GLASS LIVES INTERVIEW:
Jin Hongo

Jin Hongo in conversation with North Lands Creative Director Karen Phillips.

PROJECT ACTIVITY - VOICE OF GLASS EXHIBITION

PARTNER - GLASS POINT

YEAR - 2021

1. Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to work with glass?

I found glass in an art magazine when I studied metal in university, and it looked like a new material as an art medium. I was studying metal casting and I was interested in the Japanese traditional crafts, but I got attracted by this new material. Since then I have been fascinated in it.

2. How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?

My subject matter is a relation between sight and light in an architectural space. This is also related with personal memories and experiences of audiences through their perceptions and feelings. I am incorporating the idea of landscape into my recent work.

Landscape Transducer#2, 2020

3. Has there been a shift or change in your life or work that has led to what you’re making now?

There are a couple of turning points for me…When I worked with Pavel Mrkus together at TIGA about 15 years ago, he was an artist and educator in Czech now and he was teaching glass at TIGA at that time, we had talked about our work many times. My idea had changed through the discussion with him. I can say my work has shifted from the narrative one towards the phenomenon.

Also we had a big disaster, the earthquake and the nuclear plant crisis in Japan in 2011, and every artist must have been shocked and changed in many ways. It was not just about art making but also about our life and philosophy. I have become more conscious of the relationship with others through my work.

4. You currently work as Head Professor at the Toyama Institute of Glass Art? So how did you come to be there? What’s been your career journey?

After I graduated from the university, I studied glass at Tokyo Glass Art Institute. And then I started a glass studio with my friends in Izu, Japan. I was going to study more in another country to be a glass artist, but I had a chance to become a teaching assistant at TIGA in 1991 when TIGA was founded. It is the first public educational institute specializing in glass art in Japan, and I have been teaching there since then. Now I am a Head Professor at TIGA.

5. Working in education, what does it mean to you?

I am very lucky because I could have many chances to work with many great masters all over the world at TIGA, and I have learnt so much about glass and art. Now I think this is my turn to inherit the traditions and what I have been taught. This is also why I did workshops in many countries. In addition, it is very exciting for me to see young students creating something new with their passion, and I am honored to be a part of history with them.

6. Can you tell us about the department and courses?

TIGA is a unique art school specializing in glass and there are two courses. One is the Glass Certificate Studies (GCS) program and another is the Advanced Research Studies (ARS) program, both are the two years courses. Students study about glass from the basics in GCS, and there are 16 students in each grade. In ARS they study more advanced skills, and they make a research and work on their own with the discussions with 5 teachers, there are 4 students in each grade including international students.

Jin Hongo

Smooth Boundary, 2018

7. What other projects might students be able to work on?

We try to design the curriculum with many practical elements, such as studying with glass studios or companies outside of school, internship for artists, and student exchange programs. We think this makes more opportunities for students to be professionals in many fields.

8. Please describe the changes that are being made in education to support the next generation of glass artists.

Glass was a new material and it had a privilege as a “Glass Art” in early days of studio glass movements, but we are already in the next stage. We are teaching not just skills but also how they can be engaged in society through what they learn with glass. We are designing a new curriculum for them to study more practically and a support system for alumnus for the future.

9. How do you benefit from your time teaching and supporting students?

Students always surprise us by their pure idea and passion for art, they are creative and ambitious. They inspire a lot through the discussions, and they remind us what we should try for society. I can say these are a big benefit for me by teaching.

10. What are the similarities of students from Japan and Europe and what are the positive differences?

We had students from Europe, for instance from Belgium, Netherlands and Czech. This is from my personal point of view, Japanese students conceive the idea from materials and processes, and European students have design-based ideas before they start making. This is just from my observations, but it is interesting to see how they work together in a studio. They inspire each other and they expand their ideas together.

Landscape Transducer#1, 2020

11. How would you define contemporary glass in Japan at the moment?

We have several maestros who made master pieces in Japan after the 20’, and we think they are the pioneers of contemporary glass. However, we generally understand contemporary glass as the pieces that are made as a one-of-a-kind (unique) piece in both craft and art field, especially after the studio glass movements in Czech and the U.S. The Toyama Glass Art Museum has launched an international glass exhibition and we see that the category of glass art gets more diversity of expression year by year, and these trends tell us about the contemporary glass, so do the other glass exhibitions all over the world.

12. What are your favourite European artists, studios and/ or places?

From my small experiences of my visit to Europe, I was touched by the Czech glass and the Murano island. Of course, both of them are the center of glass in history and I have no other names to mention. Besides this reason, I can give so many Czech artists who make great sculptures and public art in glass, because TIGA has a big relationship with Czech glass and we had information through Czech artist who had taught at TIGA. Also I love glass blowing and I have learnt it from Maestros from Murano. The history of Venetian glass is so fascinating and dynamic, and it has been an influence on my work.

13. You communicate with artists, studios and educators internationally. What is the prevailing mood currently?

We are on the next stage of contemporary glass after the studio glass movement, and I think we are going the alternative way in each country. I feel that many of the European countries are going towards design-oriented products with skilled craft, and they are expanding the glass as a medium in contemporary art in the U.S. We have a long tradition in craft in Japan and we appreciate it in the glass field, too. However, we are also expanding the glass by combining, collaborating with other fields in a society. I am looking forward to seeing the change in the next decade.

14. The contemporary glass world is built on mobility: artists and their projects are not subjected to national borders, they travel and work in different countries, and their works are exhibited globally. How do you think the international glass scene will change after this crisis?

This is a difficult question and I am not a fortune teller…but as you said the world is changing, and I have several thoughts…

We had (or had to have) more opportunities to try new technologies and we have found out how we can utilize them in art and craft for this new world. This will change our communications, art, design and craft, and the digital technologies will be applied more for these. We already have an international mailing list of educators to cooperate on teaching, and this is broadening and enhancing our communication more. On the other hand, we had a chance to reconsider the locality, and this locality is the base of the globality. Each country, each area and local community will have more significance in their culture. I think the mobility that enhances our communication in the glass world

will need more appreciation from the local community in future. We still have difficulties in education to teach studio practices. We can teach theories but not physical aspects of materials and the sense of materials through the screen. I think these difficulties are the core of what we are teaching to students, and it will not be able to be replaced by other ways. Of course, this might be changed by new technology soon in future, or we might get used to the situation. However, we have to be aware that we have a lot of inventions and good designs that have been realized through studio practice with materials.

Jim Hongo

Almost an Architecture, 2019

Merging Boundary, 2018

ARTIST BIO
JIN HONGO

Jin Hongo has studied science and technology at Tohoku University, majored in metal casting. He had a chance to access to the Japanese traditional metal crafts and sculptures during his study, and he had got a big interest in arts and crafts field. Then he found ‘glass art’ and he entered in Tokyo Glass Art Institute in 1987. He spend 3years there to learn the basics of arts and glass.
In 1991 he got a teaching position at Toyama City Institute of Glass Art (TIGA), where he met many great Maestros and artists from all over the world. The days in TIGA have been giving him a big influence on his work and his life. Currently he is an associate professor at TIGA and he teaches not only there but also in many workshop all over the world.
He makes sculptures with various kinds of materials, especially he is fascinated in the possibility of glass as an art material. He also makes video work and media art work. In any type of his work, his theme is based on ‘two sides of human beings’,’the light and the shadow of high-tech world’. He always giving questions about our daily life to find the acutuality in life.

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