Thursday, September 9, 2021


FADA Gallery; August -September 2021.

Viewing by appointment. Email

Windstruck I & II.



The installation Windstruck I & II consists of two composite ceramic statements, including the remarkably finely articulated ballpoint pen drawings Eugene H
ön derived his transferware from. Much as one starts enjoying a new book in its cover, upon entering Hön’s exhibition an elegant vinyl poster presents title and imagery of the windswept, alienating landscape, which first evoked the artist’s creative response.
Ballpoint pen drawing of a Hadeda 


The exhibition reveals its subsequent development through a visual label, consisting of various elements: a series of digital prints, folded concertina style, offer a sequential explication. This includes mind maps and both written and visual documentation of Hön’s entire research and design process.


Towards the end of the document a series of complex digitally enhanced floral patterns reveal types of reflection symmetry, which Graphic Design staff member, Christa van Zyl produced from the drawings. Hon shares with us all his reference material, as well as several ceramic test pieces: his firing proofs. 

Windstruck I
 consists of two thrown, identical egg-shaped vessels. In the bottom half of each egg-shaped vase appears a transferred drawing of a windswept landscape. The two landscapes are slightly differentiated. On one vessel a hadeda is featured and on the other a piece of driftwood, shaped like a shipwreck, with the incessant progress of a grubworm traced inside. 

The same landscapes featured in Windstruck I appear again, slightly larger, on the two circular ready-made platters of Windstruck II, along with a tall vase. In the conceptual development of the work, Hön referenced a pair of ceramic vases created during the political and economic turmoil of the French Revolution. 

These were aptly titled: Vases with scenes of storm on land[1].  The serene symmetry of the pair contain within their elegant form a great uncertainty and devastation. At the centre of the two vases bleak, monochromatic landscapes were painted, depicting figures battling a severe inland storm. The contorted trees and brazing figures are reminiscent of the mighty winds of change that swept through French society in 1789. 


In contrast to the French vases, the landscapes depicted in Hön’s ceramic statement are stripped bare. They are reminiscent of the valley of Desolation in the Eastern Cape.  Two anguished, wind struck trees are visible, as well as a weathered tree trunk, half submerged in barren soil. With water levels subsided, the weathered trunk has been exposed to the hot sun and dry wind of an alienating landscape. 


The idea of inserting landscape was originally inspired by Hön’s reading of two novels: Against nature and Quicksand, by Joris-Karl Huysman and Henning Mankell respectively [2]. Theirs are worlds from which one tries to escape. Mankell’s is a personal encounter with death[3], the author having diagnosed with cancer and terminally ill. Hon felt that their landscapes, their spaces and places experienced, resonate with our own present experience. The Covid 19 pandemic has brought us a here and now of deep despair. Death has become a common reality for many, as has financial ruin. 

Every element within Hö
n’s landscapes are digitally constructed from scanned black ink ballpoint pen drawings, including two hadedas, the Spandau Kop located outside the Eastern Cape town of Graaff-Reinet and the ship-like piece of driftwood, complete with a mast. Stranded in the landscape, the shipwreck’s underbelly is being eaten out by a grubworm, the only element in this desolate landscaped rendered in full colour. 

For Hön, the stranded ship recalls a once thriving South African economy; the discovery of gold on the Reef and the birth of Johannesburg, our city of gold. The artist identifies the grubworm’s incessant consumption of the shipwreck with the plight of the Zama Zamas[4], who make a meagre living in the informal mining sector, desperate times calling for desperate actions. 


Above the distressing landscape, tossed about by an unrelenting wind, are numerous Dandelion seeds, as applied transfers of ballpoint pen drawings. Brown veined White butterflies appear, also as applied transfers of ballpoint pen drawings. During the hot Karoo drought, these migratory butterflies take to the skies in a northeasterly direction, escaping the arid Karoo region. 


