Spiky ceramic creatures and demons, painstakingly crafted by hand

© Shinichi Sawada

Bold visionary creatures and demons feature amongst the incredible ceramic artworks of Shinichi Sawada, Akio Kontani and Nobuo Sasaki, who will be celebrated in a new exhibition at the Jennifer Lauren Gallery in London this July.

Diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum and someone who barely speaks, Shinichi Sawada works silently and calmly, his fingers moving with complete certainty and dexterity to create his distinctive clay sculptures.

Crafting characters straight from his imagination, using locally sourced clay, the Japanese ceramicist is known for covering his works with little thorny spikes, taking around five days to complete each piece.

Often creating totem-like creatures with faces on many sides, his most recent work features denser, more rounded spikes, believed to have been influenced by his time working alongside Akio Kontani.

© Shinichi Sawada

© Shinichi Sawada

Born in 1970, Akio Kontani only became an artist four years ago, after picking up a leaflet for a local social welfare facility in the Shiga Prefecture. Since then he has been visiting a hut in the mountains alongside Shinichi Sawada, three times a week, spending up to five hours there each time.

His works are often representations of animals and demons from the realms of his imagination – bold designs that are sometimes humorous and other times dark, always forming from the mouth, and suggestive of Sawada’s influence.

© Akio Kontani

© Akio Kontani

© Akio Kontani

© Akio Kontani

Nobuo Sasaki, meanwhile, started his career in agriculture and textiles but now he focuses on woodworking and ceramics. His ceramic motifs include animals, such as gorillas, bears, birds, or imaginary demons and friends – often with a feminine appearance.

He forms his ceramics by building clay onto rolled and rounded newspaper forms, adding extra clay to form the features. He uses various needle sizes to create the texture on the outer layers. Sasaki’s work has never been shown outside of Japan.

© Nobuo Sasaki

© Nobuo Sasaki

© Nobuo Sasaki

© Nobuo Sasaki

Shinichi, Kontani, Sasaki launches on 9 July at Sway Gallery on Old Street, London and runs until 17 July 2019. Find out more: jenniferlaurengallery.com.