Saturday, October 30, 2010

Heavenly Dragon Tattoo - God forbid!

A large blue and white 'dragon' basin.
mark and period Guangxu.
I thought it fitting to shed more light on the Heavely Dragon to feature in my projected animation onto my latest ceramic installation titled, and the ship sails on (see two previous posts and also the image above). This was necessary, especially after the enclosed article appeared in our local newspaper, The Star, on Tuesday 26 October.

Visit this useful site for more info.
Ever thought of getting a heavenly dragon tattooed on your back, think twice, especially if you trust a friend to do the honour. Tattooing the Chinese heritage symbol in all its glory on your back is apparently a favourite all over the world . It is China's most significant spiritual animal as Nike recently discovered; they had to withdraw an advertisement that incorporated the slaying of a five clawed dragon - a national heritage symbol of strength and power. The dragon has power over the rain, the wind and water. The heavenly dragon, unlike its European counterpart, is therefore not an evil creature. It promotes good luck as well as warding off evil spirits. There are many forms and shapes of dragons and they all have a different meaning - so beware to carefully research their symbolism, before you choose the dragon that will embrace your back, in all its splendour - in true colour and style (visit the site captured in the image above). More devastating was the experience of an Australian gay guy, whose hopes of his dream image of a Chinese Dragon on his back was shattered, when one of his friends shockingly pointed out that he had indeed experienced an old Russian Prison Tattoo Taboo. 

Instead of a stunning chinese dragon, a 40 cm penis had been tattooed on his back along with a lewd slogan implying he was gay. Your skin is who you are and not your dreams and aspirations, and must reflect your true identity and status in the prison community. Gays, like child molesters, rapers and murderers were despised and were treated as the outcast in Russian prisons. It would seem these views are still harboured in hardened fundamentalists in society today - even amongst our closest and trusted friends. Maybe - to close to comfort !

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ceramic installation paper prototype construction (ballpoint pen drawings)

Ballpoint pen drawing paper prototype construction
For the purpose of this ceramic installation I decided to photostat the ballpoint pen drawings including inspirational images such as the dragon on the moonflask discussed below, to construct a paper prototype that can be altered to develop the creative narrative for the animation and the artist book.
Paper prototype construction.
Landscape of decoy-ducks and three sister 'koppies'
(paper construction of ball point pen drawings)
The dragon to be animated and projected onto the ceramic installation titled, and the ship sails on (see previous post) is taken from a masterfully painted rare blue and white Dragon Moonflask (seal mark and period of Qianlong), cited in a Sotheby's auction catalogue. The moonflask was auctioned in 2007 and fetched $ 2.8 million.
Detail of dragon on rare 'moonflask'

A fine and rare blue and white 'Dragon' moonflask - seal mark and period of Qianlong.

The broad voluptious body set on a short splayed oval foot, the trumpet shaped neck set with a pair of pierced stylised archaic qilong handles, crisply carved with c-scroll motifs, richly painted in deep tones of cobalt blue with a scaly sinuous five-clawed dragon to either side, contesting a centralised flaming pearl, amongst cloud scrolls above a crashing wave border, the neck, foot and sides painted with ten stylised bats.

A fine and rare blue and white Dragon moonflask
This magnificent 'Dragon' moonflask appears to be the only recorded example of a moonflask of this type decorated in blue-and-white. It would have been highly prized by the Qianlong emperor who had penchant for technically innovative and artistically challenging pieces. During his reign the refinement of the material and craftsmanship allowed potters to become highly ambitious in their repertoire. the making of this particular flask required considerable expertise from the potter who borrowed extensively from archaic styles while creating a piece that was contemporary.  

The above images, especially the flask on the left, showcase other examples of moonflasks with painted dragons that may have inspired the potter. (Cited in Sotheby's catalogue, London 7 November 2007:200-201)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ballpoint pen drawings; Ceramic Installation titled, and the ship sails on.

