Thursday, October 29, 2009

marek cecula 's transgressive in dust real whitewares

Burned Again.CH.4. Industrial Porcelain, (Royal Copenhagen) wood fire 16x16x25 cm. In Dust Real, Photo Sebastian Zimmer.

Marek Cecula is an ever evolving, conspiring, ceramic conceptualist. His knowledge of ceramic art, craft and design history including traditions (craft forms) empowers him to create artefacts that sit transgressively in between ceramic disciplines. He embraces the ceramic discourse and translates mundane ceramic products into cutting edge artefacts of mainstream cultural significance, the gestalt of which elevates this ceramist far beyond that of any of his ceramic peers.

Transformation. RC, 9. Industrial Porcelain, (Royal Copenhagen) wood fire 38x38x43 cm. In Dust Real, Photo Sebastian Zimmer.

His ceramic statements are metaphors for ceramic change and even challenges consumer values. But more importantly these products are imbued with significance that challenges our notion of the role of the artefact within an ever changing globalised society. He does so at a time when the very fundamentals of studio ceramics and craft traditions are being questioned, challenged and metaphorically speaking, sadly buried. It is in the design and development of his work titled in dust real that his conceptual insight is exemplified (revolutionary) and the body of work attains an archetypal status yet to be fully understood and or appreciated in the wider context of mainstream art.

Burn Again CM. 1. Industrial Porcelain, (Royal Copenhagen) wood fire 22x12x10 cm. In Dust Real, Photo Sebastian Zimmer.

The significance of which is seen in the context of my theoretical blog entry; beauty in the creolisation of cultures with reference to altermodernism; where the transgressive role of the work of art facilitates greater interaction, collaboration and cooperation amongst cultural practitioners to confront internationalism. This concept is also manifested in the products of contemporary designers and architects as the barriers of disciplines disintegrate and the dominant notion of western art history is challenged. Cecula’s latest work also challenges the present consumer’s complacency in taste for whiteware, or from another perspective, a lack of investment in the handcrafted product; imbued with heart and soul. This body of work raises many questions and the answers lie within the ceramic community’s willingness to respond to the challenges laid down by these beautiful artefacts, yet emotionally charged complex ceramic statements.

Transformation. RC, 13. Industrial Porcelain, (Royal Copenhagen) wood fire, 70x30x28 cm. In Dust Real, Photo Sebastian Zimmer.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Altermodernism; Beauty in the Creolisation of Cultures

Fight of Oppositions. (Kampf der Gegesatzlichkeit), Wilfred Maria Blum. 1993, H25cm. German Ceramics 1900-2000. Ceramic Review 201 May/June 2003. Photography -Henning Arndt.

In developing ideas for the fruit (of ideal beauty see previous blog entries) it is necessary to contextualize the concepts from a theoretical perspective. This blog entry therefore provides a glimpse into recent thought about contemporary art experiences. I chose the ceramic piece (above) because of its title and more importantly, its exquisite beauty. The stylisation of the forms and complimenting surfaces embodies everything I love about ceramics; a masterly crafted ceramic sculpture further enhanced by a suitable choice of clays and glazes.

Manifestation of synchronicity.
However I was initially unaware of its close association with the subject at hand (yet again a manifestation of synchronicity). The lion and the unicorn are the major characters in the heraldry of the United Kingdom. The lion representing England and Wales whilst the Unicorn is a symbol for Scotland. The traditional legend of enmity between the two heraldic animals is recorded in a nursery rhyme (below) linked to historically significant events in the history of cultures merging to form an integrated nation. The rhyme's significance is expressed in a variety of cultural contexts throughout history. It is within the context of globalization that such narratives are often revisited as cultures are "furiously and knowingly coming into contact with each other" (Bourriaud, 2009). Folklores and identities are often the focus of art works (in translation) as expressed in curatorial discourses and practices in the contemporary art experience.

The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town.
Some gave them white bread,
And some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake
and drummed them out of town.

Unicorn. The lunar, feminine principal, with the lion as the male;chastity; purity; virginity;perfect good; virtue and strength of mind and body; incorruptibility. The conflict between the lion and the unicorn represents solar and lunar powers and the pairs of opposites (Male-female forces). Lion is the king of beasts. Ambivalent as both solar and lunar, good and evil. As solar it represents the heat of the sun, the fiery principal; majesty; strength; courage; fortitude; justice; law; military might. (Copper JC, An illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols, Thames and Hudson. 2005)

Beauty in the Creolisation of Cultures..
Birnbaum sates that the Art at the Venice Bienalle 2009 was created in the knowledge that we are living in a world where cultures are coming together, "changing by exchanging, through collisions and ruthless wars - but also through breakthrough of moral concious and hope". He refers to Internationalisation as an emancipatory power that liberates individuals from the limitations of their local culture and that there is undoubtedly a "homogenizing tendency towards the levelling of cultural differences, turning the world into a place of monotonous sameness". It is at this juncture that Art acts a counterforce - "an insistence on differences that have nothing to do with the political reactionary return to nationalism" (The Venice Bienalle, L'UOMO 401 2009; 246) .

