Kohara is a man apart, an individualist. Born in Shigaraki in 1954, Kohara says that he is utterly self-taught, in the sense that he had no formal schooling in ceramic art, and he apprenticed to no master. Shigaraki is, however, one of the six ancient kiln sites of Japan and is today home to hundreds of potters. Kohara’s aesthetic sense and technique have undoubtedly been shaped by the strong Shigaraki tradition and challenged by the competitive atmosphere.
The landscape itself is an inspiration. The trip from Kyoto to Shigaraki valley unveils mountain after mountain clothed in lush greens ranging from the light spring green of a bamboo grove to the deep green of pine forests. Here and there are sparks of red and white flower blossoms. But Kohara is no mountain hermit potter. He is an exuberant modernist, international in his tastes, and passionate about his many interests. His little red Peugeot sports car zips along to the music of Louis Armstrong and Judy Garland. He loves Miro’s paintings, admires baseball star Matsui, and relaxes by scuba diving. His favorite ceramic artist? “Sueharu Fukami....because he creates something I cannot achieve. It is my challenge.”
The celebrated dense, grainy clay of Shigaraki is an ideal medium for Kohara’s art, which combines freshness and spontaneity with a nod toward tradition. His glazes are simply wonderful - very melted, very flowing, with a muted, but impressive, color spectrum, in some pieces ranging from champagne to amber to seafoam green. The gentleness, almost prettiness, of his glazes form an unexpected and thoroughly satisfying contrast to his strong, muscular forms. His forms are always just a little bit bigger, a little bit longer, a little bit stronger than one would expect. He notes that it is increasingly hard to handle the weight of the pole as he gets older. His work is Shibui (sober, quiet, refined), but with an underlying strength. This is very self-assured work – spontaneous, direct, emotional – much like the artist himself, and the landscape he calls home.