Ballpoint pen drawings of water. For the reference see the water on the 
'Dragon' Moonflask, the last image below.
I have started the conceptual drawings for my next ceramic installation titled And the ship sails on (with reference to the  Federico Fellini Film). The installation will consist of two ceramic components, individually sculpted pieces to be modelled, moulded and multiples to be slip cast to form the installation. 
The first ceramic component represents the nation portrayed as a decoy-duck female figure, whose body is shaped like a bomb, a symbol of traditionalism and extreme forms of nationalism the world over (fundamentalism). She is in a sleeping position, lying dormant, ready to unleash her instinctive motherly protection on who ever disturbs the status-quo. Although she is portrayed as the hunted (victim/vulnerable) her true colours are revealed and she transforms into a kamikaze torpedo when challenged. 
A decoy under-guise of utopia; in her Trojan belly lurks every form of bully - the epitome of dystopia. The preparatory ballpoint pen drawings on the left were done during a three month residency at the Cite in Paris France (1991). The final image (below) was drawn in blue ink on white paper and incorporated into a composite image of ballpoint pen drawings; a digital print on acid paper - the work titled The long road to paradise.
The second ceramic component is  symbolic of a very special mountain - for some it will represent spiritual enlightenment and freedom. It also represents the land (various continents and countries), the earth beneath our feet, which has everything do do with our roots and identity. 
In developing the form for the second ceramic component, the major reference has been the Three Sisters 'Koppies' in the Karoo (image on the left). It reminds me of my annual journey down to the Cape for the summer recess - a drive through the Karoo to Parow my birthplace (my family home). The journey there and back is 1400 km one way, the Karoo being semi-desert means there is not much to look at. Therefore my time spent on the road  has always been an opportunity to reflect on issues affecting my life and contemplate conceptual aspects associated with my work.

The design development of the mountain took a different direction with the discovery of brushrests. The need to develop a composite ceramic image incorporating the mountain, led to an investigation into suitable ceramic products. The group of four brushrests on the left are from the Qing Dynasty, Kangxi Period. The small drawing in the middle (also referenced) is of a sculpture made earlier, titled  .... and incorporates one of the koppies of the Three Sisters mentioned above.

The final ballpoint pen drawing of the second ceramic component incorporates images of proteas, our national flower,  and is also the national symbol of South African sports (image above).
The drawing above depicts the envisaged composition of the ceramic installation incorporating both ceramic components; the decoy-duck figure and the mountain. This time round the ceramic components will have more space between them, the base forming a screen for the projection, acting as the surface of the sea (water between the ceramic components). 
The animation to be projected onto the ceramic installation will consist of drawings depicting water (Title image at the very top of the post), flowers and an animated version of the dragon, inspired by the images in the Moonflask enclosed below and above.
A fine and rare blue and white 'Dragon' moonflask
Seal mark and period of Qianlong.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ceramic Competitions, an issue of Function ?

Sue Sellschop's grandchild Oliver sitting on my Ceramic Sculpture
titled Dog, Press moulded and burnished Ceramic Sculpture,
fired to 1000 degrees celsius.
(collection Sue Sellschop)
Through the eyes of a child even the most complex work can have a more simple obvious function. We often tend to complicate matters, especially when it comes to determining the meaning and significance of ceramic art, design and or craft. We tend to classify ceramics as expressive and therefore nonfunctional. These terms often get created to separate the various groupings of work as part of entries to competitions. Is it utilitarian, sculptural, expressive and or decorative. We forget that ceramic products can function on many levels (depending on the artist's intent) - utilitarian, decorative, ritualistic and or expressive.  Work that  is nonfunctional is in fact useless. It would seem the Mino competition organisers got it right - any comments!

Dog, burnished earthenware 30x70 cm (1990). 
collection Sue Sellschop.

There are many national and international competitions coming up. The National Ceramic Awards Exhibition 2010 (South Africa) opens today, Sunday 10 October 2010 - The Gallery at Grande Provence - Heritage Wine Estate Franschoek South Africa. Good luck to all that entered. Winners to be announced at 11:00 am. The next big competition is the th International Ceramics Competition of Mino, Japan. Entires can be submitted from November 1, 2010 until January 10, 2011.
Categories are;
  • Ceramics Design, Factory. Design entries for factory produced pieces with practical functionality (items produced mainly on the machinery of a factory assembly line)
  • Ceramics Design, Studio. Design entries for studio produced pieces with practical functionality. (items from individuals, mainly produced by hand in small quantities).
  • Ceramic Arts. Entires for ceramic art works that incorporates unique creativity and techniques.