ceramic art

Foxy-Wolff and The Relics of Beautiful Grotesque

These pots are the remnants of the Myownian culture which left  no discernible written language. They were discovered in an old shipwreck site and comprise the only known relics of this lost culture. We are unsure as to the purpose of these jars, one theory holds that they are for fertility purposes but the disembodied babies also suggest that they may have been for funerary purposes. There was little else recoverable at the site.

The dark heavily textured portion of the vessels describe where they were exposed to the ravages of the sea, the barnacles and erosion have compromised the surface here and the viewer will notice a graduation of damage to the vessels that likely describes the shifting topography of the body of water in which they rested.

Foxy-Wolff has had exclusive rights to the site and is thrilled to present them to viewers for the first time in history. Each object has been painstakingly cleaned and cataloged and is available for viewing in the White Gallery  at the Sangre de Christo Arts Center in Pueblo Colorado through mid January. Don’t miss this historic exhibition.

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Myownian Ship Wreck; object #519. Hidden Watcher 6”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #195. Twins Jar 10”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #036. Baby Butterfly Jar 8.5”

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Myownian Ship Wreck; object #415. Baby Ring Jar 8.5”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #382. Pony Ride Jar 9.5”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #816. Horned Baby Jar 8.75”

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Myownian Ship Wreck; object #078. Window Baby Jar 8”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #593. Baby Coat of Arms Jar 13.5”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #667 Lobster Champion Jar 9.75”

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Myownian Ship Wreck; object #709. One Arm Jar 8”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #948. Sun Baby Jar 13.5”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #228. Bug Lord Jar 7”

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Myownian Ship Wreck; object #314. Bug Baby Jar 6”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #682. Dragon Princess Jar

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #113. Running Unicorns Jar 6″

Featured Image:

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #065. Lg 100 Face Jar 9.5”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object #446. Baby King Jar 15”

Myownian Ship Wreck; object # 714 Sm 100 face Jar 7.5”

 

 

ceramic art

Inside the Black Church

The interior of the previous houses for the Magic Box and for The Empty room were furnished much like doll houses, beds, tables, chairs, dishes etc. and of course Magic Boxes and TV’s.  The interior of the church is radically different.  In the early planning stages of the project we were imagining a retirement home for gods, a place where they would play cards and wear fuzzy slippers.  As the concept distilled down and Ted’s role in the developing plot became clear it was obvious that absurd humor would not serve our needs. By the beginning of The Bear Cave project we were settled on a church for the last scene of the 4 part video project. Retirement however remained an important concept for the story so making the space both sacred and to refer to the history of the gods became the priority.  In the early planning I was still thinking of sculpting famous works in the round as I did with the stone woman, but as the space was built and “space” became important the idea evolved into relief carvings

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Images and gods were chosen from all over the world. Once one was decided on it was modified to fit the 3″ x 6″ tile slab and then was drawn in and carved.  There are 17 in all. In addition to the cultures that produced these images I was heavily influenced by wood block carvings for printmaking.

Once the carving was done and the images were complete, the originals were used to create slip casting molds, This was chosen for maximum translation of the detail. All were poured at once so that they could be kept on the same firing schedule. After bisquing the tiles were rubbed in a wash of 50% red iron oxide and 50% gerstley borate.

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The first pieces were taken and modified directly from historical images of the gods.  There were 12 of these:

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This image features gods from China and Japan: L to R the Shinto god of thunder Raijin; A Chinese Temple Guardian Dragon and The Buddhist god of anger and enlightenment Fudo Myoo. The featured image at top are gods from the Americas:  Yelth the raven from the American tribe the Haida,Kukulkan, the Mayan feathered serpent God and Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec death God.

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From the top  L to R From Europe Lady or Venus of Willendorf and Minoan Snake Priestess/Goddess; From south-east Asia Ganesh, god of wisdom and learning and Shiva, god of the dance and destruction; From the Middle East and Africa is Enlil, sky god of Sumer and Annubis, Egyptian god of embalming and the dead.

During the cycle of making these image/objects, Gabe suggested we do some that were totally of our own making that would relate to the world of little animals that we have created in the videos. He developed images for two,  a frog and a bird.

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I took his images and translated them into the clay.

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For the last three I combined the concept of using a historical image but combined them with common animals that might have appeared in our world.

