When you walk into the Sunzen Art Gallery on Howe Street, be prepared to enter a capsule of diverse artistic collections of old and new. Situated steps from downtown designer boutiques and exclusive members-only clubs, the gallery offers a cultural space displaying high-end art, furniture, and traditional Puerh tea ceremonies.
This season, the gallery explores a new frontier with its exhibition REINCARNATION: The Second Life of Antique Japanese Kettles.
Featuring a collection of over 60 antique Japanese kettles, a curation of bonsai, and intricately repaired kintsugi art pieces, the Sunzen has created an exhibit focused on craftsmanship and purposeful design.
Vessels for Creating Warmth
The kettles originated from the Edo period under the Shogunate rule, which occurred from 1603 to 1867. The vessels were created by a class of craftsmen that commonly moonlighted as poets and painters, explaining the intricate designs of landscapes, flowers, and human figures, that adorn them.
Strikingly gorgeous, the kettles carry weight in what they have represented over their lifetime, both as art and as a representation of life during a bygone era.
Co-curator Lin Li explains, “They are not only a tool but a spirit, that interact and communicate with people who use them.? The sound emitted by the kettle’s lid during boiling is ‘matsukaze,’ or the sound of the “wind through the pine trees.”A timeless example of art imitating the most peaceful moments of life.
Part of this exhibit’s purpose is to explore the concept of loss. Antique kettles are common in Japanese households and are safely tucked into glass cabinets while their mass-produced cousins are in use daily.
Even though people are respectful of the value in their antiques, the relationship between them and the object is inherently risky. This tenuous relationship brings the Second Life of the pieces into focus – the idea is not to view them as a relic from a time gone by but a reminder to shorten the distance between craftsmanship and everyday life.
Connection Through Restoration
Aside from the kettles, the exhibit also showcases Kintsugi, which is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery pieces with golden lacquer.
On display are pieces by Naoko Fukumaru. Born in Japan to a third-generation antique auction house family, she grew up surrounded by fine arts and antiques and began to experiment with broken objects early, a passion she built into a career.
Fukumaru graduated from England’s West Dean College in 2000 with a post-graduate diploma in Ceramics, Glass and Related Materials Conservation and Restoration, which led her to more than two decades of working as a professional ceramic and glass conservator at multiple esteemed institutions.
Incredibly, Fukumaru has been involved in significant restoration, conservation and fabrication projects, including The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, The Tomb of Tutankhamen in Egypt, Caravaggio and Veronese paintings, The Thinker by Rodin, murals by Diego Rivera, and projects for Yoko Ono and Anish Kapoor.
Reflection on a Curation
Before departing the calm of the Sunzen Gallery, take a moment to think about the curious objects within the space that were specifically chosen to transport you to a long-ago place in time.
Congratulations to co-curators Lin Li and Viahsta Yuan, who created a safe bubble of history amidst the glass office towers of our city’s core with this exhibition. It is a true refuge and an experience that calls for peaceful reflection.
- Helen Siwak is the founder of EcoLuxLuv Marketing & Communications Inc and publisher of Folio.YVR Luxury Lifestyle Magazine, PORTFOLIOY.YVR Business & Entrepreneurs Magazine, and digital women's lifestyle magazine EcoLuxLifestyle.co. She is a prolific content creator, consultant, and marketing and media strategist within the ecoluxury lifestyle niche. Post-pandemic, she has worked with many small to mid-sized plant-based/vegan brands to build their digital foundations and strategize content creation and business development. Helen is the west coast correspondent to Canada’s top-read industry magazine Retail-Insider, holds a vast freelance portfolio, and consults with many of the world’s luxury heritage brands. Always seeking new opportunities and challenges, you can email her at [email protected].
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