Central to the surface development of Hon’s ceramic vessels are his renderings of a Dandelion. In the city this hardy plant is known for surviving in paving cracks or in the hardest of soils. Commonly treated as a weed, an outcast, it thrives in the most unforeseen circumstances. On the front surface of Hon’s large pair of egg-shaped vessels and also on the two round platters, the delicate Dadelions appear in fragmented segments, floating on air above the monochromatic landscapes, rendered in ephemeral colour. Here images of Dandelions are applied in between simulated cracks quite reminiscent of the discarded shells of a boiled egg.


Hön first explored his own innovations with ceramic transferware work at the time of his solo exhibition at the FADA Gallery, in 2020,  titled Manufactured Distractions and Intersections. His exploration of fragmented segments reference the Japanese art of kintsugi (gold joining) and kintsukuroi (gold repair). In Japan this traditional lacquer inspired ceramic repair craft served as a metaphor for connection and for assembling separate pieces into a whole.


For Hön the kintsugi ‘seams of gold’ resonate metaphorically with the plight of the local Zama Zamas (a Zulu term meaning ‘those that try to get something from nothing’) and rich gold veins of danger. For these desperate informal miners, living in Egoli, The city of Gold,  the hope of finding unmined traces of gold are rooted in a harsh, material world.


As our eyes follow the lines of destruction now filled with gold, we recognise at some level there is a story to be told with every crack, every chip. This story inevitably leads to kintsugi’s greatest strength: an intimate metaphoric narrative of loss and recovery, breakage and restoration, tragedy and the ability to overcome it’ (Kemske 2021:12)[5]


The work draws on the Kintsugi techniques of tomotsugi and more specifically of yobitsugi, patchwork repair (yobi = patched / tsugi = joining), in a re-imagined format. An approach visually simulating the age-old repair tradition of masters is created by connecting related (Tomotsugi) and unrelated fragments (Yobitsugi), which intersect on the surface of the vessel in the manipulation of digitally printed ceramic transfers of scanned ballpoint pen drawings. The transfers are applied to both the vessels and the platters. 


Celebrating decoration as restoration 


Hön states: “The work celebrates decoration as restoration in direct response to Modernism’s mantra that ornament and adornment is a crime. The reimagined yobitsugi repaired vessels, albeit simulated, to use the words of Kemske (2021:) in regard to the practice of Kintsugi, ‘speaks of individuality and uniqueness, fortitude and resilience, and renewal and re-invention in this difficult time of pandemic and the imperatives of global climate change’. 

In both ceramic statements in the installation, my narrative of renewal and re-invention during these desperate times is captured in the rendition of the Dandelion seeds and the migratory Brown veined white butterflies, as they are transported on the wind. Visually these elements manifest from fragmented surfaces on the front of the vessels and platters to a celebration of patternmaking on the back of the vessels. The Dandelion seeds, the butterflies and the grubworm are swept up by the relentless wind into an elaborate and complex digitally enhanced whirligig-like mandala of patterns of reflection symmetry drawn from the original drawings”.


Conceptually speaking Eugene Hön found an important source in Floressas Des Esseintes, the main character in the novel written by Joris -Karl Huysman, titled Against Nature (A Rebours). Floressas’ escape from reality into an imaginary world is best articulated in the following quotes from the novel:


Already he had begun dreaming of a refined Thebaid, a desert hermitage equipped with all the modern conveniences, a snugly heated ark on dry land in which he might take refuge from the incessant deluge of human stupidity’ (2021:21).


‘Travel, indeed, struck him as being a waste of time, since he believed that the imagination could provide a more than adequate substitute for the vulgar reality of actual experience. In his opinion, it was perfectly possible to fulfil those desires commonly supposed to be the most difficult to satisfy under normal conditions, and this by the trifling subterfuge of producing a fair imitation of the object of those desires’ (2021:8).



The viewer is transported into the windstruck landscape, evoked by the imagery on the ceramic vessels on display and their surface development. A celebration of patternmaking offers an escape into the beauty thereof, as does a momentary immersion in the pleasure of experiencing handcrafted excellence. 