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L to R the pig is based on the monolithic figures of Easter Island, The rabbit is based on Europe’s horned god Cernunnos and the chicken lady is derived from Rangda, dreaded widow queen of the witches from Bali. For these I stayed fairly close to the original image and only modified where the greatest impact could be seen, primarily the head, as can be seen from the image of Cernunnos taken from the Gundestrup Cauldron.

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In addition to these 17 tiles and some new poses and looks for established characters I carved The Great One from Chinese images of Kuan Yin. This small sculpture is carved from a solid block, washed with the same mixture as the tiles and given a glaze accent for the garment.

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ceramic art

Workshop with Beth Cavener

This January 2015 FHSU hosted a workshop with Beth Cavener, an artist that I have had a serious art crush on since first seeing her work years ago. That piece, titles A Rush of Blood to the Head is still tremendously influential to my work and aspiration as an artist.  It can be viewed here:

A Rush of Blood to the Head

I have continued following her work and she has been the standard both for success and quality for myself as an artist. The workshop was then something that I looked forward to tremendously.

Before I begin discussing my experience I must clarify that I was very sick the entire time I was in Kansas, falling ill with the flu a few days before leaving and staying ill the entire time, that surly impacted my feelings. Another caveat was a major mental health diagnosis I received  just before leaving that left me feeling terrified and deeply constrained. So it was through this filter that I went to meet my art hero/crush.

First I must say that it was truly the most expansive and informative workshop I’ve ever attended. Her technique is radical and her approach is methodical and meticulous, it is no surprise that she has been so successful. In addition to her tremendous skill the work she has put in to every aspect of her career is astounding. She told stories of how her first showing experience in New York that was so ballsy and brilliant that I could barely cover my awe.

Her style of working is doubtless detailed in other places but I will give a brief summary. Her process begins with a series of sketches in clay.  These small studies are usually done in large numbers as a way to work through ideas and solve problems.  For this workshop she could only make one based on suggestions from the group.  We were large and engaged and there were many suggestions that came down to a vote.  through a somewhat democratic process she agreed to work with a wolf twisted in a rope.

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These models are done in oil clay so that they might stay workable and salvageable.  She rarely keeps these.  They are built solid using bamboo skewers as armature. At this point she is considering composition and posture and formulating the procedure for the armature for the full size piece which range from life-size, to much larger.

The armature for the large sculpture is made from gas pipe relying on 1/2″ pipe and a variety of connectors.

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The pipe shown here is not galvanized, which she prefers because it prevents corrosion, so these were wrapped in electrical tape to prevent that. The frame-work is screwed down to the floor or table and the structure is built with special attention to removing it when the sculpture is built. The most important aspect of this process is to remember that the frame is a chair for the clay rather than bones for an animal.  The clay must be supported from underneath for the most part.

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This structure was tried and edited many times to be sure it would suffice for the entire piece, some of the sculptures weigh many hundreds of pounds when they are in process.

Once the armature is built the clay is applied, first wrapping the pipe and then building in layers until the basic size is achieved.

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The legs are supported by dowels wrapped in electrical tape and jointed so that the body can be manipulated as it is built.

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Things like tails and ears that can be relied on to create emotion are added last or even after firing so that they cannot be relied upon.

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Once the piece is relatively finished it is cut apart, piece by piece and hollowed out, then reattached in sections and fired.

The sculpting part of this technique is quick and expressive, the restructuring and hollowing is slow and meticulous.  In the end, every surface, including those impossible to see have been finished to her own anatomical perfection.

This process was detailed in slide shows that document many of her favorite pieces including A Rush of Blood to the Head which was wonderful to see.

As I mentioned earlier we were a very large group and asked a load of questions. She was very generous in answering all of these distractions and more revealing much about her self and her process as she worked. As a result she was not happy with the progress she was able to make on the piece.  By the end of the workshop she asked that we not share images of the work but especially not of her.  I have honored her wishes not be shown in the images but not her request not to have the work shown, partly because this is a post about my experience in this workshop and partly for reasons I will now elaborate.

Throughout the days of the workshop Beth was incredibly candid about herself, her process and her struggles both as a person and an artist.  She seemed to make great connection with many of the students and their work, not however with me.  Likely she was put off by my fan girl shimmer, that while i did try to restrain it, could only have been obvious and possibly for reasons I have mentioned before, I was ill and very caught up in my own mental health issues and so may not have been available for connection. So then in spite of my attempts I felt very much unacceptable to this person that I admired so much.

