We first encounter Riyoo Kim and his works at Art Stage Singapore 2016. Wandering the aisles of the art fair, we almost trip over one of the Osaka-born artist's sculptural works on the floor. It looks like a helmet - one left behind in the bronze age by a time-travelling space jockey, that is.
Closer inspection of the work's label reveals that it is made of ceramic. We marvel at the metallic finish and un-ceramic-ness of the piece. And then, we spot its creator: Kim, 36, is sitting in a nearby little tea pavillion - built specially on site by gallery SNOW Contemporary. A Japanese tea ceremony has just taken place, and guests are lingering over matcha served in exquisite cups and bowls made by the artist himself.
How did you discover ceramics?
When I was a student, I failed my college entrance examinations. Then I saw the ceramics at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, and at contemporary ceramic exhibitions. I happened to pass the entrance exam of the Osaka University of Art and was admitted to the ceramics department.
What inspires me about ceramics as a medium is that I have to complete the works by transforming the material.
What inspires your work?
Ancient ritual ware such as Jomon-era ware or bronze ware. Also current things such as science fiction, street culture and animation.
Why does an eye appear as a motif in your work?
I have heard that there is an ancient Chinese legend which tells of how "while the right eye sees the reality and material world, the left eye sees the spiritual world and future beyond". Since then, I often use the left eye as a motif which connects to the right brain.
What is your working process like?
I do not make designs or drawings. I instantly start creating the works when I complete an image in my mind.
I do not make prototypes, but all the works are my prototypes in some way.
Why did you decide to let your audience and collectors experience your work as part of a tea ceremony at Art Stage?
Tea ceremony is an ancient Japanese composite art form. I felt the act of actually experiencing the art form, and also touching and kissing the works in reality, makes viewers deepen their understanding of my works.
Many people said that they have never seen the works like this.
How much does the body figure in working with ceramics?
Ceramic needs many procedures which require direct touch. It is a medium which reflect the physical influence behind it.
Your father is Japanese and your mother, Korean. How has that shaped your identity, and what part does this play in your work?
My identity, swinging between two races, actually influences my attitude towards art - which is always trying to cross the borders of genre.
- Interview and portrait by Clara Chow