[1] Vase with scenes of storm on landDihl et Guérhard (French, 1781–ca. 1824) (Manufacture de Monsieur Le Duc d’Angoulême, until 1789), Possibly painted by Jean-Baptiste Coste (French, 1777–1819). Ca 1790-95. Hard-paste porcelain. These two vases were made at the time of the French Revolution, at a factory that was located in the heart of Revolutionary Paris. Decorated with landscapes depicting severe inland storms, the people in both landscapes are at the mercy of the wild forces of nature. These scenes, highly unusual for French porcelain, may perhaps be seen as a reflection of the tumultuous times during which the vases were produced.

[2] Quicksand was written after Mankel was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The book was published posthumously. Quicksand is not a book about death and destruction, but about what it means to be human.

[3] The reading of Mankell’s book, Quicksand, stems from my personal encounter with the death of my own brother and father. In the words of the author, ‘the book is about how humanity has lived and continues to live, and about how I have lived and continue to live my own life’. life’. And, not least, about the great zest for life, which came back when I managed to drag myself out of the quicksand that threatened to suck me down into the abyss’.


[4] Forced to ply their trade in crumbling industrial shafts where a fatal collapse is just as likely as stumbling across a deposit worth the effort, they are perpetually preyed upon by a coterie of criminal cartels who often count the police among their number. With little to no alternatives, the group perseveres regardless. — here we take a closer look at how the recession of South Africa’s mining industry was just the first chapter in what has since developed into a bloody and brutal illicit scramble for gold.



[5] Kemske, Bonnie. 2021. Kintsugi: The Poetic Mend. London, Herbert Press.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Drawing and Ceramics: Pioneering a Digital Solution

Ensemble of readymades, vases with digitally printed ceramic transfers
 of my ballpoint pen drawings.
Ballpoint pen drawing of
a five clawed dragon. 
I am a ceramic artist with a passion for ballpoint pen drawing. In the past, I used my drawing as a design tool to create modelled, press-moulded and fired figurative ceramic sculptures. The renderings were executed on acid free paper in bound books as ballpoint drawings fade with time when exposed to direct light.

Vicissitude III (detail), digitally printed ceramic transfers of my ballpoint pen
 drawings of a tulip (image below), flies and a beetle on a bone-china vase.

With the advances in ceramic and digital technology, I am now able to capitalise on my ballpoint drawings skills by creating digitally printed ceramic transfers which can be fired onto a range of ‘ready mades’ as well as expressive ceramic statements.

Ballpoint pen drawing of a fly. A4 size.
Test piece result - transfers fired on top of each other (twice fired)
Vicissitude III, Digitally printed ceramic transfers of my ballpoint pen drawings on
a large bone china vase - readymade.

Iris Troiana, in celebration of the handmade in a digital age.
Homage to Albrecht Dürer, the ultimate artisan. 
This was a real breakthrough for me. When the first batch of digitally printed ceramic transfers was test-fired onto commercially produced ceramic plates, my ‘impermanent’ ballpoint drawings were instantly immortalised.
The intricate crosshatching detail was perfectly visible in the fired transfers, even when the rendered image was radically reduced in size (see image of tea bowl and jewellery piece below). 

The Road Less Traveled. 2018.The jewellery installation piece featured here capitalises
 on Hön’s detailed blue ballpoint pen drawings of a barn swallow, digitally printed as ceramic
 transfers and fired onto one of the shards of a broken bone china bowl. This work comprises
 the partially restored bowl with its missing shard,  metamorphosed into a jewellery pendant.

This article sheds light on the techniques involved in producing digitally printed ceramic transfers, focusing on creative drawing opportunities in the field of ceramics. (See image of large ceramic plate).

Migration, digitally printed ceramic transfers of my ballpoint pen drawing of a
barn swallow. Fired onto a large plate/platter - readymade.