Because of this I was determined not to write about this experience. both to protect her and myself for I felt very much exposed and did not want to risk her displeasure, still fawning on some sad level, and so the experience ended.  I was left to wonder what the students who did connect had that I lacked and if there was something I was fundamentally lacking that would prevent me from ever achieving the success of my idol and those class mates that were acceptable to the higher power that an internationally known and hugely talented artist represented.

I did attempt the technique but as I work at such a small-scale for the animals of the Magic Box that it was largely inappropriate.  Still, I did manage a pose for Brittany the unicorn that I have not been able to pull off before. So then after so much anticipation I left the workshop drained and exhausted, feeling less able than I had in many years to achieve the moderate success that I have worked toward.

And so it remained, I would think of this post often but could not find a way to write about the experience in a way that would be meaningful to myself and my readers as well.  In fact, this dilemma seemed to halt the blog all together, as those of you who read regularly will have noticed. Yet I was confident that time would reveal a way to relate the experience and perhaps relieve many pressures of being correct and acceptable that is such a difficult part of life as an artist.

And so that opportunity finally came today through one of my many Facebook clay groups.  I found a video, an interview with Beth that I can’t imagine her having made when we met several months ago.  It is a beautiful film that describes her process, her work and her struggles in a way that was so very revealing.

An Interview With Artist Beth Cavener Who Captures Human Emotions Through Sculpted Stoneware Animals

I have no wish to detail my mental process at seeing her expose herself and her insecurities and her work for the camera, but it is sufficient to say that I was moved by her courage to do so and by the very similarities that seem to so distress me in January.

The experience did not produce a great patron or helper as I may have hoped in my fantasy before meeting, but a teacher, a true teacher, with the power to reveal one of the fundamental truths of life in the arts.  The truth of the constant self exposure that is required to survive the process of show entries and openings combined with a process of exposing ones self through work that digs into the soul every day.

I admire her more than ever, yet I no longer feel the art crush that I used to. This is obviously desirable, allowing her to be a person, complex and rich and myself also, with all of my great talents and imperfections.

I won’t try to assist her or do further workshops or any other absurd fantasy that occurred to me in the time of not being acceptable in January but she will always be held in great esteem and gratitude for showing me that even the greatest artists are people as myself, complex and conflicted.

Please look her up, her website is gorgeous and so is her work.

Beth Cavener – New Homepage

ceramic art

Magic Box Collectables

An important idea for us right now in Foxy-Wolff is to develop an income steam to support the video production and installation, which can be very expensive when considering the tech involved.  We have worked with a variety of ideas over the last couple years and continue to search for something compelling that ties to into the heart of the videos.  With this latest idea, I think we may have figured it out.

These came from a series of small drawings Gabe made as we were on our way home from Kansas after the semester critique last December.  While I did like the tiles, I felt they were missing something, and a reoccurring comment we heard during the critique was that everyone wanted to play with the house and the figurines.  combining these two necessities, Gabe developed these wall hanging pieces:IMG_8040As soon as we got home I began with their construction.  For most of these, the molds already exist from the construction of the houses and so the details on the build could be thought through very quickly.

The first was from “The Empty Room” house, which is a challenging piece even at a small-scale.  I chose a window and two brick walls for this, finishing with all the trim.  Part of the challenge was building solo, the piece being too small for both of us to put up the walls.  Once the construction was finished it was dried, then spray painted and fired.  Following that acrylic paint and more spray paint were applied. I wanted to make these close to the original, but art pieces in their own right so there is some deviation from the surfacing of the original.IMG_0661“Ted in the Empty Room” 8.5″ x 9.25′ x 5″ Ceramic and Paint

The second piece was also from “The Empty Room” and is more of a display shelf for figurines than a house.  Again, using molds from the original build, a plan was made.  This house does not include porches and so decisions had to be made concerning that new aspect.  Construction and surfacing followed the procedures listed above and this piece finished well.IMG_0654“Terry and Virgil After Breakfast” 8.75″ x 9.75″ x 6 Ceramic and Paint

The third piece comes from “The Magic Box” and was perhaps the most difficult build of the group.  The reason for this being the molds from which the original house was made.  They are early on in our pursuit of mold making and are imprecise and difficult to use.  That being said, the compact design of this house and the attachment style it uses are very sturdy and make a lovely little piece.  This was glaze finished like the house it is made after.IMG_0646“The Stone Woman at Home” 8.5″ x  8″ x 8″ Stoneware and Glaze

The figurines were made following the construction of the houses and were somewhat different from the originals, the stone woman for example is slip cast for these, where she was carved from solid clay in the original piece.  In this we were seeking a way to differentiate the collectables from the gallery originals.IMG_0665IMG_0650These pieces will hang in a variety of ways, the large free-standing pieces will be placed on a custom shelf, while the piece that includes its own shelf will hang on a French cleat.

