Hitomi Hosono’s Leaves Bowl: How Display Mediates Viewer Experience

Hitomi Hosono’s Leaves Bowl (2014) is a creation of pure white porcelain on display in The Sainsbury Centre in Norwich. Delicate individual leaves layer on top of each other to build depth and form the shape of the bowl. At the base of the bowl, these white leaves are contained within a single plane but towards the apex of the bowl they furl outwards generating a sense of motion within the piece. The artist is inspired by nature and this can be clearly seen in Leaves Bowl – it instantly evokes scenes of plants swaying in the wind. Born in Japan but currently living in the UK, Hosono’s pieces deliberately combine Japanese and European traditions to form exquisite, unique ceramics. Examples of her work can be found on display all over the world including in the British Museum, the Smithsonian Design Museum, the Musée Guimet and the Utadatsuyama Craft Gallery.

The majority of the Sainsbury Centre’s permanent collection is displayed in “The Living Area”. The unconventional style in which artworks are displayed in The Living Area was conceived by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury to mirror how they had displayed and enjoyed them in their own home. The permanent collection shows ethnographic pieces, some of which are thousands of years old, alongside modern works of art. Apart from the smallest objects, pieces are displayed individually and the visitor is free to wander between them. Leaves Bowl can be found in a glass case, just outside The Living Area, grouped with other modern and contemporary ceramics.

Directly adjacent to Leaves Bowl is Janice Tchalenko’s Bowl (1990) which on first glance seems completely different to Leaves Bowl with its bold colourful pattern and smooth, rounded sides but on studying the two bowls together their overall size and underlying shape are remarkably similar. The placement of Leaves Bowl invites the viewer to compare it to the other pieces in the display case and consider it in the context of modern ceramics – an exercise that is simultaneously stimulating and limiting. The location of this case in the commercial space, between the shop and cafe, means that it is easy to overlook or confuse with works for sale (displayed in exactly the same way).

Finally, the experience of seeing the Leaves Bowl in person compared with viewing it online is strikingly different – up close the true detail and intricacy of the sculpture can be appreciated and how this continues on the inside of the bowl noted. However, the current display does not do justice to the object. Rather than grouping Leaves Bowl with other objects in a glass case, displaying it individually against a monochromatic background would allow Leaves Bowl to be admired as a standalone work of art and the colour choice to have maximum impact. The current display makes it difficult to see the inside of Leaves Bowl, this could easily be rectified by placing it lower which would allow the detailed inside of the bowl to be on full display and would enrich the viewing experience. Despite its unfortunate placement, Leaves Bowl is still a stunning ceramic that is well worth seeing.

6 Replies to “Hitomi Hosono’s Leaves Bowl: How Display Mediates Viewer Experience

  1. Dear Zoe, thanks for setting up your blog and a wonderful first post! Very good descripriton of Hosono’s work, and good reflection about its position in the gallery. It is very interesting that you pointed out that Hosono’s and Tchalenko’s bowls work well together, and I would agree to that. What do you think would be an alternative and maybe a better way to place the Leaves Bowl within the gallery? Do you think it would fit better together with the Japanese objects, or do you think it is more appropriate to contextualise it within modern/contemporary ceramics? As for the display itself, placing it in the glass case allows viewers to contemplate it from all sides, which is also an advantage against a more static positioning against a solid background. all the best, Eugenia

    1. Dear Eugenia,
      I really enjoyed studying the bowl and writing the blog post. I agree that it is good to be able to see it from all sides but at the moment there is a metal bar in the way on one side, a pot on another and it is too high up to see inside. I would put in on its own, on a pedestal but low enough to see within. I think the choice of whether to put it in the Japan section or with modern ceramics is a difficult one because it fundamentally changes the context in which the bowl is considered. Ideally, I would put it in-between the two areas so that both aspects could be considered – but that would require a lot of rearrangement!
      All the best,

  2. Thank you for your post. I thought you were describing the bowl very well with rich vocabulary. Also, it was interesting to read how it was displayed along with your suggestion, how you compared to another bowl displayed together. I would agree to your opinion that the location was not good.

  3. Great post, Zoe. I agree that the bowl is palced in an unfortunate position. Do you think the bowl is more European- or Japanese-influenced?

    1. Hi Tom,
      Hitomi Hosono says that she is influenced both by European and Japanese culture. I think your question is difficult one to answer on multiple fronts: How do we define Japanese style and European style (which includes many different countries)? Also should it be the artist or the viewer that defines the influences on a piece? It is a very interesting question….

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