Ballpoint pen drawing of a barn swallow.
I am a lecturer in ceramics to Industrial Design students at the University of Johannesburg. Through my work, I am exposed to the latest 3D printing and manufacturing technology.

Although I wholeheartedly embrace the advances in digital technology, I do not lose sight of my creativity which is rooted in ceramic craft traditions. 
Transfers of my drawings fired onto a
hand decorated (cobalt brush strokes)
Celadon bone china readymade.
I consider myself a ceramic artist who celebrates the handmade whilst exploring a range of digital creative options, seeking new possibilities for this art form. 
Manufraction IV. 2017. Digitally printed ceramic transfers of Barn Swallow
drawing on a press-moulded ceramic shard.

My first digital foray featured a projected animation of my ballpoint drawings entitled …and the ship sails on. My latest work rises to the challenge voiced by Paul Scott in the ceramic handbook series, Ceramics and Print: (See image of … and the ship sails on).

... and the ship sails on, ceramic installation with projected animation of my ballpoint
pen drawings. Exhibited at the 2014 Tawain Ceramic Biennale.
See article Ceramic Surface: A Virtual Crossover (above in the Title banner)
The advent of microprocessors and the dawning of the Computer Age has resulted in new developments industrially, many to do with mechanization, but also to do with image production. Much of the development appears to be heavily based on investment in machinery, hardware and software. How much of it is of use to the small-scale producer, or the artist/ceramist printmaker remains to be seen. (Scott 31, 1994)

My ballpoint drawing technique resembles the etchings and engravings of printmakers, reproducing images and illustrations before the advent of photography (Scott 18, 1994). My greatest inspiration is Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), the ultimate ‘artisan’,who was not only a painter, printmaker and engraver but also a mathematician and theorist.
It was therefore fitting that my first set of digitally printed ceramic transfer tests was of my detailed drawing of an iris.
Rendered in red, orange and pink ballpoint pen ink, it was an interpretation of Dürer’s Iris Troiana(1508), depicting a bruised flower. The drawing was one of three separate components for an artist’s book installation titled Read, Peep, Reap. (Ginsberg Collection).

Manufraction II. 2017. Digitally printed ceramic transfers of Iris Troiana drawing
on a press-moulded shard.
When I first mooted the idea of digitally printed ceramic transfers of my ballpoint drawings to colleagues, I had no knowledge of the quality of reproduction of the original rendering. There were no printing machines in the area where I live and work and there was no opportunity to discuss the printing technology or view possible samples. 
Iris Troiana drawing ceramic transfers on
platters readymades
My only option was to consider the printing lab in Cape Town, 1,500 km away. At the time, this was the only local printer in South Africa. Not having access to proper technicians and engineers associated with developing the technology, I started a series of tests based on their recommendations. The first set of tests, completed a year and a half ago, showed enormous promise. The detail of the rendered image was remarkable. (See image of ceramic platters above).

Pair of Vases, Homage to Albrecht Dürer, in celebration of the handmade,
digitally printed ceramic transfers of my ballpoint pen drawings of Dürer's
Iris Troiana on restored readymades - Kintsugi style. 

Locally I could get A4 size transfer sheets with a satin or gloss finish. Once the images are printed, the supplier applies a clear or fluxed coat to protect the rendering during the application phase. The gloss gave a better result in terms of image reproduction, however, it required cutting exactly around the image to avoid leaving an unwanted outline after firing. The local printer could not promise an exact colour match and could not print white.
Pair of Vases, Homage to Albrecht Dürer, in celebration of the handmade, 
digitally printed ceramic transfers of my ballpoint pen drawings of Dürer's
Iris Troiana on restored readymades - Kintsugi style. 
The digitally printed transfers render white transparent to reveal the colour of the ceramicware beneath it after firing. These transfers therefore work best on a white surface. At first, I followed the standard firing recommendations that were specified by the agents for the specific digital transfer machines. However, I obtained the best results by firing the gloss-coated transfers to 770 degrees Celsius at 100 degrees per hour. 

