”Lacquerware Artist, Kiyoshi Torige” Culture is Something to Enjoy

”Lacquerware Artist, Kiyoshi Torige”
Culture is Something to Enjoy

Lacquerware Artist who Once Aspired to be a Painter

Kiyoshi Torige is famous for his skills in “Chingin lacquerware”. “Chingin” is a technique where pictures are filtered out on lacquered surfaces by gold powder that are rubbed into engraved scars made by special knives called ”Chingin knives”. His works are picturesque, with motion captured in sensitive lines. Many pieces depict dragonflies, rabbits, small birds, flowers and plants.
His works show off his talents, showing signs of how he once aspired to become an artist.
Back in high school, hearing that a new school for art had opened, he applied right away, later to learn that the school specialized in Wajima lacquerware.
“I didn’t understand why we had to practice drawing on 3-dimensional figures. Above anything, lacquer is such much labor. It was hard. But soon I picked up how to be in tune with lacquer, instead of trying to rule over it. Oil painting and sculpture are types of art that has a lot to do with the artist’s intention. With lacquerware, it’s more a matter of the artist’s attitude and demeanor.”

Reflecting the tension of the process

After graduation, Torige continued to brush up his Chingin skills by visiting Living National Treasure, Fumio Mae on a regular basis. Wajima lacquer is said to be a good match with Chingin with its thick coating. Although we only have 1 word for lacquerware, there are actually various types according to the region. He studied each of their features, and also assisted in restoring Okinawa lacquerware making tools. All these experiences are reflected in his works.
“Chingin is a one time thing. There is no second chance so you need determination to start.” He does not do rough sketches.
“I take pleasure in the tension. When engraving, the work is tedious and takes time. If I have a rough sketch, it will give me a sense of false reassurance, and that can cause me to make a mistake.” The dignity that you can sense through his works comes from his attitude towards his creations.

It shouldn’t be valued just because it’s lacquerware

We all have preconceptions of words like “lacquerware” and “traditional craft”. However, Torige said “I don’t want people to think this must be good because it’s traditional.”
“Instead it has to be beautiful at first glance. The design must be appealing. It must make people want to gaze at it every day, wanting to display it all the time.”
It also has to match the modern times. And he showed us a picture book made with ”Chingin” lacquer. Colorful picture books with gentle mild colors may be nice, but a picture book all in black and gold is majestic, and represents a world of fantasy.
“It is important to plant the seeds like this into the modern times. Children will see this peculiar picture book, which will stimulate their curiosity. Then, I will tell them “It’s lacquer.” No complicated lecture about tradition. It’s our culture, so it needs to be conveyed with positive vibes. Otherwise it’s not going to come across.”

”I want to compete in the world I live in now.” That is how he explained his challenge.


Artist, Kiyoshi Torige
Koto-ku Tokyo