His expressed views on the Bienalle should be reviewed against the manifesto of Nicolas Bourriaud (curator of the fourth Triennial Exhibition), in support of the title for the exhibition Altermodern as outlined below.

Nicolas Bourriaud states that Post-modernism is dead, and that we are experiencing the emergence of a global altermodernity; "multiculturalism and the discourse of identity is being overtaken by a planetary movement of creolisation; cultural relativism and deconstruction, substituted for modernist universalism, give us no weapons against the twofold threat of uniformity and mass culture and traditionalist, far-right, withdrawal" Altermodern Manifesto Tate Triennial 2009.

Modern, Postmodern, Altermodern?

"Multicultural ideaolology pretends to resolve the problem of modernism from a quantitative point of view: more and more 'cultural specificities' rear their heads, and, supposedly, this is positive. A new internationalist spirit has taken up the relay of the modernist universalism, but it lies in the internationalism of folklores and of ' identities'. Artists are looking for a new modernity that would be based on translation; What matters today is to translate the cultural values of cultural groups and to connect them to the world network. This 'reloading process' of modernism according to the 21st century issues could be called altermodernism, a movement connected to the creaolisation of cultures and the fight for autonomy, but also the possibility of producing singularities in a more and more standardized world" (Nicolaus Bourriaud, Director Palaisde Tokyo, Paris)

Barry B L (1992), The Creolization of Liberalism,
Bourriaud N (2009), Altermodern Manifesto,
Cvoro U (2005), Transforming Aesthetics (Conference Report),
Birnbaum D (2009), Young outlook on art's WOLRD stage, L"UOMO,246.
Jones J (2009), The altermodern love,
Belcehr S (2009), altermodernism is the new world order,
Sheller M, Creolization in Discourses of Global Cultures, books,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tattooed Rats win award.

Claypot Award certificate, Glazecor Regional Ceramics Awards Exhibition, Ceramics Southern Africa.
The tattooed rats, the images below, were submitted as a group for Ceramics Southern Africa's regional awards exhibition, and won the Claypot Award (certificate above). The Judge was Wilma Cruise, an acclaimed South Africa ceramist /artist.

Glazecor Regional Exhibition,
The awards exhibition opened last week at the Edoardo Villa Museum, University of Pretoria (South Africa) and closes on the 25 October 2009.

The Self Righteous and the Outcast, Black and white incised Amaco Under glaze colours (sgrafitto) fired to 1200 degrees Celsius.

Pair of Crafty Rats, Incised black and brown Under-glaze Colours (sgrafitto) fired to 1220 degrees Celsius.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Beauty in Ceramics.

Beauty Queens, Ling and Naomi Campbell by Richard Avedon for Pirelli Calendar, Dennis Rodman Contrasto and Kate Moss by Herb Ritts forPirelli Calendar. images from On Beauty By Umberto Eco.

Beauty, Beauty in Ceramics, Future Concepts; an introduction.

Umberto Eco states, "that the mass media no longer present any unified model, any single ideal of beauty. ............Our explorer from the future will no longer be able to identify the aesthetic ideal diffused by the mass media of the twentieth century and beyond. He will have to surrender before an orgy of tolerance, the total syncretism and the absolute unstoppable polytheism of beauty" (Umberto Eco 2004, On Beauty:428) .

Allain De Botton states that "our impression of beauty continually swings, between stylistic polarities; between the restrained and the exuberant; the rustic and the urban; the feminine and the masculine to abandon objects to expire in junk shops at every swerve"(author of Architecture of Happiness; 2006) For the potter this statement has serious ramifications especially in the context of recent developments. Globalisation has brought about radical changes on all levels especially the ceramic sector, impacting even on the production output and market share of big brands such as Wedgewood, Spode and Rosenthal. Did we see this coming - were there any signs? Peter Dormer dropped a bombshell in 1996, captured in his book titled The Culture of Craft, when he predicted the demise of the studio potter. "He stated that market researchers employed by the table and gift ware manufacturers have confirmed that the public wants consistency and desires a dependable almost hygienic neatness in the quality of table ware. This news bodes ill for the studio crafts '(Dormer 1997;11). How right he was and slow we were to respond to the challenge. Some individuals in authority refused to hear, Tony Ford, then director of the British Crafts Council responded by regarding such research "unduly pessimistic".