This series does exactly what we were hoping for, It reunites the concept of the films with toys and action figures and  gives us an interesting opportunity to return to the “commercial”.  I love the idea of promoting the “Collect all five!” marketing strategy for ceramic art, its fantastically absurd.

 

ceramic art

Recreating Chinese Glazes

As a part of my history studies at FHSU this semester, have been researching Chinese glazes, a part of that research has been the recreation of those glazes from modern materials.  Using Nigel Wood’s excellent text; Chinese Glazes; Their Origins, Chemistry and Recreation, I have been attempting to recreate the earliest evolution of these glazes.

To begin the process I had to refine the raw materials.  I began with the wood ash as this process takes the most time.  I started with half a five gallon bucket of ash from a friend’s wood heater.  They burn a mix of soft and hard wood, a great deal of it being scrap and remnants, so not only is the chemical composition difficult to guess, but there was a great deal of impurity, particularly metal, in the mix.  To begin I soaked the ash in water.  this is a good way to separate impurity and to remove the water-soluble portions of the ash, which would affect its performance in the glaze.  To streamline this process Gabe built a large screen of medium mesh.IMG_7906IMG_7909I was able to remove large particles with this, then after this process was complete I drained off the water and dried the ashes for several days.

While that was drying I prepared the clay and acquired materials I could not make myself.  The stoneware clay used was a locally sourced stoneware called 200 by Summit Brick which it uses to make a white brick.  The porcelain is Laguna’s Babu porcelain.  To process the clay I first crushed it with a hammer then ground it fine in a blender.IMG_7912Once the materials were prepped I got to mixing and glazing, the test pieces were made from the bodies used in the glazes, though the 200 has an addition of reclaimed Soldate 60 from Laguna to add plasticityIMG_7927 IMG_7966Rather than going to the back of the book and mixing Wood’s already translated tests, I chose to focus on the text and come up with my own basic formulas based on the research found there.  Those earliest glazes were composed of Alumina, silica and calcium carbonate derived from either limestone or wood ash.  The clay provides the alumina and silica in the mixture.  My first test were thought to be the earliest glazes used in high temperature kilns in China.  Using the two two different clay bodies I mixed 60% clay and 40% washed wood ash.  To add color I also added 2% red iron oxide.IMG_0674The stoneware and porcelain tests on the left are test 1 and contain the stoneware clay is the 200 and the test on the right is the same formula but replacing the 200 with Laguna’s Babu porcelain.  The 200 clearly has incidental colorants that are not present in the test mixed with porcelain, and so shows darker.

The nest group used the same 60/40 mixture but instead of using wood ash, I used limestone or whiting as it is more commonly known in ceramics.  For this group I also pulled the iron back to 1% because I feared over saturating the color and skewing the tests with the fluxing capacity of the iron.IMG_0675This time the test on the left is mixed with the porcelain and the set on the right with the 200.  A major down side to using the 200 in glazes is that it is prepared for brick making before I get it, which means it is full of very heavy grog. Though I did screen it, some small particles escaped and made the bottom of the testers rough and unrefined.  The wood ash too, though washed and crushed was not ball milled and so added large particles that did not break down and integrate with the glaze.  They are beautiful glazes but could only be used on sculpture without significantly more work in refining the raw materials.

The next group of glazes were derived from the earliest porcelain glazes, and use little wood ash.  IMG_0676From the left: 82% Babu porcelain, 18% whiting and .5g RIO                   70% Babu porcelain, 30% whiting and .5% RIO                                                 70% Babu porcelain, 28% whiting, 2% wood ash and .5% RIO

The test in the center, number 6, was my favorite from all the the tests, it is a buttery matte with a subtle green color.  Adding a  full percent of iron would make this glaze a winner on the porcelain body, truthfully none of these is very nice on the stoneware clay, too gritty.  Though the fit does seem to work.

