money and power can realize desires.
However, do those desires that can be true by money and power suit the great will or great “life”?

The great will, the art of life, gave birth to me.
I was born, a helpless and fragile figure, crying, being held by the world, to be one of the numerous heroes of a great story that had started with the opening of the universe.The story continues with and by me.I am a part of perfection, and at the same time, my life is perfect by itself.

We cannot find the dragon’s orb as long as seeking outside of ourselves, like the bluebird. I hope the hidden light in this piece would help you find that you are the dragon and your life is Nyoihohju.

Tosaiga "Ryu no Tama - Nyoihoju - Daichowa"