Dissertation PDP

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




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 installation Beyond 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.

Ashraf Hanna

“……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…..”

Julian Stair

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.

Dissertation Proposal – PDP

The reason for conduct research is mainly because problems need to be solved; or the subject of the research may be useful to the researcher; or gaining knowledge; or just for personal interest. I feel very fortunate that I found a topic, which applies to all the above elements, I am interested in and also it is related to my subject.

Chinese ceramics has a profound relationship with my culture. Its long history, the fine quality of porcelain produced and the skillful craftsmanship are highly acclaimed. The prominent history of Chinese ceramics and the advanced skills and techniques in using of glazes and high firing, which had developed since the Bronze Age. However, Chinese ceramics has seen little further development since this time and does not belong to the contemporary art world.

Since ceramics is my subject and as a Chinese person, my curiosity is raised by the issue. Born in Hong Kong, which was once a British colony, I was heavily influenced by the western culture. “Hong Kongese” are called “the people who have no root” and China is a strange place to me. The word “Chinese” was simply an adjective is used to introduce myself to my foreign friends.

My study of ceramics, motivates me to learn more about my own culture. I am hoping through this research to develop a deeper sense of my own culture, and of course, most importantly, is benefit from my studies.

In last year’s constellation, the hardest problem I encountered was art history. It is such a broad subject and very important to my study, it is not only learning about theories of art but also the long history of the western world. In the second year, critique has played the most important part in our studies. Evaluating and supporting evidence, weighing up and constructing arguments, and reflecting on individual thoughts. It has been no less easier than the art history. Through this research I would like to strengthen my skill in criticising as its important in art and I have also found that it helps analysing thoughts rationally.

After starting my research, I found that some things that were true, it turned out to be wrong. In contrast, things I thought were wrong were actually right. In these circumstances, I have to extend the area of my research. In addition, new questions have been uncovered and the focus has been gradually blurred by uncertain factors. Despite feeling rather confused, it is good to learn more and correct my misunderstanding.

Even though library provides a rich source of reference books and journals for reference, it is mainly the opinion and point of view written by western people about Chinese ceramics. There is a lack of reading material written by Chinese people, especially art critique. Given these circumstances, I decided to order books online. Since preview of books is not provided online, it is purely down to luck to get the right reading materials.

Conducting my research, I came across work of artists which was abstruse. In the modern art world, idea and concept usually play a more dominant role. That leads me to the question of whether skill is important anymore. Anyone can give ideas, so, what is the difference between ordinary people and an artist. What is the definition of an artist and an artwork? Our modules focus on helping students to develop concepts and ideas and it seems that skills have been ignored. Students spend lengthy period of time investigating and conducting research on their ideas. It is regrettable that ideas cannot be delivered because of poor execution.

I admire western art in terms of its ideas and concepts and the enthusiasm for exploring new language in materials. But it seems that my passion for ceramics is not quite connected to western contemporary ceramics art. In March, I attended the exhibition called “Ahead of the Curve”, in Bristol Museum Galleries. The exhibits in the exhibition were contemporary ceramics work from mainland China. The exhibition inspired me and through the exhibition I realised the source of my disconnection to the western ceramics is the cultural difference. One of the questions I raised in my research was how Chinese ceramics artists inject new ceramics language into their work without losing their cultural context. In fact, this is also a question for myself. Traditional Chinese ceramics embraces exquisite skills. On the stage of the contemporary art world, skill is largely ignored. How to find the balance is a major challenge.

The key to this endeavour will be a visit to Jingdezhen. I have been fascinated by this prestigious porcelain city for a long time. Traditional skills and techniques used in making ceramics throughout history are still used in Jingdezhen, and also many contemporary ceramics artists have set up their studios in Jingdezhen. It is believed that Jingdezhen is a unique place for exploring the old and new ceramics development in China. I would like to take this opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge about ceramics in China and interview local ceramics artists, if possible.

I am very much looking forward to visiting Jingdezhen and hope inspiration will be found during this trip.


MANNERISM (1520 – 1580)

This art movement flourished a brief period in the sixteenth century and did not even become a main stream art movement. It is usually quoted as an art movement that happened between the Late Renaissance and the beginning of the Baroque.

In the High Renaissance every kind of art had reached a status that close to perfection. Striving to invent a new direction of art, a new generation of artists at the time studied from the masters such as Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci then infused their own strengths and elements into their works.

