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Nalata Nalata is pleased to present our second exhibition of works by Ryuji Mitani, A Deeper Dark. Renowned for wooden pieces with a distinctly tactile surface texture and painterly application of white and black lacquer, Mitani spent much of his life creating wooden tableware and writing about his craft. As the leader of the Japanese contemporary craft movement Seikatsu Kogei, his practice maintains a propensity towards everyday functionality as the works evolved over several decades.

A Deeper Dark is the first installment of a two-part exhibition that will highlight the distinctive qualities of “darkness” and “lightness” in the artisan’s practice and provide a profound understanding of each direction. We will explore how the contrasts of dark and light in black and white are integrated into our daily life, and the versatility of these opposing colors in tableware.

By focusing on darkness in this first exhibit, we look to the way black signifies strength and depth in Mitani’s wooden tableware that adds impact to a dish and awakens our senses to the potential of specific ingredients highlighted on its surface. This exhibit will also showcase how darkness translates in the density, textures and finishes of Mitani’s pieces as demonstrated in the various carving and lacquer techniques of his practice. The artisan classifies his lacquered works into the main categories of Noir, Usuzumi and Hakuboku. Noir is a thick, solid black technique that allows viewers to appreciate the dark urushi hidden in the shadows of a piece as the deep faceted textures reflect light. Usuzumi features faint inky white touches against a smooth dark background – a subtle suggestion of smoke and spirits. Lastly, Hakuboku showcases solid black urushi on the exterior of a piece, with solid white accents on the interior.

Ryuji Mitani works in a variety of dark woods including Jindainire (神代楡), a rare wood originating from buried trees affected by ash that is then coveted in Japan for its symbolic reference about transformation. The wood develops character deep underground from pure darkness and emerges into something beautiful and revered. In these unique pieces, often the interpretation outside of the literal is the most fascinating in its philosophical sense.

Join us as we embark on a two-year long, two-part exhibition exploring the full range of the artisan’s practice, as well as his substantial contributions in the field of contemporary woodcraft. We hope to share the fascinating amount of insights into his approach of marrying deep thought and consideration with the warmth of objects made by hand that make him as multi-faceted as his works.

We will be joined on opening night by Ryuji Mitani. Refreshments will be provided by Kashiya Kokonotsu.