Saturday, October 25, 2014

Iris Troiana - Read Peep and Reap.

My Conceptual thinking / reference material / ideas and creative output.

My investigation into the Iris Troiana would not be complete without reference to botanical studies of local Iris specimens. This was necessary from a creative patternmaking experience, or rather from an applied arts perspective. Creative ideas were developed extensively over the past few weeks, as I had to make decisions on suitable creative outputs. 

I have had input from various colleagues  round ‘feminism’ associated with the flower as outlined in the previous Iris blog post.  Their suggestions contributed to the consolidation of a number of concepts and ideas and more importantly the viewer’s possible interpretation of the intended artist’s underlining statements.

A whole host of ideas are now possible as I sought to focus on the most significant option in terms of a scheduled exhibition. I was approached to exhibit at Art on Paper at Stanley 44, and this particular blog entry sheds some light on the work to be displayed at the exhibition.
First I had to focus on an artist book to be exhibited next to the framed ballpoint pen drawing of the Iris Troiana; homage to Albrecht Durer - follow the provided link for the historical significance and relevance to this particular creative output. Reference material is always essential in the conceptual phase, and in the back of mind has been the notion of acknowledging the work of botanical artists in the formulation of my initial concepts and ideas for this creative endeavour.
Featured here are botanical studies of irises by Barbara Jeppe (image on the left) – one of her many publications on local flora. Inge Hyson one of my colleagues delivered the publication to my office a few weeks ago. Inge Hyson is an artist in her own right, flora at the centre of her creative endeavours. Jeppe is a talented illustrator and amateur scientist in the study of local flora; her passion has no boundaries, and is perfect reference material for this work of mine. It demonstrates her commitment and determination as a hobbyist to fulfil various roles and expertise, both as an artist and scientist. She did so intuitively and her passion for the subject gained her international recognition in terms of exhibitions, locally and abroad, specifically in England and America.  She was involved with the publication of eight books on the subject of local flora and for her contribution received a number of awards from professional bodies, including the Botanical Society of South Africa and the South African Association of Nurserymen - to mention a few.

As a specialist in scientific illustration and a fine artist, Barbara is one of the most efficient I have known in my more than three decade involvement with the production of botanical art books. Barbara’s organisation of design on the paper is always well conceived; minute details are so intelligently portrayed that they do no destroy the artistic conception of the whole; they are drawn with the ultimate care and observation in order to analyse the complexity of structure and so reveal to the viewer the beauty of the plants in their living manifestation.  (Bales: November 1998)

Referencing botanical studies of the Iris is critical in the research and development phase of the artwork and supports the broad range or series of works of art that is to follow. An extensive and broad investigation is required to provide a firm foundation on which to pin ideas and concepts and or visualise and realise art works.  Albrecht Durer’s drawing of Iris Troiana was in many ways the forerunner of botanical studies of flora and fauna – his study of the rabbit a perfect example.

It was my intention to render the Iris in a format synonymous with botanical studies – hence the fact that it replicates the Durer work in form and shape (almost an exact copy). There are however significant intentional creative shifts. The iris was rendered in ballpoint pen inks – luminosity and colour intensity is achieved like no other drawing method. 
Although the drawing had to be beautifully and masterfully rendered; a feast for the eye, both as a flower and a fine specimen of the iconic Iris, there had to be a significant shift away from the stereotypical rendition of the flower. This was necessary to render the work innovative and cutting edge from a contemporary art perspective. The work had to transcend the obvious illustrative constraints and transport the captivated viewer to another level.

The most significant departure was therefore the fact that the Iris had to be rendered in rich reds, blues and pinks, as well as luminous greens and yellows (the stem). The illustrated flower was drawn in colours of the flesh, with obvious sexual connotations, but ultimately the focus was on rendering bruised skin – related to pain and suffering as a result of abuse.  
The colours added an emotional touch to the visual experience, seen from the viewer’s perspective –to unleash and or amplify the any emotions evoked in the viewer.  The pain and suffering works on a number of levels - one is personal the other addresses the changes in art practice and appreciation.

Therein lies the ambiguity of the illustrated art work. With the advent of post modernism the barriers between art, design, craft and architecture came down.   Visual culture is studied, valued and appreciated in the broadest terms. The gap between what could be termed high and low art does not exist anymore. 
Far greater value is placed on the artist’s intent, concepts and the viewer’s response to the art statement..  The use of the readymade, advances in digital technology, new materials and exhibitions like Agents of the 3D Revolution continues to have a serious impact on the value we place in the making of art – rendering the skill and craft of art making irrelevant or rather insignificant.

