With bulbous bodies and bemused expressions, En Iwamura’s sculptures are the definition of endearing

Based on ancient Japanese Haniwa figures, the sculptures are intended to induce feelings of tranquillity and joyfulness in their viewers.

17 June 2022


Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, many creatives turned to their practices to respond to the chaos and confusion that ensued – capturing the terror and feelings of helplessness unfolding on a day-to-day basis. Others, however, were compelled to create work that transported their audience away from the tumult, to somewhere much more joyful.

One such artist who falls firmly into the latter category is sculptor En Imawura. His series of characterful sculptures, entitled Neo Jomon: Beans, are the definition of endearing, with satisfyingly bulbous bodies and bemused expressions. Created with the aim of invoking “a sense of lively wondrous innocence”, En hopes his works will “take the viewer to a new metaphysical realm, acting as the ultimate prompt for contemplation”.

The universality of sculpture and its ability to visually convey messages is what drew En to it as a medium. Initially, he tried and “failed” to get onto a painting major, to only then be accepted onto a craft major. Not really having any idea what “craft” entailed, En eventually found himself enamoured with how sculpture transcended national boundaries and existed as an “international language”, which can tap into different cultures, people and countries. “Ceramics exist in most different cultures albeit in different styles,” En expands. “Through ceramics, I thought I could communicate with people who live in different time and cultural zones.”


En Iwamura: Neo Jomon: Beans (Copyright © En Iwamura, 2022)

Specifically, the Neo Jomon: Beans sculptures refer to ancient Japanese figures, known as Haniwa, who typically possess characteristics of neutral facial expressions, hollowed out eyes and minimalist features, En explains. More loosely, their ambiguous sense of “tranquillity” is influenced by the scenery of En’s workspace, located in Shigaraki in the countryside of Japan, where “life is quiet, and the pace is slow”. En adds, “After coming to a big city from a quiet place, I noticed that everything moves so quickly and eventually becomes overwhelming, filled with endless energy and possibilities in every corner." These ideas are built upon in a current exhibition of the series at the WOAW gallery in Hong Kong, where the sculptures are interspersed between green foliage, creating an indoor garden.

This slower pace and more considered way of doing things is reflected in En’s process; sculpture being a medium that requires patience – something the artist clearly has in abundance. Starting with the coil building, En then scores and draws lines on the clay’s surface. Followed by one round in the kiln, En then adds a colourful glaze to the sculptures, after which they’re put in the kiln for a second round of firing. Both tricky and elaborate, it's a process that can take days and even a matter of weeks. With such careful attention to create something so joyful, we would certainly like to stumble across one of En’s sculptures in our own garden, that’s for sure.

GalleryEn Iwamura: Neo Jomon: Beans (Copyright © En Iwamura, 2022)

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En Iwamura: Neo Jomon: Beans (Copyright © En Iwamura, 2022)

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About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English Literature and History, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

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