Born in 1982, Shinichi Sawada has attended Nakayoshi Fukushikai, a social welfare organisation for disabled individuals, since the year 2000, where he divides his time working in the sculpture hut up in the mountains and in the institution’s bakery. It is only feasible to work on the ceramics during the spring and summer months due to severe winter weather conditions affecting the ceramics in the open-sided hut.
Sawada is a prolific artist taking around four days to complete each ceramic piece. When Sawada works, he demonstrates such confidence and assuredness that it seems he has already envisioned how his final pieces will look. With his delicate fingers, he applies each ‘thorn/spike’ onto the main body of the piece without showing any kind of hesitation and always works in silence. These ‘thorns/spikes’ have evolved over time, becoming denser and more rounded. Sawada often has them laid out in straight orderly lines across the pieces too.
These piece are fired in hand-made wood fired ovens. They are fired constantly for three days and three nights and the oven then takes a week to cool down before they are removed. This is why the pieces have different colours across them dependent upon where they were placed in the oven.
Being autistic with little communication means that his works and their ‘thorns’ remain a mystery to us. There are however around fifteen-twenty different motifs that he looks to replicate each time but, saying this, each finished product is totally unique. He often uses one to influence to look of another he is creating. Since 2017 he has been joined in the ceramics hut by Akio Kontani and his work has taken on a different look, with less ‘thorns’ across the body of the pieces.
Sawada’s work is now in several collections around the world including the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne and the abcd collection in Paris, as well as in several contemporary artists’ collections. It was featured in Massimilioni Gioni’s Encyclopedic Palace at the Venice Biennale in 2013 and in a special booth curated by artist Javier Tellez titled The Doors of Perception at Frieze Art Fair in New York in 2019. In 2021 Sawada had a solo show at Venus over Manhattan in New York.