For the last four tests I chose recipes from the back of the book, though they had to be somewhat modified to work with chemicals I have available to me.  The first two were porcelain glazes, a clear and a northern celadon.IMG_0677These glazes are from later in the evolution of Chinese gazes and are much more complex, very near to their modern counterparts.  I had to change these recipes, especially where the author used english ball clays which I don’t have access to.  The glaze on the left is #1 in the book and is called porcelain glaze the original glaze recipe asks for Hyplas ball clay which I substituted EPK, feeling that this would be closer in makeup than domestic ball clay. The recipe is:

Potash feldspar  25%; Wollastonite 27%;  China clay 12.5%; EPK (sub) 12.5%;  Flint 20%; Talc 3%

The recipe on the right is #3, northern celadon, for this glaze I replaced SMD ball clay for EPK, again feeling its properties closer to domestic ball clay.

Cornish stone 56%; Wollastonite 20%; EPK (sub) 20%; Talc 3.5%; Red Iron Oxide 1.5%

These were winners on both clay bodies, I was especially impressed with the “porcelain glaze” on the stoneware, it may be the most beautiful high temperature clear I have seen on this body.

The next tests were a Northern Hares Fur Temmoku (#4 reduced) Again, slight modification was made to the original recipe, for this I subbed 200 for the BBV ball clay on the right and EPK for the test on the left.  The original recipe also asks for molochite which is a calcined china clay, which could have been made but since a sub of china clay (slightly more) was allowed, I used it.IMG_0678Cornish stone 42%; 200 (rt) EPK (left) 15%;                                             China clay 15%; Dolomite 15.5%; Flint 17%;                                                         Red Iron Oxide 4.5%; Rutile .5%

These were both beautiful, again the test containing 200 was darker and slightly more opaque, but both worked very well.

Thanks to Shane Jarrett for firing these for us, it was a wonderful study.

ceramic art

Tang Dynasty Tomb Guardians

China’s Tang Dynasty (618ce to 907ce) is among the greatest periods for art making in the world.  The relative peace enjoyed by the people and its outward looking and accepting culture where art was highly valued, created the perfect environment for experimentation and growth by artists.

China hosted flourishing trade along the silk road, that brought foreigners, religions and goods into the country.  Among these goods was more finely processed lead which facilitated improved low fire glazes for Sancai Ware.  The word translates to “three colors” and refers to the brightly colored glaze combinations that grace the tomb guardians of the Period.tang tomb guardian 3

These objects were made as surrogates for human sacrifice and were intended to serve the dead in the afterlife.  While the Tang is a time of great artistic innovation, these objects were not considered art, but much more functional forms.

The were called Ming chi which translates to spirit objects and were critical for the type of ancestor worship that was practiced at the time.  The belief was, and still is for many Chinese, that the ancestor, after the appropriate mourning period, became an important intercessor between the surviving family and the world of the gods and spirits.  Not taking the proper care of one’s ancestors would lead to disaster and cataclysm, so keeping these important family members well supplied and happy was a families greatest duty.

Like any highly stratified society, there were strict rules governing the placement on Ming chi.  The number and sizes were governed by the persons station in life.  The smallest were around 12″ and the largest were over 40″tang tomb guardiansThey served a variety of purposed in the tomb, some, that blend human and animal characteristics and carry weapons were made to protect the ancestor from evil and tomb raiders.  Others had more mundane tasks.  The horse below is pictured alone but he would have been paired with a groom to care for the animal who would serve the ancestor.tang horseEach figure had a specific name and duty within the tomb, and were often based off Taoist and Buddhist deities.  One of these was a figure known as the Heavenly King.  He was a fierce male figure placed near the entrance of the tomb.  Many of the figures stood on vanquished demons, the Heavenly King is depicting standing on a bull or ox which represented his unchallenged spiritual majesty.  It is important to remember here that the Chinese have a very different concept of heaved than we in the west.  Heaven is more of a god, and it is from this god that the ruling elite derive their right to rule.tang tomb guardians 2In addition to traditional images of Chinese culture, the tombs often featured influences from the outside world, camels and some foreigners were common additions to the groupings

The craft of the Ming chi was perfected during the rule of the Empress Wu, and represent a departure from earthenwares of the previous periods.  These figures are made in molds, then assembled and modeled from the white stoneware of the time rather than the red earthenware seen during previous periods.  The white body, while sometimes under fired, was seen as superior because of the brightness and clarity achieved in the glazes.  Sometimes these figures were high fired before being refired at lower temps for the glazes, though its thought only pieces for export received this extra step.