It is within this context that I explored pattern-making options using digital technology etc. I in particular explored the symmetrical and asymmetrical versions of the rendered Iris, in an attempt to celebrate the handmade – thinking through craft in making art statements, whilst acknowledging the role that new technology brings to the creative experience (for the maker and viewer). The crafts for centuries were associated with tasks for woman and relegated as hobbies.  Pottery, weaving and embroidery were classified as des Arts décoratifs. The decorative arts or crafts were often concerned with the design and manufacture of beautiful objects that had a utilitarian, ritualistic and or decorative function.

However decoration is no longer considered a crime (less is no longer more) but an opportunity to add meaning and value to our experience across the arts (art, design and architecture). Surface development; textures and patterns are therefore an important ingredient in making meaning and adding value in a variety of creative options. Artists have begun to embrace ‘thinking through crafts’ in creative practice – as a means to personal expression. The utilisation of fauna and flora in the art of patternmaking incorporating symbolism (semiotics) etc. has broaden the creative scope of artist and designers. A far cry from Albrecht Durer’s advice; “ Life in nature makes us recognize the truth of these things, so look at it diligently, follow it, and do not turn away from nature to your own thoughts…. For, verily, art is embedded in nature; whoever can draw her out, has her….” Speis der Malerknaben (Food for Young painters), Salus 1513.

Making meaning from a viewer experience perspective.

Read Peep and Reap – title of the work.

The beauty of the Iris and the skill in the making of the art work (drawing skills) including the pattern making acts as some form of camouflage (disguise) luring the viewer to enjoy the beauty of the flower and the drawings skills. Up close the viewer is transported into an emotional experience – the colour reminiscent of pain and suffering. The use of blues and pinks, greens and yellows (of bruised skin) evokes the reality of the situation – alerting the viewer to the death of the handmade, the extensive use by artists of the readymade  and in direct response to sloppy craftsmanship in ‘the art of not making’. This is further enhanced by the fact that the ballpoint pen drawing will eventually fade way.

The drawing is exhibited framed, behind a blind providing protection from directly sunlight. The viewer therefore has the opportunity to view the work knowing his action of peeping and or drawing the blind  (drag and or pull) will cause pain and suffering to the masterfully crafted ballpoint pen drawing - a metaphor for abuse and the death of crafts – in response to the closing down of ceramic departments and the scaling down of teaching craft skills in the making of art work – due to advances in technology (3d printing etc.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Come READ, PEEP and REAP Hon's Artists Book Installation at Gallery AOP Stanley 44.

Book arts: artist's books

Walter Battiss  Gail Berman  Christine Dixie  Stephan Erasmus  Alice Goldin  Eugene Hön  Mark Kannemeyer/Lorcan White  Judith Mason  Fiona Pole  Jonah Sack  Steven Sack  Ruth Sacks  and others
Gallery Art on Paper Stanley 44
Opening tomorrow Saturday 25 October at 14:00
25 October – 15 November 2014

The artist’s book has always occupied an invidious position in the pecking order of the arts, because of its interdisciplinary nature, straddling both art and literature. Although a legitimate art form with a long and interesting history, some people still question its autonomy as primary means of artistic expression. The origins of the artist’s book as it is known today can convincingly be traced back to the illuminated manuscript in the Middle Ages. 
Since then it has evolved from a form of illumination, to illustration (especially in the 19th century); from illustration to experimentation (especially in the 20th century); and from experimentation to installation, as is evident from many contemporary book art exhibitions. 
Some theorists consider the artist’s book as the form of modernist artistic expression, pointing out that every major movement in art and literature, and within all the many avant-garde, experimental movements and independent groups whose contributions have defined the shape of modernist artistic activity, has yielded phenomenal artists’ books. These include such artists as Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso, and many more. They laid the foundation of the conceptual and thematic richness that is nowadays associated with artists’ books.
An artist’s book (or often also referred to as livre d’artiste) is defined as a book, or book-like object in which an artist has had a major input beyond illustration or authorship, where the final appearance of the book owes much to an artist’s interference and/or participation, where the book is the manifestation of the artist’s creativity, where the book is an original work of art in itself. 
The term livre d’artiste, however, is often used to refer to large-sized format, elaborately produced and hand-coloured books, made from rare materials, with virtuoso printing and fine binding, targeting a sophisticated, elite market.
An exhibition of artists’ books at GALLERY AOP questions these notions and definitions of this unusual form of art: What is an original? Does it have to be unique or can the artist also edition the book so that it is essentially a /multiple? Who is the maker of an artist’s book: the artist who has the idea, or those who produce the book? 
What kind of production means can be included in this definition? Is an artist’s book restricted to the codex form (the bound shape, in other words)? What about scrolls? Tablets? Reeds? The clutch of books at GALLERY AOP engages with these questions in an interesting way. Some of the artists’ books, for example those by Judith Mason and Alice Goldin, use unique illustrations to accompany written texts. 
Others, by such artists as Ruth Sacks, alter the words of a well-known text into visual, not only verbal, representations. Yet other books, like those by Gail Berman, Christine Dixie, Mark Kannemeyer / Lorcan White and Jonah Sack are primarily visual, with no verbal reference whatsoever. 
Walter Battiss made book sculptural objects from ordinary books. So does Stephan Erasmus, a contemporary book artist. Steven Sack, in turn, takes the notion of the artist’s book to a new level with his bamboo diaries; the various segments of long pieces of reeds form the basis of a weekly or monthly diary entry consisting of written and painted elements, as well as of found objects. These reeds, horizontally displayed, or ‘installed’, form the chapters of an autobiography. Eugene Hön contributes an interactive artist’s book. Small wonder some critics refer to artists’ books as a form of “intermedia”!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Jiang Yanze's Art of Ceramics: Speak.Porcelain.Listen.

