Early in the semester I did a lot of research for this project. Power points, web research and books. All that research went into a gray covered Moleskine note-book that i have used for my ceramic classes for a couple of semesters. Today, as I ran out of the last artists that I remembered from that list, I realized that the notebook was missing. It’s no where in my house that I can find. It may be at the studio or somewhere else and I may yet find it, but today it might as well not exist.
Rather than panic, or start the entire process over again with the research, I though I might trust fate and see what the Google gods would bring me. I put ceramic video into the search engine and got back a load of instructional videos. I changed it up slightly and added art to the already existing search. It was largely the same, except the last hit on the first page, was a video posted by The Guardian UK on the artist Pamela Mei Yee Leung.
Born in China, and immigrated to England at 14, Leung seems to have been that rare third element, created by combining two different things. This is the essence of what I am working toward in my experience of collaboration and why I am so interested in other artists that collaborate. Leung is a collaboration of Chinese and Western culture, compressed into a single person. If you watch the video you will hear her speak both accents, at the same time. It is wonderful and musical and seems so rare.
Her work too is a fusion of both cultures, the content is so clearly Chinese in origin Yet her approach is that of a westerner, the work is loose and direct and has a sense of whimsy that the English tradition clearly brings.
The work is autobiographical and much of it from the last decade of her life was focused on her ongoing battle with cancer. The animal heads point to different emotional states and states of being in herself and others as she went down the long road of illness.
The video shows her working with coils to the legs of some creature. the slow attention and careful execution are delightful to watch, there is a sense in watching her make those legs that there is nothing she would rather be doing and the quality of attention reveals a devotion to the material and process so essential to its mastery. It is this quality of attention that reminded me of something that I tell all my students. I remind them that work in ceramic will outlast us, in some cases by millennia, and that to work in ceramic in a way requires a letting go of time, when considering its long history as a human material and each pieces potential longevity. Pamela Mei Yee Leung lost her battle with cancer, yet she is still enriching lives by the work she has left behind, and it will continue to accumulate story and meaning through decades and generations.
This work feels aware of that. No certainty of time, but absolute timelessness.
As I’ve mentioned before, we are only permitted two artists from any single culture in this assignment. I have two from both England and China, yet I feel certain that this artist’s work is neither and both and so an entirely new country.