The sancai glazes were composed of 3 parts lead, 2 parts loess clay or white clay and powdered quartz.  This base was then colored with iron for amber, copper for green and though rarely, cobalt for blue and turquoise.  The term sancai  is a misnomer, in that there are 6 colors in this palate from the period, though the most common were amber, green and creamy white.  Glazes were applied in a variety of ways including dipping, brushing and trailing.

ceramic art

Ai Weiwei and The Art of Destruction

ai-weiwei-installation-012The pottery of Neolithic and Bronze era China have inspired many artists over the centuries since it was first created, but none to such a controversial degree as the work of Ai Weiwei.  Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist who has risen to the apex of the international art scene with his thought-provoking social commentaries.  The majority of these are protests aimed at the communist government of China.  The artists work in ceramic is no exception.

The bones of the work are historical vessels from the early history of China, including Gansu Jars and pieces from the Han period.  These objects are then changed, and sometimes destroyed to make Ai’s controversial work.  The photo above shows two of the works.  The first, the photographs, are a piece titled Dropping A Han Dynasty Urn and are exactly as the title and photo indicate, The artist is seen in three frames dropping an urn from the Han dynasty period, a piece that has remained intact since it was made any where from 206 bce to 220 ce.  The other vessels  depicted are from a piece called Colored Vases and are Chinese jars from various early periods that have been dipped in paint.artwork_images_93_621026_-aiweiweiAnother work titled Dust to Dust are the remains of 30 Neolithic vessels that have been ground to dust, and displayed in glass jars in orderly rows.ai weiweiPots are not the only objects that have been altered from their original state as antiques.  These stools are from the Ming Dynasty and represent a large body of works based on altered antique furniture.

Ai sites his greatest influence as Marcel Duchamp, and indeed in these works we see Fountain and Bicycle Wheel reborn in a new context, but rather than a pure examination of art and object, the objects the artist has chosen to alter are loaded with political statement as well as artistic.  When challenged regarding the destruction of the furniture, he countered with the official Chinese government position of destroying objects from the Ming and other dynasties.

This leads to the sticky question of the nature of Ai’s works with objects of antiquity.  Is this destruction or transformation?  First it must be noted that there is a good deal of speculation that the works are convincing fakes.  We must acknowledge that the artist loves the concept of the Fake, giving that the name of his architectural firm.  It is not unreasonable to consider the entire project an elaborate joke.  But for the sake of argument, we must consider that these are the genuine article, irreplaceable objects of tremendous importance for the history of all of humanity.  Are they truly destroyed?

In the case of the pieces from Dust to Dust, there can be no doubt that the vessels that fill these jars have been utterly destroyed.  The remaining ceramic is contained in its own funerary urn, placed on a beautifully crafted shelves, clean ordered and evenly spaced.  Yes the jars are destroyed, but they are still being treated with reverence and respect.

The Han Urn too is destroyed, or at least broken, like most of the works from its time.  A skilled restorer could have the piece back to museum quality in a few days, so what truly is lost?  certainly the rare quality of having never been broken, which is remarkable and wonderful to me personally as a person in love with art and antiquity, yet what might have been gained from the sacrifice, for that is what I believe these acts constitute.

We consider the great history of China unbroken, yet I believe Ai is pointing to another possibility, that it has been broken, that the current government of China has broken completely with history and humanity.  The ritualized sacrifice of treasures has brought a great deal of attention to the artist and so then his cause for the freedom of the people of China.  Reading comments to certain blog articles about this work it is clear that many believe that  Ai should be imprisoned for this desecration.  Actually he is imprisoned, being  on house arrest for years because of acts like these.  Is it because of the breaking and damage to historical objects? No, it is because the Chinese government sees this artists statements on a global scale as a threat to their continued power.  This is what sanctifies the destruction of these objects and why this work is so compelling and thought-provoking.

Last year an artist broke one of the vessels from an exhibition in Miami.  He claims to have done it to protest the galleries emphasis on international artists rather than on the local scene.  I believe he has missed the importance of the statement made by Ai and used his fame to artificially propel his career, I have no doubt that if the protestor was himself showing internationally he would have no problem with an international gallery, nor would he refuse the opportunity to exhibit abroad in solidarity with local artists.