Using form, colour, composition and rhythm, artists create layers of narrative in their works which usually concealed messages. Figures were usually in unnatural poses, or had an uneven proportion of torso, or a familiar figure in an unfamiliar setting which gave an element of the grotesque.

A painting of St John by Agnolo Bronzino was used in the lecture in which St John was painted as a nearly naked attractive young man. It was completely against the conventional depiction where he was usually depicted as a bearded old man.

What captured my attention was the gesture of St John. In this painting St John’s disproportionate upper body is unnaturally twisted to the left and his right index finger is pointed towards his left shoulder, which leads the audiences’ look to his left-hand side. This gesture differs from other paintings of the same subject matter where St John’s finger is pointed to the sky / heaven. In many cultures left is usually associated with something negative in contrary to right, which represents the positive. Does it imply something specific?




Another painting used in the lecture was “Deposition from the Cross”, 1528 by Jacopo Potormo. Unlike many other Mannerists’ paintings, this painting did not lay on too much detail. My first impression of this painting was that it was geometrically formed by the composition of blue, green, pink / red. Jesus’s body is painted diagonally across the canvas and it seems as though the canvas is divided into two triangles. The composition of this painting brings the audiences’ eyes to move circularly.

the_deposition_from_the_cross                  Jacopo_Pontormo_004


“Painting on White Background for the Cell of a Recluse”


Comparing with Kasimir Malevich’s the ‘Black Square’ painted in 1915, I am appreciate Joan Miro’s “Painting on White Background for the Cell of Recluse” which generously depicts a line for us to contemplate.

This painting is without subject imagery any shapes, forms or colours. The artist simply drew a long wiggly line a cross diagonally on a white (blank) canvas. My confusion grew even more after reading the title of the work.

Having read extensively on Miro’s works and looked at many examples, I went on to understand the painting.

Miro’s painting style was greatly influenced by Fauvism, Cubism and Surrealism. His works are full of colourful patterns but childlike, and dots and lines are frequently used in his paintings.

“Painting on White Background for the Cell of a Recluse” is completely against the artist’s consistent style, even the line he drew in this painting which is a very fine wandering line. In contrast with his previous paintings those lines were drawn more pithily.

Does it relate to his Catalan ethnicity, which lead him to political persecution by the Franco regime.

Although it is a very simple, thin, wiggly line, it might well be the manifestation of the artist’s strongest desire.

“I feel the need of attaining the maximum of intensity
with the minimum of means. It is this which has led me to give my painting a character of even greater bareness.”

Joan Miro

Searching my own voice

First lecture this year with Dr. Natasha Mayo. In the lecture we were asked to think about what type of artist and what kind of genre we consider to be. Will it be formalist, functional, decorative, figurative, sculptural, time-based or installation. I think it is hard to decide at this stage. Other than throwing and some hand building experience I haven’t experienced any of them. I am very interested in various surface decorating, glazes, sprigs, painting, slip, burnishing, inlay, print transfer…etc. Although I like throwing very much, most of my ideas are related to sculpture.

” The more I know, the more I don’t know.”


Searching my own voice

  (Psychology of Art)

What kind of artist I will be?  Should I refer to myself as an artist? Should it be defined by me? I think I will leave it to the audience to decide. Whether I can become an artist is not really important, the most important of all, to me, is the satisfaction I can get through the making and to see an object has successfully made.

I always struggle to choose between functional and decorative designs. I like simple elegant shapes and forms but I am also fond of playfulness, patterns, painting and vividly-coloured designs.

In my very short art and design journey I have been inspired by several people and who may have a profound influence on my future design approach. They are Lucie Rie, Sigmund Freud, Salvador Dali and Sergei Isupov.

Lucie Rie, one of the most celebrated ceramicists in the twentieth century. Her work is imbued with elegance, simplicity and clarity. I know the name of Lucie Rie from a programme called Ceramics – A Fragile History by the BBC. I was attracted by her charm while I was watching her immersed in pottery making. She was single-minded with a staunch dedication herself to pottery.

In Freud’s theory – we are living in a moral world in which people have to hold back or restrain certain urges and desires. These suppressions are made unconsciously and they are released through our dreams. I think his theory is suitable in any art genre. As an artist and designer our work is our language which reflects our inner-self, by using a conscious forms to express the unconsciousness. His theory definitely influenced Dali’s artistic approach. Many of the latter’s paintings are reflected to his childhood memories. I was amazed by his skill and quality of imagination.

I am so fascinated by the work of Sergei Isupov. His sculpture creates the illusion of two-dimensional image and three-dimensional form. The painting on the ceramics surface is very realistic, it’s like a riddle hiding a secret message.