Jiang Yanze, Useful & Useless -2, Yingge Museum.
2014 Taiwan Ceramic Biennale.
Jiang Yanze at the Yingge Museum.   

Jiang Yanze is an artist, designer, craftsperson and academic. Born in 1975 in the Jiang Su Province, she has capitalized on her creative talents and knowledge of ceramics; ceramic traditions, techniques and processes, including the inherent expressive opportunities the diverse medium of ceramics has to offer, to become one of China’s leading ceramic artists. 

Jiang Yanze,Etiquette on Table, Yingge Museum.
2014 Taiwan Ceramic Biennale.
Mastering her craft the BFA and MFA route at the Nanjing Arts Institute and Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute respectively, she endeavours to work outside of the traditional constraints often imposed by the medium. She is presently registered for her PHD at the Nanjing Arts Institute, where she lectures in ceramics. An Associate professor, she also holds the position of Executive director at the Yanze Ceramics international Design Centre.
Jiang Yanze, Useful & Useless -2, Yingge Museum.
2014 Taiwan Ceramic Biennale.
Providing this biographical information offers useful information, and or a context to the conceptual framework in which Jiang formulates her ceramic statements. Work that is conceived with a sharp understanding of the processes and techniques and methods associated with the medium; a scholarly academic approach, born out of the formulation of project briefs and or the outcomes associated with the teaching and learning ceramic programmes at tertiary institutions (ceramics discourse). 

Jiang Yanze chatting to Francesco Ardini from Italy.
Yingge Museum Cafeteria.

Reading in between the lines, these ceramic statements function on many levels, the most important of which is imbedded in the shaping of the clay, albeit positive and or negative forms and shapes.  However these works are not stayed boring statements often associated with serious academically produced works, Jiang approaches her subject with playfulness, imbued with humour and when required a serious traditional ritual meaning, to produce rock-solid, boundary breaking contemporary ceramic statements.

Jiang Yanze,Etiquette on Table, Yingge Museum.
2014 Taiwan Ceramic Biennale.
Wendy Gers, Curator of the 2014 Taiwan Ceramic Biennale
admiring Jiang's work (during set up).
I first encountered Jiang’s work at the 2014 Taiwan Ceramic Biennale, incorporated into the Global Identities section of Wendy Gers’ curated exhibition titled, Terra-Nova: Critical Currents/contemporary Ceramics. What struck me as unusual about her work was the way in which the obviousness of the ceramic process presented new and exciting contemporary ceramic insights. The work is sophisticated and simple and yet deeply rooted in ancient Chinese ceramic traditions and rituals. Mindful of the various levels on which these ceramic statements function, one realizes how much deliberation was necessary in the conceptualization and realization of these uniquely useful, desirable and in some cases usable ceramic statements.

There is a logical progression in the various works Jiang presented at the Taiwan Ceramic Biennale. Various components, including the figurative element is animated in dramatic slip cast fashion, in various spacial compositions and positions, exploiting everyday rituals such as the traditional Chinese tea culture in the context of global consumption and consumerism.

In her own words, Jiang states, ‘ The completion of a good porcelain piece relies not only on complicated processes and exquisite techniques, but also on the potter’s ability to convey the material’s internal life. Only then will the piece be full of freshness and spirit’ (Jiang; 2012).

Francesco Ardini from Italy chatting with Jiang at the
Yingge museum Cafeteria.

What follows are extracts in the artists words, as transcribed in the Handbook of the 2014 Taiwan Ceramics Biennale, describing Jiang’s creative intent in producing the work for the curated exhibition tiled, Ceramics NOW: Art, Design and Digital Materialities, held at the Yingge Museum.

