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Woodwork Artist, Shingo Tsukuda
''An artwork can become no greater than the material''

Shingo Tsukuda, originally from Nagahama City in Shiga, is a woodwork artist. He once worked as a salesman for an art material company but before long, his passion for creating something by his own hand grew and grew. Eventually, he had no hesitation to quit his old job and start his life working with wood over 30 years ago. ''I didn't have a particular reason why I chose wood as my material of choice. There are many other possibilities to satisfy my wish to create something...'' says Tsukuda, as if almost indifferent, however, it is clear today that he was destined to work with wood.

Kuri-mono is a work made by carving or hollowing out a wooden piece with a chisel or small knife. Sashi-mono consist of several different interlocked wood pieces without the use of any nails or glue. Tsukuda's works employ either Kuri-mono or Sashi-mono skills and what is common to both is there is ''no way to return'' once he starts to carve or cut a wood piece.

''How do you choose a material for your work?'' When asked, Tsukuda replies with confidence, ''I use only the wood with value.'' To him, ''wood with value'' are the ones which emanate the authentic beauty of nature because, according to him, ''Any of my finished artworks can become no greater than the material itself.'' He adds, ''For instance, making pottery involves chances to re-do the work in the forming process if a potter doesn't like it, but woodwork never allows me to re-do once I set a chisel on a piece.'' What Tsukuda is most fond of using wood as a material is its ''stubborn'' character as wood is not very flexible. The more challenges exist, the more Tsukuda is attracted to wood as a material.

''No other countries in the world accommodate such a huge number of tree species, made possible by our rich four seasons. Wood is a reflection of Japan's seasonal beauty and I wish to transform such valuable wood into pieces of art representative of our country. Something that people can touch and feel directly. What's more, my materials have taken time to create, to grow. Many pieces reach your hand after traveling across 1000 years. I'm proud of being a woodwork artist of Japan as I can be a medium to traverse time.''

Tsukuda may have a strong pride for being a Japanese woodwork artist, but he never becomes impudent. ''I'm just one of a number of artists who is fulfilling a tiny part of a long-succeeded tradition. I don't mind if my art works look traditional or contemporary, but certainly, my works are rooted in traditional Japanese woodwork. At the same time, what is important for me is to produce pieces that can be used and appreciated by people today. While I cherish the meaning of succeeding tradition, instead of reproducing ancient art work that has no way to be used in the modern world, I would like to produce pieces that are needed by people living today.''

Finding good wood is the most exciting moment for Tsukuda. After traveling a considerably long time, a piece of wood finally reaches Tsukuda's hand. And we can be sure that he never fails to discover the best way to make something special, rebirthing the wood into a piece of art that is truly living in the 21st century.

Shingo Tsukuda Exhibition
December 21-January 13

At Rokurokudo
*Until 16:00 on Dec. 31, Closed Dec. 24, Jan. 1-3 & 7.