Matthias Kaiser’s pottery is a perfect balance between West and East. It is informed by a love of the works of the Bauhaus Pottery Workshop (1919 to 1925), in particular the work of two of its potters Otto Lindig and Theodor Bogler, and the organic but carefully ordered architecture of their vessels. Increasingly that has been mixed with his love of traditional Japanese pottery, bringing in study of Eastern mysticism. It has resulted in vessels with great visual strength (in particular his precise horizontality that anchors his volumes), elegantly functional but with the soft organic touch of nature. He exhibits both in Europe and in Japan.
Both Kaiser’s parents were working biologists and so nature influenced him from a young age. This was later supplemented by a growing immersion in the literature of Shamanism, Sufism, Taoism, and Hindu mysticisms.
At first music was his focus; he left Austria at the age of 19 to study jazz in New York. Soon after arriving Matthias Kaiser made a handful of small unfired clay objects to decorate his apartment. This led him to take a pottery class, gradually shifting his attention from saxophone to ceramics. At Parsons School of Design he received a basic education in throwing and ceramic technology.
He continued these studies in Japan, moving to the famous ceramics town of Seto (another word in Japanese for ceramics is “things from Seto”) and for a year he apprenticed with the master, Fumitada Moriwaki. He not only learned the Japanese language but realigned his perception of shape, surface and function of a ceramic vessel, tuning in to Wabi-sabi aesthetics.
He traveled to many other ceramic towns in Japan, eventually finding another teacher on the southern island of Kyushu, Takashi Nakazato, an acclaimed master of Yakishime and various Karatsu ceramic styles such as Madara-garatsu, Kohiki and Mishima.
Before opening his own studio in Grafendorf, Austria in 1993, Kaiser enrolled at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna to study product design, all while focusing on research and development of glazes made with raw materials like plant ashes and minerals. This work is still ongoing and years have been spent sourcing and testing different materials.
As a ceramics artist, Kaiser is particularly drawn to the various alchemical changes each material experiences during the creation process:
“In an attempt to communicate each component’s history, I try to seek out, process and blend all raw materials directly from their source. Not only does this influence the design of any given work, but it also deepens my relationship to it both while it is in progress and as a finished piece. My intervention can be subtle, providing a canvas for the display of hidden attributes and elemental forces. This philosophy of finding fulfillment in emptiness corresponds to my long association with mysticism.
Even though most of the objects I make are functional vessels, my fascination lies in aspects that go beyond function without diminishing their purpose. As a European ceramist, I am interested in deconstructing and reinventing traditional shapes and blending them with a formal language that is rooted in Western modern art. However, as an artist who also is utilizing ancient far Eastern techniques and influenced by oriental philosophy, my aim is to apply discreet action in order to maintain the balance between intent and accident.”
The gem of this post lies in the captions. Each piece is followed by a discussion by the artist of the elements (process, emotion, history) that inform each shape.
Garth Clark is the Chief Editor of CFile.
Above image: Matthias Kaiser’s Madara Wayward Vase in a traditional Japanese setting.
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