Fumiki Taguchi's Solo exhibition TRACE. An exhibition review by Makiko Akiyama

Published: 18.10.2019
Makiko Akiyama
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Top: TRACE (2019). Necklace. Material: silver, rhodium coating.
. Bottom: A necklace (about 100 years ago). Material: silver, turquoise, marcasite. Photo by Tomas Svab..
Top: TRACE (2019). Necklace. Material: silver, rhodium coating.
Bottom: A necklace (about 100 years ago). Material: silver, turquoise, marcasite. Photo by Tomas Svab.

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Fumiki Taguchi’s solo exhibition, entitled TRACE took place at gallery C.A.J. in Kyoto, Japan from 31 August to 22 September 2019. It displayed five new pieces and eighteen past pieces by the jewellery artist. All of them used silver and wabori, a Japanese engraving technique that has dominated Fumiki’s oeuvre to this day.

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Wabori is essential to Fumiki’s practice. While yobori is a Japanese name for European engraving, wabori was first brought from Korea and developed in a unique way. It was once used to craft sword fittings. A Yobori craftsperson uses a chisel with a round handle and pushes it with his hand, its blade pointing outward, while holding a working piece with the other hand. By contrast, a wabori uses stick-shaped chisels whose ends are sharpened to form various blades. A craftsperson puts the blade on a piece and hammers the chisel’s other end with the blade moving towards the body. Both techniques can produce similar effects, depending on the blade’s shape, but in general, yobori engraving is said to be fine and delicate, while wabori engraving is strong and powerful.

 White Expression series (2019). Brooch/pendant. Material: silver, rhodium coating. Size 60 x 80 x 25 mm. Photo by the artist.

White Expression series (2019). Brooch/pendant. Material: silver, rhodium coating. Size 60 x 80 x 25 mm. Photo by the artist.

All the exhibits in the show featured a diamond-like sparkle produced by wabori. The lustre becomes even stronger when the work is made by delicately and precisely piercing silver plates and then layering them. And what interests me most about Fumiki’s work is the criticality that these dazzling surfaces possess.
People sometimes deprecate surfaces. You can see it from a negative usage of the words, like superficial and cosmetic. However, does it remain true when an arresting surface obscures the underlying object?
Most motifs in Fumiki’s wabori works have taken their inspiration from the forms and symbols of European origin, and Fumiki embellishes their surfaces with wabori engraving, whose sparkle often stops a viewer from recognising the details of the object. Although it is sometimes doubtful that there is an accepted cultural demarcation of Europe versus Japan, the covering looks as if it is an attempt to invade and eventually take over a different cultural context, while manifesting a longing for it. And such an invasion is happening in jewellery, a medium that is germane to surface and appearance, which could be read both as a warning for the wearer and a celebration of wearable objects. Both interpretations stem from a question that Fumiki poses: can we underestimate a surface embellishment as a mere decoration?

A comparison of the original parure and its reproduction by Fumiki Taguchi. Photo by the artist.

Fumiki's new work in this exhibition is a faithful reproduction of a parure(*) that was allegedly crafted in the UK about a hundred years ago. The artist, however, replaced the silver, marcasite and turquoise that were used in the original jewellery, with a radiance of wabori engraving effect on the silver. The work is seemingly the embodiment of a compliant and inactive act of reproduction, but the artist’s covering of the surface with his signature technique also suggests both an ominous gesture of rewriting someone else’s history and a respect for it. This aspect echoes the spirit of his past works but the use of a historical object and the renewing of its appearance present a new question – how could we define the originality and modernity of a man-made object?

TRACE (2019). Parure. Material: silver, rhodium coating. Photo by the artist.

We should remember that the original parure had been made as a commodity. Concealing its surface by the artist’s hand appears to imply the dominance of art over commercialism and alludes to jewellery’s inseparability from commerce. Such equivocality points to mixed attitudes towards commerce and art that is seen in the contemporary jewellery circle.
Thus, Fumiki Taguchi’s work sheds light on jewellery’s various dispositions. I, as one of the viewers, shall wait and see how his new move will develop.

*A set of jewellery worn as a combination that appeared in the 18th century. It usually consisted of a necklace, earrings, a brooch, a ring, a bracelet and, occasionally, a tiara. (Momozawa, Toshiyuki (2007). Jewellery Gengogaku: Jewellery Bunka eno Gengo karano Approach (Jewellery Linguistics: Linguistic Approach to Jewellery Culture), Tokyo: Matsubara-Kashiwa Books Inc. p351).

1. Katori, Masahiko, Io, Toshio and Ibuse Keisuke (1986). Kinko no Dento Gijyutsu (Traditional Metal Working Techniques), Tokyo: Rikogaku Sha.
2. Toporski, Katja (2016) Sleeping Beauties: The Fermenting Jewels of Fumiki Taguchi. metalsmith, vol36/No.3, pp36-43.


About the author

Makiko Akiyama. Writer and translator. Born in 1979 in Osaka, Japan. In 2013 launched a newsletter for Japanese readers featuring translated articles about art jewelry. Contributing writer for klimt02, Current Obsession, Art Jewelry Forum, and Norwegian Crafts.