It is appropriate that this series is the first work that one sees when entering Exhibition Hall 304, as it serves as an introduction to some of the key issues of this Glocal Identities section. The artist is fascinated with the beauty of industrial processes, in particular the slip-casting of everyday utilitarian wares. Jiang notes that while we perceive everyday ceramics as positive forms, each of them is cast from a mold, which constitutes the negative form.1 Her series 'Useful & Useless2' contains both anthropomorphic and zoomorphic vessels and works that reference their moulds. These moulds have been transformed into sculptures that evoke the positive / negative binary relationship.

Useful & Useless2
 2012 8 pieces Max. 11.5×8.2×30.5cm Installation 100×16×30.5cm
Porcelain, slip casting, oxidation firing to 1280°C, electric kiln - image above. 
Many objects used in our daily lives are produced through casting moulds. We see them as a positive form, but in fact, each of them is casted from a mould, a negative form. My work Useful &Useless not only emphasizes on the personalized vessels, but also transforms some parts of the moulds to be an independent form to express the beauty of rationality of industrial products. 
In 'Useful & Useless2' (image above) Jiang places the sculptural mould and vessel in an intimate relationship. The positive and negative spaces between the objects echo the central concern of the work and amplify the tension of the relationships between the individual elements. This deliberate mise en abyme2 is an exploration of the relationship between the 'mould' and the 'moulded.' In symbolic terms, the series may be seen to be a reflection on contemporary culture in China. The dense social matrix of Chinese culture is being rapidly moulded and transformed by rampant capitalist development and the adoption of a consumer life-style. The work encourages us to ask, what is useful and what is useless in this collective maelstrom.
1. Jiang, Y. (2014) 'Useful & Useless', TCB Handbook, p.49.
2. The French term mise en abyme does not have an exact English equivalent, but refers to the process whereby an oeuvre is represented within another work of the same type, or within itself, for example by encrusting the same image. A loose translation is 'mirror effect'.

Tea Tray1, 2, 4
 2009 Installation 224×58×26cm
Porcelain, throwing, slip casting, reduction firing to 1300°C, gas kiln, oxidation firing to 780°C, electric kiln - images above and below.
The Tea Tray series originates from traditional Chinese tea culture. Putting a series of human figure teapots, jugs, and cups together on a big tray conveys the meaning of gathering and communication between people, which is deeply embedded in Chinese tea culture.
The 'Tea Tray' series is a contemporary exploration of the social aspect of traditional Chinese tea culture. Placing a series of anthropomorphic tea ware onto a large tea tray is a symbolic gesture that conveys the meaning of this ritualized form of interpersonal communication. Jiang's works are both spontaneous and contrived. Her installation seeks to transmit our human desire to reconcile our increasingly frenetic lives with revitalizing moments of calm replenishment.

Etiquette on Table
 2004 16 pieces
Max. 9.5×15×24cm Installation 103×33×24cm
Porcelain, slip casting and slab building, reduction firing to 1300°C, gas kiln, oxidation firing to 780°C, electric kiln

From 2003, I started to make some functional objects, such as teapots and vases, hoping that people can use my work and at the same time appreciate them in their daily lives. In addition, I wanted these pieces to carry their own personalities and to be able to speak by themselves. Inspired by all kinds of different human gestures in ancient Chinese rituals. I often utilized human figures as subject.
The artist-designer has been creating functional wares, such as teapots and vases, for over a decade. Jiang explained that she 'wanted these pieces to carry their own personalities and to be able to speak by themselves.'1 Hence she often uses human figures as her primary subject. This series is inspired by various different human gestures observed in ancient Chinese rituals. The work may be viewed as a mischievous and subversive reflection on the relationship between the human body and the vessel and questions of social etiquette – which extend from the home and regulate broader social transactions.
1. Jiang, Y. (2014) 'Etiquette on Table', TCB Handbook, p.51 - images above and below..
“ Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” is a traditional saying that has become a wedding custom for brides, and it can also be used to properly describe the ceramic work of Jiang Yanze, writes Yuan Xiyang in in the preface to Yanze’s catalogue for her ceramic art & design exhibition catalogue. The exhibition was held at the twocities gallery in 2012 - images below..

Beijing Cloth series. Bonechina 2012.

‘Ms Jiang’s works follow the pulse of the tradition, and yet free themselves from tethers of the past. She knows how to read and reconstruct traditional relics. For her, ceramic art is not only a result of skilled technique and artistic form but also of articulated reflection upon production method, life concept, philosophical truths and cultural patterns. Her collection of work mediates on the dialectical relationship between model and mould, positive and negative, functionality versus uselessness, and bulk copies versus the singular object. 

The most thought provoking topic in her works, however, is an examination of Chinese ritual and life consciousness. The normal daily objects, such as cups, dishes and teapots, tell stories of kings and subjects, life and death, rejoicing and weeping. In her hands, each vessel has its own history, clan, emotion and dignity’ (Xiyang: 2012)