It is important to note that my first tests were of a ballpoint drawing consisting of warmer colours -pinks, oranges and reds, with small areas of blue and black ink. The original drawing was photographed (due to its size) and the colour was compared and validated before creating the A4 printing layout sheets.
The image was copied in various sizes and configurations using Photoshop to alter colour and, more importantly, to create elaborate, digitally enhanced floral patterns exploring reflection symmetry (see image of transfer layout sheets). 
The test results were enormously successful and could finally be applied to a press-moulded, ceramic shard in a variety of image sizes to good effect. The beauty of digitally printed ceramic transfers is that it is possible to order one sheet with a bespoke quality for each specific ceramic statement, making it extremely cost-effective. (See shard image Iris Troiana - Manufraction I above).

Vorster and Braye Ceramic Design jugs (Readymades) with digitally printed ceramic
transfers of my drawings of a barn swallow and Chinese water renderings.

Most of my drawings are rendered in blue or black ballpoint ink. It was therefore inevitable that I would explore expressive surface development options referencing the blue and white ware of the Ming Dynasty -cobalt brushed on surface decorations, produced for global trade.

Vorster and Braye Ceramic Design vase (above) and jug (below) with digitally
printed ceramic
 transfers of my drawings of a barn swallow and Chinese water renderings.

Digitally printed transfers of my blue ballpoint drawings were applied to shards, ready-mades or up-scaled, moulded and press-moulded expressive ceramic statements.

Shards are critical in research into cultural migrations – particularly relevant today in a global society with its problems surrounding the displacement of people (migrants and refugees).

Refuse.The ceramic installation pieces featured here show Hön’s detailed blue
ballpoint pen drawings of a barn swallow, digitally printed as ceramic transfers and 

fired onto ready-mades. This work, entitled Refuse, includes a partially restored, 
broken bone china bowl with its missing shard, featuring a barn swallow attached 
with a bird leg tagging device. The big plate incorporates renderings that were 
Photoshopped to resemble shattered glass – the surface was then etched 
with a dremel machine - see detail below.. 

I could not match the ballpoint pen blue ink I required locally. I therefore printed the transfers abroad. The results were hugely successful. I was also able to order images in A3 size, increasing the options of the images enormously.
Vicissitude (Vase), digitally printed ceramic transfers of my ballpoint pen drawings of a tulip,
flies, a beetle. Restored Kintsugi style. Another view below.

However, the best test results were obtained by firing the cold colour, ink-based transfers to 860 degrees Celsius at 150 degrees an hour, no soak. I was informed by the agents that printers are calibrated to produce transfers for either warm or cold colours.
Just a beautiful game (large Vase - readymade porcelain), digitally printed
ceramic transfers of a five clawed dragon, football, flaming pearl, water
and mist fired onto a readymade.Various views blow. 

The transfers worked best on vitrified ware (ready-mades), fired to stoneware temperatures – above 1,200 degrees Celsius. Applied to ceramics fired below 1,200 degrees Celsius (earthenware), one runs the risk of ‘spitout’. 

Refuse, Pair of porcelain readymades vases with digitally printed ceramic
transfers of my drawings of a barn swallow and Chinese water renderings.
Laser-printed ceramic transfers of my ballpoint drawings, produced in a wide range of colours and sizes, digitally enhanced and applied to ceramics, create new opportunities.

Just a beautiful game (Vorster and Braye Medium size Vase), digitally printed ceramic transfers
 a five clawed dragon, football, flaming pearl, water and mist fired onto a readymade.
Various views blow. 
The transfer is able to capture drawing marks like brush strokes, which presents a wide range of decorative and expressive options, with far greater image clarity and detail, hereto unobtainable with a brush. 
Through my drawing and design, and by referencing ceramic craft tradition, I was able to create a new and tangible interpretation of this art form. This article appeared in a research accredited journal titled, Ceramics Art and Perception in the Technical section, with my work on the cover - image below.