Sunday, July 15, 2012

This Just In . . .

Exhibition Entrance The 2012 Taiwan Ceramics Biennale is open through November 4th in Yingge, southwest New Taipei City.  It will re-open again at a new location, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Art from December 12th to January 27th, 2013.

An incredible show.

This past Wednesday, I attended the first of two Seminar/Workshop/Lecture Series days hosted by the Yingge Museum and found it to be fabulously organized and accommodating.  Among the speakers were leading curators, professors and artists in the field of ceramic art who presented intellectually stimulating topics that were met with both challenging questions and complimentary comments from the audience comprised of a diverse group of ceramics artists, collectors, curators, professors, students, and fans.  Highlights for me were listening to juror Walter McConnell's presentation of his own artwork, and Moyra Elliot's presentation in which she thoughtfully reviewed the exhibition, but not without tying in and addressing some of the more daunting problems with contemporary ceramic practice given it's rich, deep and layered history which mirrors mankind's. Moyra states in her written review published in the Biennale's Seminar program:

"Art - for that is what we now make in the name of ceramics - has its own discourses and we have adopted may of those terms and lost much of our public in the process. [. . .] One obvious problem here is that without our rich traditions and histories and therefore the expressions and uses that clay has been put to for millennia, how can students begin to comprehend the possibilities and therefore those initiating jumping-off points - even if to challenge them?  [. . .]  We must reground ceramics within the material cultures from which they come.  That is, the objects we make are more than physical forms and cannot be separated from the bodies of knowledge, practices and values through which they are given existence."

She ended by opening a discussion about some work's "fascinating hybridity along side some cultural baggage and personal interpretations of universal themes." To exemplify, she introduced works whose origin was complex and even confusing, such as "Duality" by artist Saya McNairn-Yanagi.  The family name of Yanagi is of Japanese origin, but the artist is a resident of the United Kingdom. Her work depicts a foreboding tension between (what appears to be) two dog-like creatures. Moyra further sheds light on the work's multi-cultural (or culturally borrowed, perhaps?) roots by explaining that Yanagi's imagery suggests the Native American mythology of the coyote as trickster.

Saya McNairn-Yanagi

This work among many others in the exhibition had an intriguing effect not only in the story of their origin, but also in terms of their scale. There were many works in the show that caught me a little off-guard when walking through the physical gallery of sculptures.  Much of the history of ceramics is based in utilitarian wares or decorative arts, both of which have a scale that is manageable for the human hand. Even architectural ceramics, such as electric insulators, brick, or tile are modular; each piece is one that a person could easily carry on his own. Given the exhibition is about 90% sculptural work and the fact that it is a major international biennale, I think my preconception was that the many of the works were, to put it simply, very large.  It was not until after I had seen "Duality" in person (I had only seen the published catalog of images) that I realized the figures were not life-sized, but figurine sized.  However, when asked if this realization changed my feeling about the meaning of the work, I couldn't decide, the life-sized coyotes still exist in my imagination. On the flip side, the works that referenced utility by being vessel-shaped in some fashion gave the impression in the catalog image that they were tea-cup to serving platter sized.  In reality, many of these works were far larger than that, obviously not meant for the dinner-table even as a centerpiece. Examples of this are Werner Nowka's "Boatform" and Mi-Ju Lee's "Draw Myself".  Some of the sculptural pieces satisfied my expectations of scale such as  Tsung-Ju Li's "Straw Clay Branches", but one must be sure to note the printed dimensions in the catalog, otherwise the image doesn't give any indication of the massiveness of these Li's works.  I was expressing some of these thoughts to my boyfriend, who is not an artist but who is continually surprising me with his attention to details and thoughtful, philosophical approaches to artwork, and he said, "Do you think your assumptions about the scale of the work have anything to do with the fact that you are aiming to work much larger in your own studio?"  In a word . . . yes. 

Another highlight of Wednesday's Seminar was meeting and conversing with new people, especially artists that also attended. To my new acquaintances, Sin-Ying Ho, Frances Lee, Bruce Taylor, and Cynthia Siegel, I hope you enjoyed your stay in Taiwan and also that we have the chance to meet again, the pleasure was mine!  

Go to Yingge and enjoy the satisfying ceramic visual feast!  If you are not in Taiwan, I've posted my pictures of the show on Flickr which does not show every work, but rather a selection based on my personal interest in some works.    

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