Elm City Scrapbook is a column alternately written by Daniella Sanchez (MC ’25) and Catherine Kausikan (GH ’25), which each week reflects on a different artwork in and around New Haven.
I grew up on an island surrounded by the sea. Its salty water holds many of my memories. I remember trawling along the coastline with my brother searching for sea glass as a child, shrieking in delight when we found a brilliant, sea-smooth shard of blue. It’s the same sea I’m looking at, 12 years later, when I tell my mother about my first tattoo, which I got in my brother’s memory. The waves keep coming, relentless and steady.
Fukami Sueharu’s porcelain sculpture echoes the sea in a single gesture. The delicate glaze is spread thin over the sloping wall of the piece. Elsewhere, on a flat plane of the clay, it pools to form a rich, glossy green. Even with all its irregularities, the curved shape forms a continuous, flowing line that implies the movement of water. A clear edge marks the horizon. In the gallery, Fukami’s work sits surrounded by antique celadons that existed long before the artist was born. View of the Distant Sea II, though lacking the functionality of Japanese ceramics, is an obvious reinvention of the same elegant tradition. There is no doubt that it belongs in its place, at home amongst the simple, evocative forms of ancient Asian pottery.
I am not sure when the next time I go back home to Singapore will be. New Haven has also become a cozy, familiar place: in this quiet world I inhabit, I revel every morning in the soft light that gently caresses each building. I find wonders here I could never access amidst the tropical humdrum of where I’m from. Still, the curves of Sueharu’s ceramics beckon. I’m looking out at the horizon line in the work’s broad expanse. The wave is about to break. I find myself longing for that cresting return to another place, a slip back to a shore I’ve kissed a thousand times before.
View of the Distant Sea II can be found in the Asian Art section of the Yale University Art Gallery.
Fukami Sueharu, View of the Distant Sea II, Japan, Showa era (1926-89), ca. 1985, molded porcelain under green glaze.