A new episode of “Italy’s Great Friends”, a series of testimonial videos launched in 2022 by the Italian Cultural Institute of Osaka, in which great Japanese masters in various fields of art tell of their personal relationship with Italy. After Tadao Ando, Susumu Shingu and Toshiyuki Kita, the next video interview will feature the famous ceramist Raku Kichizaemon XV (Jikinyu), head of the fifteenth generation of the Raku family, whose story begins 450 years ago in Kyoto, and focuses on the production of the famous cups (chawan) that have been used in the classic tea ceremony since the time of Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591).
After graduating from Tokyo University of the Arts in 1973, the young Raku Kichizaemon XV went to study sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome with Umberto Mastroianni, where he became fascinated by Italian art, the cinema of Antonioni, Fellini and Pasolini, as well as the language, the urban landscape and the contrast between light and shadow during Roman summers. Raku identifies the stark contrast between his Italian experience and his Japanese education as the genesis of his return to ceramic work, which he nevertheless interprets as a deepening and enrichment of perspective. The fruitful contact with Italian culture, which Raku has cultivated uninterruptedly throughout his life, subtly but profoundly affects his art as a “traditional” ceramist, giving his ceramics a sharpness of contrasts and a very special style. “Italy has also taught me how to be a person and an artist. As a result, Italy has become a very important place for me”, says Raku.
The first exhibition outside Japan of the famous Raku teacups was organised by Kichizaemon XV in 1997 at the International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza (MIC).