The surrealism of Dali and Isupov could take you into another imaginative world. It could be anything, unlimited and have no boundaries.

Please click the following link back to the formal Connecions and Object(ions) project.


Constellation PDP – Year 1

When the constellation lectures first started, I felt I was lost in the middle of nowhere. There were a lot of things to learn, such as new terminology, names of artists, poets, scholars, ideologists and writers, and some of the names are in French, Italian or Spanish. Moreover, learning art is also the interaction of art history or history of the west. It has been challenging but also instructive especially to a student who comes from an eastern cultural background.

Art is an interesting and broad subject. It is not only aesthetics appreciation but also fairly philosophical. It reflects the internal feelings and emotions of artists as well as social status at that time. Artists inject their emotions and thoughts into their work abstractly. It can interact between the artists and audiences, stimulates audiences’ imagination, contemplation and curiosity thus resonates with the audiences. These questions are asked very often after viewing art work – what does it mean ? why is it art? what is art ? Understanding or interpreting the context of an art work depends an individual’s knowledge, experience, culture and imagination. It requires a lengthy journey to achieve a full understanding.

The constellation lectures help to build and strengthen my understanding of art, its history and western history which has broadened my knowledge base. I believe this is my weakness. It offers the opportunity for me to learn from a different scope of art and thought thus benefiting and improving my own practice.

I have been immersed in my original culture since I was born and it was a major part of my life. After emigrated to UK, my own culture has more or less been influenced and forgotten. Due to constellation requires on understanding of art in different aspects, such as the western history, art history, culture and biography of artists, sometimes, I compared the eastern and western style and found that it is very interesting. This experience triggered my interest to look into my own culture again and it is enthralling to compare both the east and west. The transition from one culture to another or mixing both can entail many challenges and may help to reshape the way I identify my own value and practice.

Through not only the constellation but also the first year experience, I realize that my current skills and knowledge need to be seriously strengthened. I will put more effort into finding ways of developing my weaknesses into my strengthens. Therefore, I would like to focus on doing research about eastern and western culture in terms of their art and technique. Although many students/artists try hard to be original, learning and studying from the work of other artists is inevitable. Thus, spending more time on books, videos, museums, galleries and exhibitions is also necessary . In addition, effectively managing the time is also great importance to study, as poor time management leads to too much stress and a disappointing outcome. Observation is a key component of being an artist as well. We need to take time to notice things surrounding us and be more sensitive, how colours change through seasons, how bright and dim lights project onto objects affecting perspective, how human behaviour changes the environment or is being changed by the environment. Practice is also essential as without good skills ideas cannot be delivered.

Professor Clive Cazeaux: Do I have ideas or do ideas have me?

When I first saw this title it was like I was being asked whether the chicken or the egg came first. Until Professor Cazeaux moved on to talk about English philosopher John Locke’s tabula rasa (blank slate) philosophy. He said that the human mind is a blank slate when we are born. We have nothing until our senses are impressed upon the outside world leading us to form ideas. I think it is quite convincing. Discard all the basic senses as a human, for instance, thirst, hunger, anxiety or happiness, as it cannot be changed and our individual thoughts are empty. To define an individual content is dependent on how an individual has been changed by the surrounding environment and experience. We experience life, we learn, absorb, filter and regenerate our thoughts and ideas then gradually developing who we are.

An argument about ‘art is dead’ was brought up in the lecture. Duchamp’s readymade “Fountain” was used as an example. It was considered as a sign that it was end of artistic expression. The artist is no longer he or she who expresses from him or herself. They simply borrow readymade objects around them. This gesture means art can be anything. So why draw, paint or sculpt when we can do anything. If there is no material constraint, what can be art? It has really got me thinking that whether ‘art is died’ or the ‘skill is died’. In the modern art world details of art works are usually avoided or tend to be minimised, only important elements are maintained because the meaning and concept are dominated. That is to say the skills of artists have also been minimised and are no longer important as they have been replaced by ‘meaning’. Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ might not has any aesthetic value but, in my opinion, it included a successful modern art work element. His readymade ideas successfully diverted aesthetic in art from physical to conceptual.
In the lecture Professor Cazeaux also mentioned that we are living in a pattern that has been shaped by the environment around us, which makes us who we are. I partly agree with this. Although we are living in an environment has been shaped or constructed, I believe that we are free to make our choices and decisions about who we are. As artists and designers should be true to our own feelings.