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)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i love chatting with the lovely Jiang. Hope to see her soon. <3