Grand Prix winner, Ceramic Competition 98 Mino Japan, Ceramist Kati Tuominen Niittyia.

Grand Prix Mino 98. Ceramist Kati Tuominen Niittyia.

White ware honoured as the Archetypal Ceramic Statement (Ideal Beauty).
There were other signs we chose to ignore - when Kati Tuominen Niittyia won the prestigous 5th International Ceramic Competition 98' Mino Japan with the white plate featured above. Take note of the title of the catalogue ironically called Poterie. She has been based at the Ceramic Research and Design Centre at UIAH in Helsinki, Finland for many years and has produced a variety of ceramic products manufactured at Arabia (see images below) more of which can be seen and bought on

Kati Tuominen Niittyia, Arabia cataloque, 1996 -1997.

Finnish Contemporaries, Lizz Mitchell writes on Finnish Potters. Ceramic Review, Nov/Dec 2004;23)

About Cheap Chinese Imports - Beauty adored, admired, coveted and bought.
Today our markets are not just flooded with cheap imports from china, but also quality inexpensive and expensive ceramic white wares are on the shelves of most of the home and lifestyle stores worldwide. - by the way they are also made in China and other major ceramic producers in other countries (including the work above available from, Arabia Finland) with the expertise and a competitive price point. Customers are only drawn to what is fashionable and they only know what they are told (advertising and through catalogs).

Cindy Sherman, Featured in L"UOMO Arts Issue on the Venice Art Biennale 09.

A New direction for ceramics - the Fine Art option (Beauty in Expression).
Garth Clark professed a new direction for ceramics (Fortress Ceramica - Answered Prayers). He called upon ceramists to take the discipline seriously as an art form, on par with the rest of the Fine Art, referring to the work of Grayson Perry (Turner Prize winner). However contemporary art, is about other things says Daniel Bimbaum at the Venice art Biennale (09L UOMO page 243). " Because a work of art is so much more than an object more than a commodity. It represents a vision of the world, and if taken seriously must be seen as a way of making a world" This statement elevates the role of the Artist to that of an 'aesthetic philosopher'.

Four seasons, Hella Jongerius, Hand-crafted and hand -painted porcelain, Producer Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory, Photo Credit Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory.

The work conceptualised.
"This new collection designed by Hella Jongerius finds inspiration in the figures designed by the well-known sculptor Dominikus Auliczek depicting the four seasons. Hella created archetypes of products corresponding to the character of each season; a hand mirror (spring), a teapot with a silken cosy (summer) a pitcher (fall) and a candlestick (winter). The 'Four Seasons' are decorated with historical stylistic elements and porcelain miniatures" (Fragiles, 2008;140)

Our opposition as Ceramists.
Where does this leave us, studio potters, ceramic designers and or makers, studio ceramists, crafts people and or ceramic artists. Especially when contemplating our new creative endeavour. The matter is further complicated with Fine Art increasingly conceptual and the Design Fraternity capitalising on the one-of-a -kind inspired approach to design and manufacture. More importantly however they have turned to the out of work artisans and craftspeople, to realise their 'couture' inspired 'Neo Sculpture' products - imbued with meaning and significance ( work above by H Yongerius) More of which can be seen in the following recent publications, including Fragiles, Breaking the Mould and Manufractured to be referred to below.

Amnesty International Poster

Beauty in a Globalised society
Beauty is also changing froma global perspective as humanitarian values, ethics and morals take centre stage in a polarised society. As mentioned in previous blog entries (tattooed rats) the enemy is amongst us as religious fanatics and extremists challenge our liberal constitutions and individual rights. Umberto Echo calls for greater tolerance, "The mass media no longer present any unified model any single ideal of beauty" as quoted before "Our explorer from the future will no longer be able to identify the aesthetic ideal diffused by the mass media of the twentieth century and beyond. He will have to surrender before an orgy of tolerance, the total syncretism and the absolute unstoppable polytheism of beauty" (Umberto Eco, On Beauty: 2004:428) .

Knotted Chair, Marcel Wanders (1990).

