Toyoharu Kii: Master of Modern Mosaics
A leader in the global craft resurgence, Japan-based artist Toyoharu Kii works with hand-cut Italian marble and smalti, Venetian glass handmade by the same Italian family for over 400 years. Constructed using traditional techniques, his art is nonetheless modern. Kii’s work is monochromatic, abstract, and highly textured — highlighting the intricate process in the often-overlooked art of mosaic making.
Japanese screens inspired Kii’s recent mosaic, “A Corner of Town.” In traditional Japanese screen-painting, clouds are expressed as solid shapes of gold color and juxtaposed with bird’s-eye views of intricately painted cities. Kii modernizes that language, using texture to assume the role of color. In this piece, he contrasts shapes composed of similarly sized tesserae with varied patterns that suggest trees, a bridge and a wandering stream.
Born in Ehime, Japan in 1953, Kii studied at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts in the 1970s. After graduating, he traveled to Italy on a scholarship from the Italian government. In Florence, he learned traditional stone mosaic making. He took the knowledge back with him to Japan, where he opened Mosaic Atelier ING.
He has come to be revered as one of Japan’s leading mosaic artists and teachers, and has served as Chairman of the Mosaic Art Association. He currently lectures part-time at Joshibi University of Art and Design and Musashino Art University. His work has been featured in exhibitions worldwide, most recently in exhibitions in the US, Ravenna, Italy, and Turkey. Kii also creates incredible large-scale mosaic installations in public spaces.
In recent years, Kii’s expanding influence has moved from Asia to the rest of the world. In June, 2016, he traveled from Japan to Chicago and opened his first exhibition at PAGODA RED. Toyoharu Kii: Modern Mosaic // Ancient Process featured works in marble and smalti from the last seven years. In 2017, he won Best in Show and Juror’s Choice Awards at SAMA (The Society of American Mosaic Artists).
This summer, PAGODA RED will host Toyoharu Kii: New Frontier, from June 8 to July 28, 2017. Kii will be in Chicago, teaching a workshop at the Chicago Mosaic School, and will attend the June 8 opening at PAGODA RED. He is also accepting commissions—contact us for more information.