Massive Curved Vaults Mimicking Traditional Kilns House a Jingdezhen Museum Dedicated to Porcelain Production
Jingdezhen, Jiangxi, China is widely recognized as the porcelain capital of the world with a more than 2,000-year history of producing prized ceramics. As an homage to that tradition, architects from Studio Zhu-Pei constructed an open-air structure with towering arches mimicking traditional kilns. The expansive brick vaults now house the northern city’s Imperial Kiln Museum, which sits adjacent to the production sites used during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
To preserve and demarcate the existing ruins on the grounds, Studio Zhu-Pei configured the new building around the remnants, like courtyards and monuments embedded in the ground, in a way that brings together history and contemporary culture in a single space. Each of the curved structures, which is comprised of both recycled and new bricks, differs in volume and length, allowing light to stream in at varying angles throughout the day. The museum’s entrance is on the ground level so that the “experience of people entering it is the same as the past artisans,” the architects say in a statement.
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From her studio in Amsterdam, Gésine Hackenberg (previously) punches perfectly round discs from Delftware and antique ceramic dishes. The ornate, pearl-like forms are then strung together into necklaces or secured into metal bands for rings and earrings. Juxtaposing the old and new, the completed wearables are positioned alongside the original dinnerware to draw connections between the domestic objects and personal adornments that are ubiquitous in everyday life.
The ongoing collection—which Hackenberg says was inspired by her grandmother’s pearl necklaces and massive cabinet of porcelain dishes—evidences what the designer sees as “a certain kinship” between what’s worn on the body and the pieces that decorate and sustain a living space. She says:
What one keeps and owns, often contains an emotional meaning next to its practical function or worth. Possessions, especially personal treasures, define and represent their owner. Jewelry is in particular an outward sign of values that are deeply rooted in the wearer, of what people cherish, in what they believe, and what they desire.
Because the ceramic material is incredibly fragile, Hackenberg works manually with custom tools. She’s developed a precise understanding of the drilling speeds and pressure necessary to remove each disc without creating too many chips or cracks. If the material is damaged throughout the temperamental extraction process, the entire piece is unusable.
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Argentina-born artist Claudia Fontes (previously) continues her Foreigners series with small sculptures of figures enveloped by plumes of porcelain. Recent additions to the expanding collection are more abstract than previous iterations, which often revealed the body’s curves and gestures, although all of the works feature limbs embracing within or attempting to escape from the textured clouds. The pocked surface resembles organic matter, like sea sponges or coral, and seamlessly merges life forms into a cohesive structure.
Fontes tells Colossal that this shift in focus was inspired by a desire to see “the material as the main protagonist of the piece, steering away from representation.” She explains that by “piercing the porcelain in different ways and exploring the possibilities that come with grouping the figures, I have realized that I am paying more attention to the material as a fictional membrane, which mediates between figure and background.”
Currently, Fontes is incorporating two colors into her otherwise white porcelain in order to create new works that evoke sedimentary rock. She’s also preparing for a solo show at Cecilia Brunson Projects in London and a group exhibition at Stuk in Leuven, Belgium, and some pieces from the Foreigners series will be part of Simbiologías at Centro Cultural Kirchner in Buenos Aires this April. Until then, follow the artist on Instagram or head to her site to see more of her sculptural work.
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Caroline Harrius merges two historically domestic crafts in her florally embroidered vases. The Stockholm-based artist shapes tall vessels and studs them with tiny holes just big enough for thread to pass through. Adorned with a readymade cross-stitch pattern or Harrius’s own floral motifs, the finished vases are semi-functional and visualize the intersections of gender and craft history, particularly in relation to decoration and purpose.
Harrius recently graduated with a master’s degree in ceramics art from Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design, where she began the porcelain pair. “This was the first time I felt ashamed of something I was working on. I wanted to hide my vases so no one could see them when I was not there and could explain the reason behind the work. For some reason, I saw no value in the curvy vases and didn’t want to be associated with them,” she shares.
Now working from her studio in the iconic Swedish porcelain factory, Gustavsberg, Harrius plans to create a third vessel with black-and-white stitching—follow her on Instagram for progress on this design—to complete the series that questions historical conceptions of women’s work. “I’m interested to see how I revalue the techniques when (they’re) taken out of their original context and are combined into one piece,” she writes. (via Brown Paper Bag)
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From her Baltimore studio, Israeli artist Zemer Peled (previously) sculpts countless spikes and oblongs into densely textured artworks. Amorphous forms bristle with porcelain pieces of varying shape and hue, mimicking organic elements like coral reefs and intertwined vines. Other sculptures depict oversized blooms with the firm, pointed edges of each shard directly contrasting the soft and fleshy petals found in nature.
Explore Peled’s available pieces in her shop and on Artsy, in addition to her line of cobalt tableware created in collaboration with the French porcelain manufacturer Bernardaud. You can follow her work and find glimpses into her process on Instagram, and head to her site to see her recent coronavirus-themed pieces.
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Bouke de Vries (previously) refers to some of his porcelain sculptures as “three-dimensional still lifes.” The artist, who was born in the Netherlands and now lives in London, creates sprawling assemblages that resemble a classic bowl of fruit or table setting frequently found in Dutch art. “I compose these pieces as, after the painter has finished with them, the ceramics get broken and decayed, and I breathe new life into them. The butterfly in still life is a symbol for the resurrection in (the) way I see what I do through my work,” he tells Colossal. In de Vries’s works, though, the seemingly mundane scenes are fractured with bursting ceramics, encroaching insects, and decaying fruit.
The artist began working with porcelain as a restorer for 15 years before embarking on his own practice, which begins with a search for broken pottery and glass shards. He never breaks an undamaged piece but rather revitalizes those that are damaged already by creating new figures that celebrate the beauty of their previous forms. With a penchant for Kintsugi, he often utilizes gold lacquer to highlight the repaired cracks.
Alongside sculptural still lifes, the figure of Guan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of compassion, mercy, and kindness, recurs in de Vries’s work. Often surrounded by cracked shards and recomposed garments, she conveys an ability for understanding and repair.
In recent weeks, de Vries has been working on commissions and new pieces, in addition to a large-scale project that spans the entrance of one of Sotheby’s Bond Street galleries, which you can see on Instagram. To find out more about the artist’s vision behind that piece, watch this interview. (via Cross Connect Magazine)
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