AAL at Masterpiece: Asian Art in London

simon pilling

Cabinet by OTAMARU Kaoru (b. 1923)

Showa 37, 1962

Carved coloured lacquer, choshitsu

36.3 x 24.5 x 26 cm

A powerful design of black foliage autumnal orange-red berries and delicate grasses wraps around this fine ornamental cabinet with ornate metal fittings. The work is executed in the carved lacquer, choshitsu, technique, whereby multiple layers of contrasting coloured lacquer are first built up on the work’s wooden base, in this instance finishing with a brilliant high polished black, roiro, surface. The design is then carved through the surface, exposing the differing layers and here finishing at a deep grey level, worked to create a complex textured ground. A staccato cut line has been used for the veining of the leaves and the berry stalks. Finally, the orange-red lacquer berries have been applied to the surface, their stalks enriched by rubbing gold into the cut lines.

Opening the doors, secured by a multi-layered pair of ovoid lacquer handles, reveals four kiri wood drawers, each with carved lacquer handles.

Otamaru Kaoru apprenticed in the studio of his father Otamaru Kodo who, in 1955, was designated ‘Intangible Cultural Property (Living National Treasure), specifically for his carved lacquer skills. This piece displays an exceptional level of artistic and technical accomplishment.

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