In summer 2023, the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès will publish in Japanese the book Savoir & Faire: Tsuchi [Clay] as part of its Skills Academy program, which seeks to rethink, share, and expand artisanal skills and craft surrounding various natural materials. The book will feature translations of selected essays and interviews from the French edition, Savoir & faire: La terre (2016), jointly edited by Actes Sud and the Fondation, as well as eight original texts by and interviews with Japanese artists. To celebrate the publication of the book, Ginza Maison Hermès Le Forum is pleased to present the group exhibition Enamel and Body / Ceramics featuring related ceramic works.

This exhibition examines relationships between clay and the body, focusing specifically on enamel, which is transformed by fire and air into a vitreous material. In his essay “Les Emaux” (Enamels), the ceramicist Jean Girel describes the nature of enamel, which is closely tied to the body, as follows: “Long before the invention of ceramics, prehistoric people were fascinated by products of the natural world, and collected seashells, teeth, turtle shells, and rare stones such as turquoise, lapis lazuli, and jade to fashion jewelry, ornaments, and burial accoutrements. These things they gathered have, in a strange way, something in common with what would later become enamel. It is intriguing that ‘porcelain’ is derived from the name of a shellfish, and that we refer to the outer layer of teeth as ‘enamel’.

Each of the seven artists’ works employs the colors and effects of enamel to create a dialogue with the body, including Jean Girel’s timeless landscapes rendered with enamels and Françoise Pétrovitch’s animals that stir our emotions with their smooth, lustrous hides. Masaomi Yasunaga’s sculptures remind us that ash and bone are part of our bodies, and Sylvie Auvray’s fetishistic broom objects choreograph our daily rituals.

The coating effect of enamel also evokes a protective skin covering the body, or a place of refuge. Yusuké Y. Offhause builds small architectural structures from within his own memory, while Agathe Naïto employs her works to coexist with the ephemeral nature of ceramics or hide within performative vessels. And the white strata of Machiko Ogawa, which appear to be reduced to the primal elements of earth and water, envelop us with an abundance of energy that manifests itself in the cracking and chipping of the works.

With Sylvie Auvray, Jean Girel, Agathe Naïto, Yusuké Y. Offhause, Machiko Ogawa, Françoise Pétrovitch, Masaomi Yasunaga