Contemporary ceramics and classic interiors can make for great bedfellows, as witnessed at a new exhibition by artist Hitomi Hosono, hosted at Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler’s London showroom in association with Adrian Sassoon.
The showroom is situated in a Mayfair townhouse built in 1723. It was once home to the architect Jeffry Wyatville, mastermind of the early 19th century extensions to both Chatsworth House and Windsor Castle. It comes as a surprise that the space, with its reassuring sense of English grandeur, would be a fitting site for Hosono’s markedly modern, botanically themed work.
Hosono’s show comprises 30 new pieces, scattered amidst the showroom’s antique furnishings. Quite a few have been placed next to windows that overlook a verdant garden with a robust catalpa tree – giving a wonderful juxtaposition of crafted and natural beauty.
Whereas vases with graceful leaf and cherry blossom motifs reflect the artist’s Japanese upbringing, others take on a more British character. Hosono was particularly inspired by a Colefax and Fowler fabric pattern based on a document dating back to 1845 – featuring 'beautiful roses and pansies, which appeared to be moving as if blown by a gentle summer breeze'. This encouraged the creation of the roses and pansies bowls, which was an aesthetic as well as technical departure for her. Unlike earlier works, which tend to emanate outwards, the bowls close into themselves, allowing for a sturdier surface meant to be felt by hand. 'I enjoy touching flower petals, and I want people to enjoy the softness of the porcelain,’ she says.
Another series, which had been made for last year’s Jerwood Makers Open, takes on a tropical theme. Energetic patterns in hibiscus, coral, mangrove and banana leaf offer a sweeping contrast to Hosono’s earlier, more tightly structured repertoire, but with the same exceptional artistry. The vivid colour of these pieces was achieved by mixing pigment with porcelain powder. ‘Glaze would hide the lines,’ she explains. ‘I didn’t use it because I wanted to create more delicate shapes.’
‘Delicate’ is a humble understatement, for the detail in Hosono’s ceramics is nothing short of extraordinary. It takes months to perfect her plaster moulds of small leaves and flowers. She then uses modified dental tools (with sharpened tips) to add detail to each component, before applying them individually to a clay surface. In some pieces, the whirlwinds of leaves are so fragile that they cannot be shipped abroad, for fear that they would be damaged en route. And in her dew drop bowls, each water droplet is individually carved. ‘I shouldn’t expect people to notice this technicality, but I have to do this to make beautiful work,’ she says.
Philip Hooper, design director of Sibyl Colefax & John Fowler has convinced Hosono to put her drawings on display for the first time. ‘I used to resist it,’ Hosono recalls, because the drawings are part of her creative process rather than the product. ‘I draw to discover the beauty of plants. I also learn how they are constructed. In a way, it’s like anatomy.’
She emphasises that she never produces an exact replica of any plant, but instead bases them on memories of her botanical encounters. The results can be fantastical, but they give an added layer of authenticity. ‘People see my banana leaf pieces and say, ‘come on, banana leaves don’t look like this!’. But it’s my banana leaf, for me.’
The influence of the Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon Prize – which Hosono won in 2013 – is demonstrated in grape-patterned vessels that nod to champagne house’s art nouveau heritage. It is also evident in the adventurous and free-spirited mood of the overall collection. Now a member of the Arts Salon herself, Hosono participated in its selection of recent winners Laura Youngson-Coll and Marcin Rusak. ‘The salon’s gatherings [of creative influencers] are a fount of inspiration,’ she acknowledges, ‘Perrier-Jouët has really opened up my world.’