As for the painted pots, Greek sculpture demonstrates that painted surfaces usually don’t survive time the way that objects can.  These pieces belong to history and humanity.  This is but a brief moment in their existence.  It is possible that the new status conferred to these objects as highly valued pieces of contemporary art will have a protective effect on them, but in any case, The culture of contemporary art and these political and aesthetic concerns will crumble to dust before all of these pots are lost.

http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/70/AiWeiweiDroppingTheUrnCeramicWorks5000BCE2010CE

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2014/feb/18/ai-weiwei-han-urn-smash-miami-art

ceramic art

Gansu Jars of Neolithic China

Neolithic culture is a period that begins worldwide about 8000 bce and is defined by humanities move from hunter-gather culture to settled agriculture centered around small villages.  Important innovations and technology of the time were stone tools and the regular manufacture and use of pottery.  It is in fact through pots and fired ceramic objects that we have learned about many of these early cultures, because the ceramic is able to survive the decay of long years in a way that other crafts that were practiced by these early ancestors cannot.Neolithic chinaThis illustration is a recreation of a neolithic community in Jiangzhai Village, Lintong China.  The image was taken from this website below, where a discussion of the layout and functions of the buildings is discussed.  Most interesting to this article is the area near the river, which was the locations of the potteries and kilns.  This would have been a very important industry for the village and so was located within the walls of the town.

http://hua.umf.maine.edu/China/Xian/Shaanxi_History/pages/031_History_Museum.html

The area of this site, while outside of the Gansu province was from the neighboring province of Shaanxi and was a part of the Yangshoo culture which give us the Gansu Jars.Neolithic2 jarThis jar was found in the Jiangzhai Village and has many of the distinctive characteristics of the Banshan Yangshoo or Gansu Jars.  Bulbous shape, small handles and free flowing dynamic brushwork are all characteristics of this work.  In addition, these pots were light and well made, which is one of the reasons for the large number of these that have survived the many years since their creation (from the 4th to the 3rd millennium BCE)  These were thought to have been built quickly with an eye for function.  The majority of those that survive were used as burial jars.gansu 3These beautiful forms were made by coiling and then paddling to refine the form, they were then scraped and burnished and painted with colored slips and fired in small updraft kilns.

“The forms of Chinese are are…in the widest and deepest sense harmonious…we can appreciate them because we too feel their rhythms all around us in nature, and instinctively respond to them”     -Michael Sullivan 1967gansu 1I dont dispute this quote, but I would go further, in that all art springs from that which came before, either in celebration or protest.  Chinese culture is rare in that it traces its beginning, unbroken, to the Neolothic.  There are many villages in China that still employ techniques for making pottery that were used during this early period and many of the forms produced clearly owe their origins to this formative period.  Not only are these forms still relevant in China, but the pottery of China has been traded and treasured all over the world since the opening of the silk road.  We respond to these forms and these designs because they are fundamental to the culture of the entire world, nearly every artistic tradition owes a debt to the pioneering potteries of Neolithic China.

Sources:

Speight, Charlotte F., and John Toki. Hands in Clay. 5th ed. Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield, 2004. Print.

Wood, Nigel. Chinese Glazes: Their Origins, Chemistry, and Recreation. London: & C Black ;, 1999. Print.

MLA formatting by BibMe.org.

 

 

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angzhai Village, Lintong

ceramic art

Pony Vase

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a dedicated reader will recognize this Greek Geometric style krater from a previous post.  Part of my requirement for school is to create a piece inspired by the art history studied during the semester.  I chose this piece as my inspiration.  The concept for the piece is to take the basic structure and basic design principals and layer in contemporary images.  I was especially interested in bringing in a graffiti image.  Graffiti has so many similarities to hieroglyphic images, being a picture that means a word and that must be decoded by the viewer.

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I chose coils to build the piece from as it would allow me maximum control.  It is also a method of building that I love and i chose it for the pleasure of being able to spend a couple days in that process.  I began with a scale drawing.  This outline was an invaluable too as it allowed me to hold the shape as i built up from the bottom.  I took frequent measurements of height and  diameter and compared to the drawing.  If I was off, adjustments could be made.

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Once the shape and size were dialed, the form needed fine tuning and handles.  These are in the style of the original pot.

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After the pot was bisqued I used iron oxide to paint the structural designs.  I wanted to be as careful as possible with the patterning and lines so extensive grid lines were used

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Gabe designed the tag, which says Pony and the balloon pony.  The other image is a reduction of the stucco pony that lives outside the studio.  He also placed the decals which requires tons of math and gridding.  Overall we’re thrilled with how the piece turned out, and so happy to get back to the graffiti pots again.

Here’s a video: