Yoshio Okada

The son of Yūji Okada, another distinguished lacquer artist, Yoshio Okada (b. 1977) has spent decades mastering his demanding and time-honored craft. Success generally comes slowly in the cultural environment of Kyoto (his native city) but at little over 40 years of age he has already garnered local and global recognition. It is as if a great master of the late Edo period (1615-1868) or Meiji era (1868-1912)-widely considered golden ages in the history of Japanese lacquer-had been born into our contemporary world, brilliantly melding elements of East and West, tradition and modernity, to dramatic new effect.


For his two most recent series, "Celestial Phenomena" and "Jellyfish," Okada revived ancient techniques to create lacquer boxes-seldom more than five inches in length- imbued with a sense of cosmic mystery. Devoted to depictions of heavenly bodies seen through fleeting clouds, many of the "Celestial Phenomena" boxes are fashioned in the seventh-century kanshitsu technique that combines hemp cloth and lacquer sap. This unusual material remains flexible for a while, enabling the artist to create profiles that match the sky's curve and create a setting for gold, silver, and shell decoration that lies flush with a highly polished black-lacquer background. Okada's awe-inspiring astronomical miniatures are sought after by collectors and museums worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago which acquired his Rising Sun, Red Clouds box in 2013.


Inspired by the idea of ocean creatures resembling multiple moons reflected on the surface of the night sea, the later "Jellyfish" series conjures up an immersive sense of depth, brilliantly exploiting the painstaking, progressive nature of lacquer decoration to create the illusion of creatures swimming at different depths in clear ocean waters. The darker jellyfish with feathery, trailing tentacles are applied first, then covered with layers of reddish-brown lacquer, followed by lighter-colored fish.


With titles such as "Floating," "Flickering," "Fluttering," or "Hovering," the "Jellyfish" boxes mark a further step in Okada's project to use meticulous, laborious processes to achieve the lightest and most evanescent of visual effects. The resulting works are compelling fusions of time-honored skills with contemporary sensibility.


Career and Awards

1977 Born in Kyoto
1995 Graduated from Kyoto City Dohda Senior School of Arts
1999 Graduated from Lacquer Arts Section, School of Art, Tohoku University of Art and Design, Yamagata
2000 Graduated from the Miyako Technical Institute, Kyoto City Specialist Lacquer Training
2001- Works at the Shiun Lacquer Studio and Lacquer Restoration Studio, Kyoto
2007 Awarded the Newcomer's Prize at the 36th Traditional Japanese Craft Exhibition, Kyoto-Area Edition
2009 Prizewinner at the 17th Beauty of Urushi Japanese Lacquer Exhibition
2010 Awarded the Governor of Kyoto's Prize at the 42nd Kyoto Lacquer Exhibition
2016 Awarded the Kyoto City New Artists' Prize in recognition of his contribution to the cultural life of the city, national critical acclaim, and future potential


Selected Exhibitions

2007 36th Traditional Japanese Craft Exhibition, Kyoto-Area Edition
2008 37th Traditional Japanese Craft Exhibition, Kyoto-Area Edition
2009 17th Beauty of Urushi Japanese Lacquer Exhibition
2010 42nd Kyoto Lacquer Exhibition
2011 Golden Treasures: Japanese Gold Lacquer Boxes, Erik Thomsen Gallery, New York
2012 Japanese Contemporary Lacquer Show by Yūji and Yoshio Okada, Monterey, Calif.
2013 Transparency of Art: Young Nippon Beyond, Rostock, Germany
42nd Traditional Japanese Craft Exhibition, Kyoto-Area Edition
2014 43rd Traditional Japanese Craft Exhibition, Kyoto-Area Edition
2016 Contemporary Lacquer by Yoshio Okada, Erik Thomsen Gallery, New York
2018 Lacquer Works by Yoshio Okada, Thomsen Gallery, New York
2021 Lacquer Art by Yoshio Okada, Thomsen Gallery, New York


Public Collections

2013 Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
2018 Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
2018 Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut