After conducting a long-time research, unsolved problems became clarified but at the same time uncovered more questions which needed to be investigated. That brings us to the next stage of the research. It is seemingly a never ending exploration.
Writing the dissertation at the same time to make progress on the other projects, there is more or less pressure on every student. Nevertheless, I have found that I am starting to enjoy this pressure compared with my first year. Since I have realized that through this process I am not only gaining knowledge but I have also developed self-confidence and self-awareness in order to continue to grow. In my first year, I did not fully recognise the value of the modules as I found that we were sidetracked into too many areas which I felt that I was shifted away from my main subject, however, I am learning to appreciate it even though focus on the main subject is still preferred.
I am so pleased with the trip to Jingdezheng since I physically experienced and understood the general state of Chinese ceramics as it is today at the same time to hone my skills. It is far better than only replying on reading materials. As I mentioned in my previous writing in my blog where I stated that Hong Kong people regard themselves as people who have no roots. Because of the historical reason Hong Kong was once a British colony and after 1997, it was handed back to Chinese rule. They do not belong to Britain nor to have a strong connection with China either. The visit to Jingdezhen has changed my perception towards my identity. It has directed me to my present approach in ceramics and led me to the next step of my research.
Due to a considerable amount of information after the research for the dissertation. Whether the management of time and data collection as well as the strategy on structural writing is crucial. Choosing the most appropriated information for the dissertation means we cannot afford to be complacent. Through this journey I have been offered an opportunity to improve learning skills in many levels and those can be adapted for future studying or developing my career.
The experience of writing this dissertation was exciting and exhausting. The exciting came from the physical experience exploring in another country and through this research I solved the problems that I was posing. The exhaustion was the clock ticking faster and faster but the question appeared to be never ending its necessary exploration. Of course, I should take the whole responsibility as I should have started it earlier. Furthermore, writing in a second language was challenging as part of my reading materials are in Chinese. The time spent on finding the most appropriate meaning on those specific nouns into English was lengthy. Avoiding too many differences from the original terms, Hanyu pinyin (mandarin pronunciation) was used and then added in explanation.
After I finished my dissertation, I found that I needed to continue to strengthen my critical thinking, I also recognized that my lack of enthusiasm in participating in activities is my weaknesses. That caused my performance to diminish in certain areas. However, I had a chance to improve my writing skills that is going to benefit my communication skills and my career in the future.
In my paper I raised concerns about skills being ignored. But my spirit has been geed up by an article in the Craft Council’s website which was regarding Edmund de Waal who gave his passionate speech at the Craft Council last year about craft, practical skills and hands-on actual making should be encouraged to people from their young age. He cited the thoughts of Primo Levi who valued the ability of making “….with their own, on their own, with their own head, and even better with their own hands – to make something that will last beyond them, which will have encounters with people they do not know and cannot dream of. That is the value at the heart of making.” Please allow me to give a daring speculation that skills may be coming back into importance. Abstract art when it was first introduced in Europe in the 19th Century, was already over a hundred years and has predominated the art world since then. It may be that art is undergoing a transition. In addition, I also expressed my concern about Chinese ceramics in modern times. I will take this as my next stage of exploration and hope that I can expand it into a wider context.
These three years of studying have given me a clear perception about my direction on art and design. I will continue to solidify my knowledge in ceramics meanwhile I will attempt to extend the area of studying into different fields. Jewellery, use of different materials and in particular employing the use of technology in my creations. Admittedly, technologies are becoming indispensable in our daily life and have a significant influence the way we create nowadays. I am fascinated by the technologies used in design such as 3D printing and CNC cutting which widely opens the horizon on creation.
I am sure I will make good use of the knowledge I have gained in this period of time and look forward to the next adventure.
“Time = Life. Therefore, waste your time and waste your life, or master your time and master your life.Alan Lakein
In the construction tutorial with Claire Curneen on Tuesday, we talked about the ideas we are working on. The work I offered in the tutorial was related to my my graduation. Through the work I would like to convey a feeling of calm and tranquility to the audiences and also a sense of my culture.
Within the tutorial we discussed and analysed students’ works from the scale of the their work; techniques and materials used; composition; what message we want to convey to the audiences and where are we going to display them. All of these elements are important components which informs our work and support our ideas.
Every detail in the work is a hint that links to a particular meaning or message from the artists by which audiences’ thinking or imagination will be stimulated. The message has to be strong enough to support our ideas. Questions may be raised if there was an element that could cause doubt in the work. I think the tutorial is instructive and the result is positive although sometimes being questioned would make you feel vulnerable, it is good for students to shape and formulate their ideas better and strengthen their belief in their work.
After the discussion, I was suggested to look into the work of Piet Stockmans. Since the way he uses materials is similar to the idea I am working on which is to use porcelain without glazing that allows audiences to have direct contact with the material’s smooth texture. To give a sense of Chinese porcelain and cultural identity, Claire suggested to me that to have a very slight touch of cobalt at the tip of the objects. Blue and white porcelain is an iconic symbol in Chinese ceramics and its value has been recognized internationally.
A similar tutorial was ran by Pete and Jemma on Thursday. In the tutorial Jemma provided practical advice on making a plaster mold whilst Pete pointed out what could be the weak points of our ideas that we needed to pay attention to. This was also an informative tutorial for us to understand the possibility at the weakness of our ideas and how to increase conviction in our work.
Creation is founded on doing, not thinking;
the act of making brings forth ideas which in their turn give rise to other ideas;
gradually, along the way, strange as it may seem, decisive choices are made.
Like the automatism of the ploughing farmer,
or the habit of prayer,
or the recital of mantras,
or else the repetition of an everyday gesture.
It is a search for simplicity, for calm, for physical well-being.
Comparing the tutorials with Claire and Pete, Cath is structured and logical to help us analyse our work.
Moving on to our final year we need to consider and define our position in ceramics and the context of our work in which meaning is contained. How do we position our work in a wider context and develop a particular theme which represents our own work?
Deconstruction and Reconstruction
To deconstruct the works by analysing the use of materials, making processes, form of the works, themes, textures or motifs in order to understand in-depth of the context of our ideas.
In addition, every piece of research, reading, ideas and concepts from artists and designers could also become evidence to inform the meaning of our work.
deconstruction creative process – what meaning of my work may included
Theoretical perspective to a wider context
Calm and Harmony through using objects’ form, colours or composition
Good forms and shapes
Mix of traditional and contemporary
balance the use of skills
Using the east and west concepts
Surface decoration (possibly) such as drawing, carving or may be combination of different techniques
Components meaning to the main object
To give the audiences an alternativity view in order to change the way the audiences perceive the objects
Components or other mediums will be used to enhance the meaning of the work
“Mended Cups”, 2015, Yoko Ono (1933), was used as an example in the lecture.
Starting with observation such as composition and the appearance of the work, the use of materials, surface decoration or placement as well as the background of the artist to investigate the implication and meaning of the work.
Yoko Ono who is an artist from Japan and also the widow of John Lennon. Based on the artist’s background it is quickly associated the cracked cups with a traditional repairing of broken pottery technique from Japan, Kintsugi. In general, a broken piece of ceramic will not be treasured but discarded. But the Kintsugi technique is used by the Japanese to repair broken ceramics, using a specially mixed lacquer as glue then the cracked lines will be dusted with powdered gold or silver.
At the beginning Kintsugi was conveyed the meaning of the appreciation of beauty in imperfection and was then developed to a philosophy of life.
The Mended cups and its saucers are made from porcelain and every one of them was identical, just like ordinary tea wares. On the surface of these pure white cups appear cracks like golden lines which is implying the cups were broken. On the saucers tragic events were inscripted including the date and when they happened. In one of the saucers was written “This cup was broken in New York City on 8th December 1980”, which was the date Yoko Ono’s husband John Lennon was murdered.
The identical porcelain tea cups are believed to suggest that the ordinary life in which different stories were written or to be written on it while the cracks probably represent regret, pain, frustration or hurt in life yet were repaired and had been highlighted in gold which insinuated appreciation and gratitude of those experiences to enrich our lives.
During my residency in Jingdezhen, I took time to visit Yaoli, a historical town situated in Fuliang County. Yaolli has an age-old of ceramic civilization as Jingdezhen, many architectures from the Ming and Qing Dynasties are still well preserved. In history the town was not famous for its scenery but the raw material produced, kaolin, in Kaolin Mountain where is not far the town. In the Yaoli Museum, which is actually part of the clans hall of the Chengs, sculptures made during the Cultural Revolution were displayed. The literal depiction of the Red Guard purging the capitalist and intellectual is quite dreadful but it is well illustrated a piece of important history in ceramics as well as the history of China.
My work explores and extends the creation of Chinese ceramics in which traditional skills continue to be used and integrated into contemporary artistic concepts aiming to expand into a wider context. Searching for resources from traditional culture and using them as a mirror to advance and to continue the current culture is an important element of contemporary Chinese ceramics.
I am passionate about traditional skills and interested in materials and forms. Contemporary ceramics offers a sufficient room for me to extend my intent. The interinfluence between eastern and western cultures is also the area I would like to explore further.
Artistic creation has long been restricted by rules and traditional views. In fact, in my point of view, there is difference between following tradition and with respecting tradition. In the field of ceramic art creation, to reinforce the traditional ceramics discourse through which to open up a new direction in development of ceramics is my aspiration .
In tradition, surface decoration in Chinese ceramics is always a very important part. The pureness and whiteness of the porcelain was often decorated densely whereas my work I kind of subvert the tradition while retaining it by using traditional composition and skills for decoration.
The advancement of civilization and technologies of the modern world benefit many of us, on the other hand contradiction and conflict have increasingly intensified. Seeking harmony is desired. Simplicity gives calmness through which to generate a moment of tranquillity. The organic form of the object and refined porcelain with an unglazed / partly glazed surface conveys a tactile quality as well as emphasizes the original nature of the material.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
After receiving the summer project, I took my time to go over my past experience aiming to pinpoint my future direction in ceramics especially for my third year graduation. Interestingly, the ceramics objects which triggered my interest regardless of western or eastern style are mostly very similar – well-balanced forms and shapes, which demand a high level of skills.
What type of artist and what kind of genre do I consider myself to be? This question would be hard for many experienced ceramicists or artists to answer and it is even harder for an inexperienced student like myself. Moving on to my third year I am still not very sure where I belong. In retrospect my previous experience, good skills, form and shape are my pursuit. I would position myself a formalist. I am also interested in objects that can stand alone have one meaning but will be take on a different meaning if they were placed together.
Through personal growth, I am eager to pursue my own culture and it is growing stronger within me. The study of ceramics leads me to reacquaint myself with my culture and I feel fortunate that the dissertation topic I found is related to both my subject and culture. During my final year a higher standard of graduation work is needed, plus the completion of my dissertation which is related to Chinese ceramics. In these circumstances, I applied for a residency at a pottery workshop in Jingdezhen this summer.
Artisans in Jingdezhen still insist on producing work by hand and also using traditional skills and techniques. A high level of skill and balance of form are extremely important in traditional ceramics art, everything has to be perfectly made. The porcelain work which is produced in Jingdezhen mainly tends to be conventional.
During my visit to Jingdezhen I had the opportunity to learn some of their traditional skills – throwing, carving, blue and white painting, underglaze and on-glaze painting. Those skills and techniques have been used by Jingdezhen’s ceramics artisans for hundred years. The experience of visiting Jingdezhen was fascinating. I was overwhelmed by their exquisite skills and techniques used in producing ceramics.
Either in the eastern or western culture, pottery represents tradition. People are still using the same traditional methods, pinch, slap, coiling, which were developed in ancient times to create pottery items and has an intimate relationship in our daily lives. The only difference is the life of human beings and civilizations have become far more advanced. The use of ceramics are not only limited to practical purposes but has also evolved to reflect people’s life style and personal taste, and sometimes even removed its practical value to purely aesthetic appreciation.
In fact, this phenomenon does not only exist in the modern time. Back in the 16th century when porcelain was exported to Europe from China, royals and houses of aristocracy regarded the value of Chinese porcelain the same as gold. It was always placed in cabinets, on pedestals or chambers where luxury items were held. Owning Chinese porcelain was for showing an individual’s wealth and distinguished status in society.
There is no doubt that the trip to Jingdezhen had broadened my horizons. But I felt strange that was no matter where I had been, in the streets, shops, art galleries or even roadside stalls in Jingdezhen people were selling and manufacturing similar products. In terms of designs they have not much differed from hundreds ago. A question has been raised that is whether Chinese ceramics can only live in its glorious past?
Admittedly, to sustain the legacy which has passed down from predecessors is important to make it a requirement that Chinese ceramics keep pace with the modern world as well as push its boundaries even further.
Chinese art has a certain contradiction with western modern art. Chinese traditional art is skill-oriented and heritage is essential while western art meaning is the most valued.
“‘Art’ (literally, ‘the skill of beauty’)”, Lu Peng, 1967.
“….to reject of the previous stage of art by a new art movement by which to reflect a new value of the work” (translated by author), Xu Bing, 1955.
How can they coexist and balance both these valuable elements?
Theconceptual differences of the eastern and western arts exist to some extent in contradiction and I did not know how to deal with this disagreement. I then involuntarily drew this sketch. To express the tension between these cultural difference in terms of art’s expression while illustrating my feeling at that moment.
In order to continue my idea, I began to study some other artists who have the same cultural background or the same creative ideas like mine.
Ai WeiWei “Sunflower Seeds”, 2010
Millions of porcelain seeds were made by experienced craftsmen using traditional skills and techniques out of ceramics in Jingdezhen. Every single seed was made and decorated by hand. The use of materials and techniques, the making process and the place of production gathered multi layers of meanings. The work has a very strong sense of tradition and deeply reflects the artist’s cultural background. This work fully conforms to the western conceptual art but without losing the artist’s cultural identity.
The artist Ah Xian was born in Beijing, China. He was once a rebel generation artist in his time in China but he then moved to Australia since the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1986. The works shown in these photos include “China China”, 1999, Metaphysica, 2007 and “Concrete Forrest”, 2009.
Xian employs the contemporary use of ancient mediums including blue and white painting, lacquer and cloisonné, bronze casting as well as symbolic metaphysical objects in his work. His art is the intertwining of his traditional and cultural heritage with the influences of western art.
“China China”, 1999,
This series of work was produced and finished in Jingdezhen with sponsorship of the Australia Council. These hyper realistic porcelain busts were first live casted, which is a technique from the west and had never been used in traditional art making in Chinese. Then eventually hand painted with typical blue and white patterns by skilful painters in Jingdezhen. It is unclear whether the artist deliberately covered the busts’ eyes and mouths with the iconic patterns or landscape scenery which are very often used in Chinese conventional porcelain works. The paintings like tattoos embedded into the busts signify the cultural root of the artist that is difficult to be removed. In addition, after glazing, the busts were completely covered by the glaze which enhanced the feeling of suppression as if the figures cannot articulate themselves.
The painting on the busts is usually used to demonstrate harmony and peacefulness in conventional Chinese painting. These bizarre strikingly beautiful busts are completely subverted this tradition. In contrast the works deliver a quality of fear, distress and anxiety.
The part of philosophy that is concerned with trying to understand and described the nature of truth, life, and reality. (online Longman Dictionary)
The part of philosophy that involves the study of ideas about life, existence, and other things that are not part of the physical world. (online Macmillan Dictionary)
In this series of work, live casted busts are still retained as a main subject matter but the use of material has been changed from porcelain to bronze which was once regarded as having higher value than ceramics during the Shang Dynasty (1600-1100BC). Metaphysical objects are assembled on the busts’ heads. Those objects symbolize a particular meaning in Chinese metaphysics. Forgive my limited knowledge of metaphysics as I can only base this on my personal understanding of my tradition to analyse and speculate the meaning of some of the objects which are used in this series.
Red Fish 2007
The red fish (koi carp), in Chinese culture red is associated with fire. It symbolizes good luck and energy. Red is very often seen at celebratory events such as weddings and birthdays. The koi carp represents good fortune, success and prosperity.
Crane on tortoise 2007
In Chinese mythology both the crane and tortoise symbolize immortality and longevity.
Pagoda is one of the classic buildings in ancient China. It usually relates to religion, Buddhism or Feng Shui.
Bizarre is the first impression of this series of work. Comparing with the China China, the facial expression of this series of busts show more relax. Though the placement of those auspicious objects suggest some sort of pressure on it. It is probably another way used by the artist to express his feeling towards his tradition.
Faig Ahmed is a fine art based artist from Azerbaijan. The artist engages with his tradition by using traditional rugs as his media. The artist deconstructs and reassembles the traditional patterns used on rugs to create a virtual space, or to create a transition of the patterns from a still / inert stage to melting down and flowing onto the floor. It is believed that CAD software is used to achieve the designs and are hand knitted afterwards. In some of his works the rugs have been removed from their functional purpose into a sculptural form. Traditional patterns have been distorted to a strong sense of motion which echo to the movement of the whole piece of art work. His works involve with technology and a traditional approach that give a new perspective to a conventional design.
Tension and pressure were my initial emotion towards my ideal. At the end, I found that too much concern about the use of “skill” led to certain degree of restriction. So, I started to manipulate the shape without forethought or not care too much about the initial intention as the same time to see my respond to the material. I gradually found that the simple shape and pure whiteness of the material gave me a sense of calmness.
The choice of this form is probably subconsciously reflected in my experience which I have in my research where I came across many ceramic pieces in ancient China in which yu-hu-chun vase is my preference. The shape of these vases have been one of the typical shapes in Chinese ceramics since the Song Dynasty. The elegance and well-proportioned pear-shaped curve gradually narrows down to its slender neck. The body is covered with jade-liked sage green celadon glaze. The whole piece of work deliver a feeling of serenity and calm to the audiences. Blending the eastern element into my work essentially related to ceramics is my objective. In the tutorial with Claire it was suggested that cobalt could be used to express the meaning. As blue and white is one of the classic types in Chinese ceramics history as well as being known internationally.
In traditional Chinese ceramics glazes and various surface decoration are used to cover the entire piece of work. The attention appears to be diverted to the decoration rather than to appreciate the piece as a whole. Furthermore, I would like to retain the pure simple form of the object as I found that this is the most important element of it. Its nice curve, smoothness and whiteness convey a tactile quality and calmness. Considering my intention to show the form of the piece, minimize surface decoration may be necessary. I sketched out some ideas (see next part of writing) to decorate the objects and carry out some glaze tests.
Even though I have not yet decided what kind of decoration I will use on my work, I keep practicing the craft technologies I learnt from Jingdezhen when I have time. In blue and white painting, the pigment uses for blue and white painting is cobalt, as many people know. The oxide is a strong colorant and the colour shows stability even in high firing. I also carried out a test of different types of cobalt which I brought back from Jingdezhen in order to find out the colours they would produce as well as getting to know how to use them in my work, as necessary. Instead of traditional Chinese patterns, I put in a contemporary content by using a traditional process. It is a completely different experience of painting on a flat surface and a round surface. The latter is not easy to control the brush stroke lay evenly on the surface whereas the experience of the previous one is closer to painting on paper.
There are three elements I would like to integrate into my work
To show the pure form of the objects and whiteness of the porcelain
A sense of the Orient in particular related to ceramics
Use of traditional skills
In Claire’s tutorial, she suggested that I can use cobalt to show a sense of cultural identity or Chinese ceramics that I think was a good idea. Based on her suggestion I made a sketch to estimate the general effect of the pieces. Later, in a tutorial with Pete who reminded me that cobalt could be used by other cultures and that I should aware of this. His advice drove me to develop another idea. However, I still reckon the meaning it may not strong enough to demonstration the pieces with a sense of contemporary and establishment of a new visual language on traditional basis.
After firing the vessel at 1280°C, it shrank about 13-15% from its original size. This greatly reduced its aesthetic value. In this regard, I needed to make another mold and scale the vessel up by about 15%. On the advice of Caroline, the vessel was precisely calculated and measured in sections in order to enlarge the shape without losing its original ratio.
Following the ratio which we measured on the sketch book, I marked lines on the plaster chunk then gradually turned away the excess plaster from the chunk section by section. I made a mistake when I was making this plaster chunk. I miscalculated the measurement of the plaster. It led to the plaster chunk being too wet to turn which was about 20mm from its surface. Looking for the right dryness for turning. I needed to increase the turning process from just one day to three days.
The time spent on refining the shape was no less than the turning processes. As seen from the second photo below, the plaster left at the bottom needed to be removed at the same time without disturbing the curve line of the vessel.
Finally, the enlarged plaster core had been made and ready for making a mold for slip casting. I was quite happy with the overall outcome, even though it could have been more perfect if the neck was slightly longer.
Considering that the pure form and whiteness of the object are very important elements which I do not want to disturb too much, I took the advice of Mr. Andrew Livingstone to carry out experiment on decorating the stand on which an object will be placed. The purpose of decorating the stand is not only for aesthetic value but also to give direction to the audience to reflect their thought back at the object.
The idea of this intention was derived from my observation of people who reacted to the object while I placed it in my work space. The object has been sanded 4-6 times by using sandpaper of various grit in order to deliver a skin-smooth-liked texture. This smooth texture, the curvy fullness form and the whiteness of the object convey a tactile quality which attracted people’s attention. Curiosity and imagination were also stimulated at the same time. They started to question what this object is for and how the object would be used or decorated. The object is just like a blank canvas inviting people to put in their interpretation.
In this glaze test I used different cobalt through which I would like to achieve an effect which is similar to Chinese ink painting to create my blue and white decoration on the object.
Aiming to avoid too much shrinkage to the object I tried to lower the firing temperature and at the same time to test some new clear glazes to see how they would react with the cobalt. The glaze test and the result of shrinkage were within my expectations but a new problem arose which was the clay body. The porcelain did not turn white instead it was a dull greyish colour. Although the colour of porcelain will differ depending on its production area, the whole design was completely ruined by this greyish colour.
After discussing and consulting the problems with TDs, Anne Gibbs, Claire and fellow students I carried out tests of different clay bodies and firing temperatures hoping to address the issue.
Trying to address the problem of whiteness I invested money in buying a bucket of bone china slip for experiments.
This is the first time I have used bone china slip. I was told beforehand that the material had a higher percentage of warping and shrinking during the firing but it will give a whiter tone.
The pictures below show the objects made out of different combination of porcelain and bone china slip. In the first picture, the object on the right is casted from porcelain slip, the one on the left is casted from bone china and the second picture is a different proportion of the materials. After they were bone dry, the rate of shrinkage can obviously be seen.
I did another clay body test which I hoped to get a whiter clay body but it turned the object into shards. The experiment was to layer up the bone china and porcelain slip. As the bone china tends to warp, so I slip casted a layer of bone china on top of the porcelain. At the same time, I ran some runny and stiff glaze tests that I hoped would make these two glazes partly blend together.
The glazes did not come out with the effect I expected whereas the clay came out very white which I had been trying to achieve. I believed the accident was related to either the shrinkage rate differences to the clay bodies during cooling or the temperature rising too fast in the kiln. The air trapped inside the object was forced to come out but the air hole may have been blocked by the stand where the object was placed and caused it to explode in the kiln.
But what I found may cause the clay to change to a greyish colour was the sand paper I used. Shown in the pictures below are slip casted objects using the same kind of porcelain slip but in picture [Fig.2] the one on the right was sanded before firing and the other was not.
Indeed, the bone china gave the ideal whiteness which I had been expecting. But the percentage of shrinkage is much higher than the porcelain. In addition, I have not started to test this clay body at different firing temperatures in terms of finding out about the issue of warping. Due to the time limitation, as well as spending too much time on testing the clay body this has led to me falling behind schedule. So, I took the comprise of lowering the firing temperature so that means my porcelain has not reached the stage of vitrification. Nonetheless, the porcelain will not be vitrified but I am very satisfied with the texture given by the material. I think if the porcelain had reached the stage of vitrification it will give a slight shininess that will reduce the tactile quality and our perception of the object.
Since I have lowered the firing temperature to get a whiter tone to the object, the glazes I used are no longer suitable for the work. Another series of glazes to test were commenced.
Unlike the previous tests, some of the cobalt did not show its blue due to the firing temperature not being high enough. There were only two types of cobalt which showed the blue colour at a lower firing temperature and the clay body showed cream white.
Following this test, I used the two cobalt to continue the firing test. I adjusted the firing temperature even lower in the hope that I got a whiter tone. In this test I got the whiteness but lost the cobalt blue .
Memories are like fragments, they are incomplete but subconsciously exist. Every now and then they will be sparked.
The illustration I am going to use is related to my personal memories as well as these three years of studying which has led me to the present approach. Although my techniques in drawing are still immature, I enjoy the process very much.
The illustration I drew on the objects was adopted from a technique called kai-guang, one of the popular techniques used by artisans in Jingdezhen. From the mid-late period of the Ming Dynasty, maritime trade was getting active and around the 16th to 17th century Chinese porcelain started being greatly transported to Europe. New designs of vessels had a greater extent of increasingly suiting the taste of foreign customers. It was adopted in many wares and especially used on plates. The technique is to draw outlines or patterns to create a border of small frames surrounding the main motifs or subject characters then paint within the frames with supplemental patterns. These sort of wares were largely exported to European countries.
My illustration adopted this method but it has a twist. In the traditional technique of kai-guang the frames are arranged symmetrically around the main motifs whereas in my drawing the frames were allocated in various positions and according to the curve of the objects the frames became elongated. The frames were no longer there as an auxiliary purpose, they became part of the narrative.
Since the object will be covered by paint, to avoid the image being smudged during the painting process, I divided the painting process into two parts. First, I drew with the motif profiles on the bisque fired objects by using cobalt then fired the objects at bisque temperature again. After the objects were fired the cobalt oxide was fixed on the surface and a different shade of cobalt was filled in afterward.
The idea of open a new post for only recording artworks that I am interested in has been sparked in level 5. The reason for doing this is to monitor my aesthetic changes in ceramics and art, and also for easy reference.
The following artists’ information is put in order from my level 4 till now. Some of the works I have put in personal thoughts and some are only for recording information.
Kate Blacklock, an American painter, sculptor and photographer. Most of her ceramics work is made up of porcelain busts. The porcelain busts’ surfaces act as film screens on which images are painted such as flowers, hands and multiple faces. Although her work is an exploration of themes of beauty, ageing and mortality, as stated in her website, it gives me a sense of surreal dreams, mystery, loneliness and alternation between the reality and dreams.
Sergei Isupov, is Russian artist, whose work embodies intricacy, surrealism and sexuality. Many of his works are a hybrid of humans and animals, and bust with painting on its surface that echoes to the shape of the sculpture. It is difficult to distinguish whether it is a flattened imagery or a three-dimensional form. The paintings which appear on the surface seem like tattoos embedded into human skin. These contain a hidden message or narrative implying pleasure or joy from sexuality, struggling and suffering. In addition, hidden design often appears at the base of his sculptures. His work is meticulously made and the surreal painting is so realistically painted it somewhat causes anxiety to the audiences.
Johnson Tsang, a Hong Kong based ceramics artist who employs realistic sculptures but with surreal expression. The works are usually made out of porcelain, first thrown on the wheel and then altered afterwards. A very strong sense of movement is shown in his work such as water splashing, an adorable baby bouncing on the surface of water or kissing teacups. The artist deftly demonstrates a state of softness and fluidity which completely contrasts with the character of the material. Baby figures are frequently used in his work in which innocent babies are being playful, curious and sometimes portraying agony in the realistic world.
Using the fine porcelain to create human sculptures that emphasise the quality of delicate human skin and the whiteness of the porcelain retains the innocence of children. In his work glazes are seldom used by the artist except cobalt is occasionally used. That is likely related to the cultural background of the artist.
Austrian ceramist Thomas Bohle
The first impression of the artist’s work is that of perfectionism. It demands a high level of skill and balance of form. The artist’s interest lies in double-walled vessels in which the interior and exterior shape / form differ from each other but exist harmoniously. Increasing the contrast in form, matt and shiny glazes in rich variation colours are used in his work, such as ox-blood or celadon (both are traditional Chinese glazes). Every piece is perfectly thrown on the wheel and a scalpel is often used by the artist to shape the sharply worked edges of the inwardly descending form. The vessels are then fired in an open reduction flame or a reduction firing process in a gas furnace at a temperature of 1280C. The overall appearance of his work shows a clear sense of form and precision craftsmanship.
