Seino Shoichi - A Sculptor Exploring the Boundaries of Pottery

The first correspondence I had from Mr. Seino Shoichi was postmarked Nov. 13, 1978. It was an invitation for a group exhibition being held at the Muramatsu Gallery (Ginza, Tokyo) from Nov. 27 to Dec. 2. This exhibition was the third meeting of Hanshakei (Engl. - Reflectance). I had the opportunity to go to Tokyo while this exhibition was being held and remember climbing the steps to the Muramatsu Gallery, relying on the instructions printed on the invitation. I had absolutely no knowledge of the makeup of this group nor the four artists who comprised it. However, judging from Seino's home address in Nagakute-cho,a suburb of Nagoya (he had sent the invitation), I assumed he had heard somewhere that I was interested in contemporary art, and that was why I had received the invitation.
At the time, the work he had done was an "objet
" made of black pottery. It was oblong in shape and entitled "Pool". Was it that the planes which protruded symmetrically like wings appeared to be on the surface of water? Also, in the center were two forms which looked like a pair of feet. The two forms were touching each other and arranged in the opposite direction so that they looked just like the feet of a swimmer making a turn.
Leaving aside the works of the other three members, as I left the gallery I remember wondering to myself how Seino's work meshed with this group called Hanshakei. I didn't understand their work enough, but could this be a group which hoped to express in artistic form a quick and alert response to the physical world without preconceptions? I don't remember meeting Seino at the time, so perhaps we passed each other without knowing it.
Later in 1982, I attended an exhibition of his new work at Gallery Westbeth in Nagoya. It was his first solo exhibition and it was then that I first met him. The work was fired and made of dolomite. It was white and rectangular in shape. The work was an installation which stood completely against the walls to the left and right. It stood about chest level in height and there were two added legs in the direction of the major axis.
Walking through the gap which maintained the symmetry, and then stopping right in the middle of it, it resembled banks of snow left behind on the sides of a road that had been cleared of snow. It seemed as if one had been caught in the hallucination that one's body was placed in the clarity which echoed the spaces of the Snow Country. At this time, Seino exhibited an installation work of fired rectangular shapes that were piled up in a fixed, regular manner like stairs.It
gave one the impression of part of the clean and pure space within an old Grecian structure.
It was at that time that I first met Seino and directly spoke with him. Some people might feel that he is taciturn because of the manner in which he speaks -in a somewhat low voice, weighing his words. However, this is how he has become accustomed to speaking, cutting off any unnecessary explanation and embellishment and only speaking clearly about the central point. It is for that reason that the primary impression one receives is that of a person who is sincere and with an open heart and mind, just like the surfaces of the white, rectangular forms he was exhibiting. Looking back know, it is already 20 years since I first saw his exhibition at the Muramatsu Gallery and 17 years since I first spoke intimately with Seino. In that time, one can see changes in the forms of the many experiments he has made, but flowing through the heart of Seino's flourishing creative desire and fresh personality is something that has remained completely unchanged till the present day.
At that time, I heard something surprising. It had to do with a time five or six years before I first came into contact with his work at the Muramatsu Gallery. From 1965 to 1976, I had intermittently published a small magazine called Ten(Engl. - Point). He had subscribed at a book store in Shimokitazawa in Tokyo. This was probably in the early 1970's. In the 1960's and 1970's, various spheres of different art forms became interlocked like a jigsaw puzzle. It was a time when there was a balance maintained between the complicated points of contact of these various groups. From the inception of this small magazine, I had Mr. Kano Mitsuo take care of the binding and cut illustrations. Each month, I had articles submitted by people who were at the forefront of each artistic sphere at that time - haiku, poetry, the fine arts, music and so on -. It was my hope to then sell the magazines at two or three bookstores in Tokyo that also sold books on poetry. Consequently, even nowadays, I sometimes hear that some unexpected person had also subscribed to Ten. Seino was one of them. Possibly, we had attended the same performance of Ankoku Butoh. While maintaining an amazingly wide interest in all of the artistic spheres, how was he able to cut away the things which surrounded that chaos and then manifest his own concise and succinct creative world? Once again, a new interest in Seino rose up in me.
From the end of the 1980's and into the 1990's, this artist began to use graphite in many ways as his basic material. Varying the thicknesses slightly, he fired various square board-like shapes. He used heat to make traces on the surfaces. Then he covered the surface of the ground with them. These external forms also remind one of very blackened, ancient tombs or coffins, yet within it is possible to see substantive ceramic objects which have been neatly arranged at regular, fixed distances. One after the other he has presented such installations. The way in which the individual pieces that comprise these exhibitions have been fired and received the shapes they've been given- the feeling of surfaces, the subtle differences in the color tones - have become clear by means of a fixed arrangement of space for the first time.
Also, by means of changing those arrangements, the nature of the space becomes kaleidoscopic, and each time he exhibits it again forces us to change our perception.
Recently, he has been adding plant-like motifs to the surfaces of square planks, and experimenting with transferring reflections of the area around the mouth of a river onto curtains which cover walls. Gradually, the concern of the artist is the natural environment itself, but how will he incorporate this into his work? It makes one feel that his work is changing because of a search in this direction. Tracing the stream of Seino's work which I have encountered, it is due to his work process in which the basic material of earth has been shaped by applying heat that he has even changed his residence. By following the way of life of potters and sculptors in former times, Seino has continued to investigate a way for ceramicists that is at the extreme border of those arts. It is because of this attitude I embrace him once again with great respect.
In Seino's recent work, he has temporarily planed away the attribute of
"pottery". What will he substitute in its place? This would seem to be a very interesting question and because of it I am filled with great expectation.

Shunkichi Baba ,haiku poet ,Art Critic
Translated by Rumme,Ltd.