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Robert Fornell

Having spent 8 plus years living in Japan, the experience fundamentally and profoundly changed not only my work, but my outlook/view on life, and this is further reinforced with my continued work in my studio in Seattle WA, as well as my yearly trips back to Japan to recharge and absorb.

While in Japan I was making primarily works for the table and as such I became keenly aware of the interaction between serving piece and the food that it contained. Among the primary concerns of coupling food and the piece in which it is served upon is color, and after a number of years working there my color palette gradually came to focus on the extremes of the color scale, black and white. As well, when venturing into Tokyo from my countryside studio, I often found myself in a wonderful calligraphy museum located in Ueno Park, where I would sit in silence looking at the work as well as taking respite from the cacophony of Tokyo outside. These experiences would have a strong influence of my work which continues today as I find myself working in clays of black and white, utilizing white slip as surface decoration, and finally choosing a color palette of glazes that by themselves tend to be black and white. However when fired in a variety of atmospheres and temperature ranges, working the edges of their respective firing ranges, a variety of subtle colors can be coaxed from these few base glaze formulas.

A portion of the work presented here, while small in scale and focused for the most part on the vessel and it's abstraction, is an attempt to add a somewhat sculptural and intimate take to vessel forms be it covered containers or more utilitarian pieces for drinkThe carved porcelain pieces are worked in a variety of stages of moisture content, with breaking/fissuring/cracking as well as cutting before carving out the body of the piece, and these are left unglazed for the most part. The carved boxes with their black lids originated with a conversation that I had with a friend in which she expressed her desire to have a box where people could write down their hurts or perceived injustices against them then close the box up and throw it in the river, thus achieving a psychological cleansing which would enable people to move on rather than continue to suffer internally and carry negative emotions/baggage around with them. A second approach that I take is to throw tubes then cut or tear them apart before reassembling. This series originated with the tsunami and subsequent melt down of the Fukushima reactors in Japan of 2011, and it was my reaction to the destruction caused by nature at first and then exacerbated by man with the work carrying an distinct industrial feel to it with its' dark gray or black surface and their angularities.

My teaware, chawan and mizusashi, tend to give my studio work a sense of structure and grounding as when creating a chawan, there are any number of parameters which must be met such as size, the shape of the tea well, lift of the bowl e.t.c. While some of the chawan are indeed just that in the truest sense of the word, however I have given myself a degree of freedom the others which helps me to expand my vocabulary overall. There is a concept in Japan, Shu Ha Li which is to learn and obey/respect the rules, then to break them and leave them behind finally only to return again changed and hopefully enlightened. I find this a great concept when creating works for tea.

Robert Fornell - Tengu Chawan #7 Robert Fornell - Tengu Chawan #5, v1 Robert Fornell - Tengu Chawan #5, v2
Robert Fornell - Tengu Chawan #6 Robert Fornell - Black Iron Chawan #8 Robert Fornell - Tengu Chawan #3
Robert Fornell - Tengu Chawan #4 Robert Fornell - Kohiki Chawan #9 Robert Fornell - Kohiki Chawan #10
Robert Fornell - Hurt Box #13 Robert Fornell - Hurt Box #14 Robert Fornell - Hurt Box #12
Robert Fornell - Kurinuki Sake Server #16 Robert Fornell - Kurinuki Guinomi #18 Robert Fornell - Kurinuki Sake Server #17
Robert Fornell - Kurinuki Lidded Form #15 Robert Fornell - Tengu Mizusashi #1, v2 Robert Fornell - Tengu Mizusashi #1, v1
Robert Fornell - Kurinuki Bottle/Vase #11 Robert Fornell - Black Iron Sake Cup Robert Fornell - Three Guinomi


1988 - 1996 Working artist Kyoto - Tokyo , Japan
1989 Japan Research Center , Kyoto Japan
1982 M.F.A. University of  Washington ,  Seattle  WA
1980 B.F.A. Summa Cum Laude, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Selected Solo Exhibitions
            2014               Works From the 21st Century, Tacoma Community College, Tacoma, WA
            2013               Sanwado/Sagamiya Bijitsu, Ginza, Tokyo, Japan
            2012               Cavin Morris Gallery, New York, NY
            2012               NCECA, Seattle Design Center, Seattle, WA
            2011               The Nevica Project, Chicago, IL
            2005               Urasenke Foundation, Seattle, WA
            2005               Japan Fall Festival, Bellevue WA
            2003               Japan Fall Festival, Bellevue, WA
            2001               Kobo Gallery, Seattle WA

Selected Group Exhibitions
            2018               Tea II, Pots Associated with Tea, Schaller Gallery, St. Joseph, MI
            2017               The Art of Ambience, Contemporary Sake Ware, Schaller Gallery,
                                   St. Joseph, MI
            2016               Earth Skin, Cavin Morris Gallery, New York, NY
            2016               Contemporary Sake Ware, Lacoste Gallery, Concord, MA
            2016               Nevica Gallery at NCECA, Kansas City, MO
            2013               Tea: Time/Space Interval, International Invitational Exhibition
                                   21st Century Museum of Art, Kanazawa, Japan
            2013               SPCS Faculty Exhibition at the Seattle Design Center
            2012               The Contemporary Art of Chawan, Cavin Morris Gallery, NY, NY
            2012                A Kindred Spirit, Lacoste Gallery, Concord, MA
2012               Teaware From the Edge, NCECA, Tacoma Community College,
                       Tacoma, WA
2012               Cups, Pots Gallery, Seattle, WA
2012               Woodkilns of the Northwest, Pots Gallery, Seattle WA
2012               Tea Ceramics, The Art League, Washington DC