Bobby Silverman’s installationBeyond Memory
Bobby Silverman is an artist who subtly re-contextualises the meaning of objects by stacking plates, bowls and vases together. They have their own shapes, forms and colours. Their familiar forms can be easily found in kitchen cupboards or on a dining table. Except for having their same practical value, they seem to be unrelated and can exist individually.
Ceramic has long been regarded as a functional material for creating practical objects. The artist tactfully assembles the vessels together in a group to form a botanic-like sculpture. The arrays of grouped vessels are placed on the gallery floor rather than on conventional pedestals suggesting natural scenery. The familiar forms become an unfamiliar object giving a feeling of alienation and changing the audiences’ perception towards the objects.
Other than displaying his work in an unconventional way Bobby Silverman also uses angle and degree of light intensity which saturates the colours of the vessels, and strengthen the shadows and highlight. The interplay of the lights and colourfully glazed vessels deliver a visually excitement to the audiences.
I admire the way that the artist redefines the meaning of an ordinary object. He elaborately reassembles the vessels and changes their traditional placement method, seeking to change audiences’ perception towards the objects. In this installation, ceramics retains its inherently humble quality while a new meaning to the objects is given.
Polish artist Monika Grzymala uses black and white adhesive tapes to wrap around corners, walls and ceilings of galleries and each work is site-specific. Her work transforms simple drawing marks into dynamic three dimensional artworks which are highly responsive to the conditions of a given space.
The slightly twisted adhesive tape gives the same effect as pen drawing. The tape was pulled tightly in tension giving a sense of the physical work of the artist involved in her installation.
Simon Carroll ( – 31st March 2009)
Slip decorating may be considered as unfashionable for decorating a vessel. Simon Carroll, a British artist, had a very different vision to this materials. Fascinated by the 17th – 18th century slip-decorated wares and the work of abstract expressionists, in particular Jackson Pollock and Peter Voulkos, Carroll incorporated unconventional approach into the conventional. This ingenious artist developed his own way of expression in ceramics. His work provokes strength, energy and passion. The artist also impressed by the instinctive way which people use clay which lead him to the use of intuition in creation.
Erna Kaarina Aaltonen
Erna Kaarina Aaltonen is a Finnish ceramist who makes hand-built sculptural vessels from a coarse stoneware clay with rubbing oxides on its pitted surface. The colours and organic forms of her sculpture vessels and the composition in the exhibitions made me think of our relationship with the environment especially nature. Besides the use of colours, the texture on the surface of the vessels also inform a sense of nature.
From my point of view, Erna Kaarina Aaltonen’s work has a certain degree of similarity with Boby Silverman’s. Both their work have unique shapes and forms and can exist individually. They are contradictory in style but in a way show balancing when they are composed together. This conveys a special visual effect to the audiences in which landscape views are suggested.
Sara Moorehouse, a British ceramicst.
The work of Sara Moorehouse has inspired by nature’s colour combination through changing seasons. Sara Moorehouse minimise the ever-changing colours of seasons and uses ceramics as her canvas to express the relationship of colour and spatial changing. The artist is also fascinated by the colour of landscapes changing through seasons, usch as seascapes, oilseed rape fields and coastlines. Each piece of work is hand thrown and hand painted. The use of different colours stripes on her ceramic bowls represents seasons changes over landscapes which gives the illusion of spatial phenomena.
“……When I enjoyed drawing pots back in Egypt, it never occurred to me that I would be making them.
The mark making is now a direct interaction between the hand and a lump of clay, fingers are no longer just used to hold the pencil but to exact an immediate gesture manipulating the solid mass of clay.
They become tools that are hard wired directly to our brains, forming, touching and sensing, creating a voluminous form, a container of material, thoughts and emotions.
These very tools – our fingers – become an integral part of appreciating ceramics forms when we approach them as an audience, connecting both maker and observer…..”
The teacups and teapots differ from forms and colours but carry the same nature – functionality. They will respond to their practical value if they were standalone whereas abstracted narrative is conveyed if formed into a group. The decoration of the wares is restrained and eliminated the unnecessary details to emphasize their practical purpose.