The New Pretty as Beauty.
The new object of beauty was first brought to my attention in an article written by Antonia Williams in the Australian Vogue Living (September 2005) whilst conducting research for conceptual development for our honours student's learner guides and project briefs. She stated "new ideas are budding in design - ornamental, eclectic and fresh, they are the antithesis of Modernism's 'masculine simplicity'. The new pretty can tap into Happy, you can easily see why, because of new artistry and complexity, with both technological innovation and the handmade with cross fertilisation of the arts, we are entering a reinvented Arcadia" (referring to the pastoral themes in history of art (poetry and music) synonymous with the favoured profession of the rural shepherd)

Grand Magasin (Detail) 2001 Regis Mayot. "Each structure derives from a different hand carved plastic bottle; each bottle carries its own personality and attitude"Manufactured Beauty; Conspicuous Transformation of Everyday Objects. By Steven S Holt and Mara H Skov.

Banishment of the term Craft?.
As our concept of luxury shifts we pursue products with not just a utilitarian function, decorative function and or ritualistic function but also a one-of-a-kind expressive function. The question being asked is, "did the globalisation of the 21st century finally vanquish what the great machines of the previous century could not do to the crafts" The answer is no, the emphatic response is captured in the introductory chapter of the new book titled Manufractured. Crafts has found a new purpose, to a select group, in a variety of creative fields - from art to design, music to theatre and cinema including literature. (Steven Skov Holt, Manufractured, page 11) continued below.

Form follows provocation, Constantin and Laurene Leon Boym. "Cast-off's are rescued for a higher purpose and yields to fantasy. Yesterday's middle-class kitsch finds salvation in today's elite objet d'art"Manufactured Beauty; Conspicuous Transformation of Everyday Objects. By Steven S Holt and Mara H Skov

Manufactured Beauty; Conspicuous Transformation of Everyday Objects. By Steven S Holt and Mara H Skov.

Expounded throughout the publication in carefully selected chapters is the work of contemporary designers showcasing their latest innovative and creative responses to Form Follows a variety of functions, including; Ornamentation, Fabrication, Dissection, Infection, Fusion, Manipulation, Perception to mention a few. The designers and artists often capitalized on the discarded spoils including cheaply manufactured products and services to imbue their creative sollutions with a new found meaning; far beyond what our material specific disciplines and traditions could ever have imagined. They realised their creative concepts in direct response to the same challenges we as designer makers and studio ceramists had to face.

In dust Real, Marek Cecula 2005. Royal Copehagen Porcelain wood fire. Photo Sebastian Zimmer. Garth Clark, Separated at Birth. New CeramicsFebruary 2009 page 36.

Our Buildings and the objects we fill them with affect us more profoundly that we might think - Alain De Botton Architecture of Happiness.

Beauty in the Home - The Home as a physical and psychological sanctuary.
De Botten states that "arguments about what is beautiful are, at heart arguments about values we want to live by - rather than merely struggles about how we want things to look ....our homes are (therefore) a physical sanctuary, psychological sanctuary and more importantly a gaurdian of identity" (De Botton Architecture of Happiness 2005)

The last loaf, by Lenka Holikova. makes an unambiguous statement. No matter how faithfully reproduced and innocently white it may lie there, this loaf is only a memory and cannot fill a hungry stomach. Instead the sub-concious pops up: "how much is our daily bread worth to us" Caption by Olaf Stoy, freelance artist in Bannewitz near Dresdan.

New Concept for luxury - Towards Authenticity; Experience Beauty.
Products of ceramic beauty have to function within a changing world - numerous Ceramic academic departments are closing down whilst the big manufacturers and brands are under serious threat. "Change is not an issue of morality but one of inevitability. One cannot cling to the romance of the past eras and expect to make a fresh comment in one's own time" states Garth Clark and his partner Mark Del Vecchio (quoted by Karen Weiis at Change is occurring on all fronts, in an ever growing knowledge economy. There is a new concept for luxury "it's less about worth and more about values; less about exclusivity and more about experience - its about buying less, but better" (Elle Decoration UK November 2009; page 19). Customers are moving toward buying products that add real value and meaning to their lives . Indigenous knowledge will hopefully play a much more significant role as we strive to define through personal choices, our true identity and what products communicate about who we might really be - authenticity is the new buzz word.

Mind Map - Marian Bantjes' Influences and Artistic Vocabulary August 2006. Data Flow, Visualising Information in Graphic Design, 2006; 72.

So where to from here? - Reinventing Beauty; a clean slate!.
Finally, white-wares are available in abundance; covering a broad variety of products. In many ways it is a metaphor for change, an opportunity to move forward with a clean slate. A universally accepted utilitarian product; stripped bare of all baggage inherent in the form and surface decoration of previous design styles. It therefore provides us with an opportunity to pursue our craft with a vengeance, to embrace change, shift in a new direction (if necessary) and carve a niche for ourselves within ceramics, in our own backyards (Authenticity and IKS), back home, for the world on, face book, twitter and or all the above.