Awakening in the Night - From a conversation with Rena Kudoh

工藤玲那「Cup Flavored Drawing」

"I prefer to stay awake at night," Ms. Kudo murmured during our conversation about her artwork.


She enjoys nocturnal strolls, cherishing the solitude that night brings.


Just like reading a book or creating a piece, time spent alone seems crucial for an artist. Ms. Kudo’s current studio is nestled in mountains, a perfect spot for stargazing.


The series we're introducing today, "Cup Flavored Drawing," is a collection of ceramic drawings. This series is positioned similarly to drawings in a painting, and in it, she experiments with materials, forms, and themes.


In this selection from the 'Cup Flavored Drawing' series, 'Night' emerges as the central theme.


The creation of these works was influenced by Ms. Kudo’s visit to the Kenji Miyazawa Memorial Museum in Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture.

Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933) was a Japanese poet and children's author. His stories, blending reality and fantasy and deeply rooted in the nature and life of the Tohoku region, filled with profound insights into society, continue to captivate many readers and are still widely read today.


Kenji Miyazawa's unfinished short story "Night on the Galactic Railroad" comes to mind. It intertwines the harsh realities of a boy's life, unable to play with friends, with a fantastical journey across the starry skies aboard the Galactic Railroad. For the boy, the "night" is a journey through beautiful landscapes, a fun interaction with fellow passengers, and a poignant farewell to a friend.


It seems 'Night on the Galactic Railroad' somehow links to the artist's nights. Both share the beauty of nature, the quiet enveloped by night, and perhaps a hint of loneliness.


Some of the works in this series incorporate stones into the ceramic pieces. Ms. Kudo, a stone enthusiast, enjoys picking up various stones and has gathered quite a few at home.


Miyazawa's stories often describe minerals. An avid mineral collector and geologist, he left vivid descriptions of stones in "Night on the Galactic Railroad."


In the story, the map that the characters peer into is made of obsidian, and the river sand is described as "all being crystals, with tiny fires burning inside." (Note 1) 

At the Pliocene Coast, where they make a stop, there's a scene of picking up black, rough stones – these are actually walnut fossils from 1.2 million years ago.

These reflect Miyazawa's own discovery of a Batocera walnut fossil, dating back to the Pliocene epoch, now understood to be from the Quaternary period.


In Ms. Kudo's "Cup Flavored Drawing #204," petrified wood is embedded in the ceramic. This stone forms under specific conditions where wood becomes fossilized.


Ceramics and stones share a common origin. Ceramics come from clay, formed over long periods as stones weather, erode, and mix with organic matter, gradually transforming into clay.


It seems that when ceramics and stones, being different materials, are fired together, the nature of the stone can cause it to crack, melt, or even burst.


Ms. Kudo describes stones and ceramics in terms of "the time of stones" and "the time of ceramics." 


Stones possess their own inherent time. Carved from mountains, worn down by rivers and seas, they become rounded. Over long periods, they arrive from somewhere, ending up casually in our hands. They have a gaze that lives through a different time than humans. Stones are intrinsically beautiful.


On the other hand, ceramics are shaped by the artist. They embody time connected with the artist, gradually taking form. This process is more intense, even bordering on violent. They possess a beauty crafted by human hands.


Pay attention to the surface of her works.

The opalescent play of light,

The marbling of colors blending like a galaxy,

The soft glow of yellow, reminiscent of street lights.


Holding her works, one might discover the unique nightscapes they possess.


(Note 1) From "Night on the Galactic Railroad" by Kenji Miyazawa, Kadokawa Bunko, 2000, p.154.