Spring 2015: Contemporary Chinese Ceramics- Xu Qun

XuQun (photo from Linda Ganstrom slide show)

Xu Qun is a professor of ceramics at China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China.  I am particularly drawn to her very smooth, elegant forms and simple, clean glazing.  In her artist’s statement she names utility and “simplicity and serenity” as paramount ideas within her work, building connections to “the very nature of being human”.

These ideas of getting to the root of things are fascinating to me, especially in that she uses functional ware to do this, where I am telling stories.  I love that leap into function as the unifying factor and use as the goal.  Perhaps this combined effect of simplicity and functional utility, as well as building connections, can become more prominent in my work.  In any case, the smooth purity of the clay and crisp coolness of the Celadon glaze, in conjunction with such graceful forms, give my mind a sense of stillness that I can deeply appreciate.

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Spring 2015: Contemporary Chinese Ceramics- Yanze Jiang

Yanze Jiang is a ceramic artist based at Nanjing Arts Institute.  She uses porcelain slabs and traditional pottery techniques and glazes to make “abstract or conceptual works”. (Ceramics Today)

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The graceful lines of her abstract landscape-esque works, paired with the chill of her celadon glazes, create a visual environment that is both eerie and pure.  Having experimented a bit with celadons this semester, I covet the crispness of her glaze, likely due to her glaze being used on porcelain as opposed to my stoneware (given other mineral content).

Also, after venturing into repetition of form a bit this semester, her piece “Teapots on Parade” is deeply satisfying.  That the curves of each teapot echo each other so precisely, and they stand at attention before the “lead teapot” is a great balance of refinement and humor.

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Lastly, this set of inversely matched cups is an inspiration for my future tea sets.  This level of precision and balance is a stretch for me, so this set substantially raises the bar on what I hope to do.

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Spring 2015: Contemporary Chinese Ceramics- Jin Zhenhua

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According to Jin Zhenhua’s statement online, her work captures and celebrates the rhythms and beauty of nature.  She specifically uses the word “fleeting” to describe this beauty and rhythm, and this fits her aesthetic well.  From her studio in Jigdezhen, she creates some of the most graceful and fluid work I have ever seen.  I would love to see these pieces in person and follow the lines and curves all the way around.  In the work shown above, the interaction of light and shadow around and between the folds and curves of the clay create such a sense of purity and life, and also that “fleeting” element, a tenderness permeating the strength of the lines and forms.  This is a powerful combination of ideas to me- the powerful and ephemeral sides of the world.

(Image: Jin Zhenhua- Imperishable Vitality. ceramicsannual.org)

Spring 2015: Contemporary Chinese Ceramics- Lu Bin

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Lu Bin’s work is new to me, but I was immediately drawn in by his references to fossils and historical relics.  Above, Fossil6 from 2001 and Great Dharani13 from 2012, demonstrate the progression of his work from “stone” fossils to crumbling clay documents.

The fossil stones tied up in string are fascinating to me.  Making a special package of something old, marking it, and bringing it current importance and relevance, in a way reversing the fossilization process, is a simple but profound contextual gymnastic.

His work ranges broadly and is quite varied in technique and appearance, but always connects to historical environmental and cultural references.  Lu Bin was born in 1961 and has exhibited widely in Asia and Europe.

Spring 2015: Contemporary Chinese Ceramics- Ai Wei Wei

Ai Wei Wei is a difficult artist for me, and I am only just beginning to figure out why, because when it comes down to it, I like his work.  And I really, really like the Sunflower Seeds installation.

To start, why this is hard for me: As best I can tell, and I may be wrong, there is a deeply embedded ridge of compliance and obedience in my psyche, which causes me to resist/be flummoxed by drama and confrontation in and of themselves, and confrontational/controversial art as well. (This is in reference to the Dropping the Urn performance piece.) The underbelly of that is that I am also perversely drawn to it, moth to a flame.  It would have horrified me as a kid to damage someone’s plastic Wal-Mart bowl, much less as an artist, to destroy a (replica?) ancient artifact.  There is some disjunct in my mind when art destroys something… But it’s all a cycle of life and death, right?  So to burst the chains of thousands of years of deeply ingrained culture makes sense in a larger view, I suppose, even if it seems somewhat sacrilegious in the moment. That is a hard idea for me to hold, but I’ll go with it, and learn to understand Ai Wei Wei’s work from the basis of loving Sunflower Seeds.

Sunflower Seeds:

Sunflower Seeds (Tate Modern) (Photo from Linda Ganstrom’s slide presentation)

This installation consists of 100 million handmade, handpainted, and fired porcelain sunflower seeds. Many artisans at Jingdezhen created these seeds for Ai Wei Wei, and the installation filled a hall of the Tate Modern in London.  My interest in repetition, interaction, and just the sheer quantity of work, draws me to this piece.  This sea of individuals is also a little overwhelming in that we are all in a sea of individuals, and while we may be really important in our own little space, where do we fit in among, say, 100 million others?

Spring 2015: Series 2- a book of cups in tea tray chapters

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For Series 2, I based a series of cups upon moments in life that contain a mix of emotions. These particular moments were drawn from experiences drawing upon Trust, Love, Disillusionment, Joy, and Ambivalence.  The cups are meant to be gathered into themed chapters in the tea trays, and can be interpreted by the viewer as to which chapter they belong in.  Chapters are titled “Just Once”, “Are your current successes worth the price I paid?”, “Only an unsettling rhythm can explain this.”, “You froze me.”, “Public… Private…”, “There are no words for this.”, and “I would marry you”.  Each of these chapters can be a positive or a negative, or ambivalent, depending upon which cups are placed in the trays, changing and inverting the stories into an open book for my stories to become the viewers’ stories.  These cups are glazed with Light Green Celadon and Iron Oxide stain, and images and text are carved and stamped into the cup body.  The trays are glazed with a layer of Iron Oxide stain, then Winokur Yellow overlaid with Light Green Celadon, and stamped with text.

Spring 2015: Series 3- Short Film Storyboard Wall Plates

During this semester in my drawing class, I chose to do a 13 panel storyboard/graphic novel of a short film idea that I have carried around in my head for years.  I have since made a series of zines from those images, which led to the idea of doing a clay storyboard/novel/zine piece.  This set is a somewhat simplified version of the narrative from my drawings, so a hand-bound zine of the drawing series will be displayed with the set to add depth to the storyline (photos of the images and zines are forthcoming).

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