Thursday, 15 January 2015

Super Jumbo, Super Ace!

Junko Mori, Super Jumbo. Image courtesy Adrian Sassoon, London
Back in May 2012, I spent an intense hour running around the Saatchi Gallery in search of the best thing I could possibly find at Collect, the Craft Council’s international fair for contemporary objects.

I was one of nine curators from across the UK shortlisted by the Art Fund to have the chance to pitch to their acquisition committee in situ, next to the object you wished them to purchase for the collection you represented, in the hope that they would. After a nervous wait in the cafĂ© with all the other curators, one by one everyone’s phone rang and the news, positive or negative was passed on. For me, the day turned out to be an enormously exciting one. The Art Fund’s committee agreed to purchase my chosen object, Junko Mori’s Propagation Project; Super Jumbo Nigella, Wave presented at Collect by her representing gallery, Adrian Sassoon 
Junko Mori making
I had followed and loved Junko’s work since it started to appear after she graduated from Camberwell in 2000 and Super Jumbo was (and still is) her largest work to date. Made following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in her home country of Japan, it mimics the form of a wave; her signature repetitive elements this time being petals of the Nigella plant.

Almost as soon as it arrived at Touchstones Rochdale in summer 2012, the piece went on display in an exhibition of contemporary work from the collection called A Century Later. It was an immediate hit with both our visitors and our staff. Everyone had their own interpretation of what it was; a sea urchin, a bear and a myriad of other things. The following spring it came out again, this time in an exhibition combining historic and contemporary work from the collection on the theme of the sea.

And it hasn’t just stayed in Rochdale. In October 2014, the piece went on loan to Ornament, at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair and later this year it will return to Manchester – this time to Manchester Art Gallery’s exhibition Eastern Exchanges: East Asian Craft and Design which runs from Thursday 2 April - Sunday 31 May 2015.

Ever since acquiring Super Jumbo at Collect I had been pursuing the idea of a show which would bring more of Junko’s work to Rochdale, working with both Junko and Adrian Sassoon. This became A Common Ground which is currently on display at Touchstones Rochdale and runs until Saturday 7 March. It also features two other Japanese-born, UK-based artists, the ceramicist Ikuko Iwamoto and the jeweller Kayo Saito. All three have a shared interest in the natural environment as a source of inspiration for their work.

If you’d like to hear Junko Mori talk about Super Jumbo and her practice more generally, join us on Saturday 21 February from 2pm to 3pm at Touchstones Rochdale. Junko will give an informal talk in the exhibition space. The event is free, but pre-booking is required by phoning us on 01706 924492.

Through the acquisition of one piece, we have brought fresh perspectives to existing works in the collection, curated a contemporary exhibition bringing together three artists for the first time in a public gallery and are enabling opportunities for it to be seen by a wider audience through loaning to other exhibitions. It has also had a huge impact on my life in another way too, but that’s a whole other story!

Yvonne Hardman
Art Gallery Officer
Touchstones Rochdale
January 2015

Images courtesy of Adrian Sassoon, London