New Blue and White—Discovering contemporary interpretations of blue and white ceramics
Aims + Objectives
The title “New Blue and White” is from the exhibition “New Blue And White” (Kate M., 2013) in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Taking inspiration from global blue and white traditions, artists were invited to continue the story, creating works that speak to contemporary ideas. They tackle diverse issues, ranging from the public (the political landscape, cross-cultural interchange), to the personal (family, memory, the act of collecting), to the aesthetic (abstraction, pattern, the role of decoration). Visitors can make connections between these contemporary statements and their remarkable historical predecessors. Taking the exhibition as a reference, the project has two aims to discover contemporary interpretations of blue and white ceramics. The works below were included in the exhibition.
Harumi Nakashima(2012), Forms that Robert Dawson(1996), Can you walk from
Enclose the Absurd-1213 the garden, does your heart understand
Aim1: storytelling of traditional blue and white ceramics
The poetry of everyday things, borne by the memories and stories of these objects. Looking closely at objects such as these you soon discover how intertwined our cultural history is. Blue and white ceramics have become more than just containers or vessels. I want to speak to the sense of loss and memory that old china often carries in our lives, as it sits silent and half-forgotten in the cupboard. I want to tell the narratives behind the cultural heritage.
The aim is followed by these objectives:
-Storytelling in contemporary perspective
-Evoke audience’s attention to cultural heritage
-Evoke empathic emotion of audience through works, not limited in Chinese traditional blue and white ceramics
Aim2: exploring the new understanding of tradition through reproduction, appropriation and reinterpretation.
As for the definition of tradition, according to Zhu Min (2015, p1), a doctor from Edith Cowan University, “the understanding of tradition (chuantong) in the Chinese cultural context refers to the transmission of ideological culture, beliefs, practices, institutions, customs and habits from the past into the present in terms of the continuity of time (chuan) and the expansion of space (tong).” In this way, my investigation is including time, space and people related to blue and white ceramics and try to reinterpret it from my perspective and create new blue and white. It is a way to understand the present and re-evaluate the past.
The aim is followed by these objectives:
-Time: Historical research of blue and white ceramics
-Space: Site research of the origins and collections of traditional blue and white ceramics
-People: Invite craftsmen in Jingdezhen or artists related to project in document retrieval and participatory research
“Blue and white” means, at its simplest, cobalt pigment applied to white clay. Over the course of a millennium, blue and white porcelain has become one of the most recognized types of ceramic production worldwide. With roots in the Islamic world and Asia, and strong presence in Europe and the Americas, various cultures adapted blue-and-white, from the Willow pattern to isznik.
In China, Blue and white porcelain is a symbolic element in Chinese traditional culture. From the 16th century, the temporal and spatial journey of blue and white porcelain represents one of the forerunning disseminations of culture, knowledge, and technology in the context of globalization. It experienced rise, fall and reinvention as the changes of dynasties. It also was reproduced, appropriated and reinterpreted during the rise of post modernism, which symbolized the subversion and deconstruction of traditional culture.
For the aim1- storytelling of traditional blue and white ceramics, Caroline’s work can be a reference to explore the narratives behind historical object. The exploration of these trivial objects’ function as bearers of memories is a key aspect of her work. Old and second-hand objects serve as bridges to the past, to people and places, our own and other people’s histories.
Caroline Slotte(2013), Landscape Multiple
For the aim2-exploring the new understanding of tradition through reproduction, appropriation and reinterpretation, Steven Lee’s works, from the exhibition “New Blue and White”, reflected his passion for historical ceramics and insights on the past. Ceramic production has long been influenced by an industrial standard of perfection and he commit himself to the integrity and craftsmanship of form and decoration in each piece. “Deconstructing and imploding the forms creates a visceral reaction that defies the human desire for perfection and confronts the perception of value. It is in this act that I hope to challenge and redefine what is beautiful.” (Steven L.,2011) His works are a reference to show the contemporary reinterpretation of traditional ceramics.
Steven Young Lee (2011), Deconstructed
In terms of the theory about the dialectical relationship between tradition and modernity, Chen & Ryden (2009, p. 358) believe that “the meaning of tradition depends far more on how we interpret and implement it, how we creatively transmit its meaning”. In my opinion, it is necessary to reinterpret traditional Chinese ceramics in a contemporary context and analyze how to reflect, criticize and inherit traditional ceramic culture from the historical and geographical perspective, which is a necessary way to promote the development of Chinese contemporary ceramics.
Concerning participatory research, it includes participatory inquiry, action research, oral testimonies and story collection as a foundation for collective analysis, photo-digital stories, drawing, participatory video, and immersions (Jo Howard, 2012). I am interested in digital storytelling, I will go to origins and museums of blue and white ceramics and invite participants to share aspects of their life story through the creation of their own short digital media production. ‘Media’ may include the digital equivalent of film, photos, audio recordings or electronic files that individuals can use to tell a story or present an idea. I can use this method to invite craftsmen in Jingdezhen or artists related to project to tell the stories about the three theme--time, space and people related to blue and white ceramics, if they agree with this way.
Case study is an essential way for this project to consider how contemporary artists are employing tradition as a springboard for countless innovations, creating works that speak to contemporary audiences, provoking meaningful discussion, and inviting fresh perspectives on clay.
In the last three terms, I practiced through ceramic with a series of way such as juxtaposition and deconstruction to reinterpret blue and white porcelain through Jingdezhen traditional skills in London. I must consider more about the difference of the material and firing in London and Jingdezhen and also the technical problem in detail. Except the experiments through ceramic material, I will try to combine video recording with the original physical method. In the following terms, I need to reflect more through experiment and document in the blog.
The project aims to combine the digital recording with physical objects to evoke visitors’ emotion towards half-forgotten cultural heritage and provide contemporary perspective to reinterpret traditional ceramics.
Work Plan (Timeline)
Cate, M. (2013). ‘New Blue and White’ at the MFA Available at: https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/2013/03/07/art-review-new-blue-and-white-mfa/by0pUir14VoSRiTUMzv3NJ/story.html (Accessed: 10 December).
Zhu, M. (2015). The reinvention of tradition—in contemporary Chinese classical dance creations, p.1.
Gao, Z. Y. (1998). Chinese contemporary ceramics, p.43.
Steven, L. (2011) artist’s statement Available at: https://stevenyounglee.com/about/artist-statement (Accessed: 10 December).
Chen, L. & Ryden, E. (2009). Tradition and modernity: A humanist view. Leiden: BRILL. P358.
Jo Howard, (2012). Participatory Research Methods, p.14
Figure1. Harumi, N. (2012), Forms that Enclose the Absurd-1213 [online image] Available at: http://artradarjournal.com/2016/01/25/reshaping-tradition-7-contemporary-ceramic-artists-from-east-asia/ (Accessed: 11 December).
Figure2. Robert, D. (1996), Can you walk from the garden, does your heart understand [online image] Available at: http://thewillowpatternproject.blogspot.com/2010/07/robert-dawson.html (Accessed: 11 December).
Figure3. Caroline, S. (2013), Landscape Multiple [online image] Available at: http://carolineslotte.com/works/landscape-multiple/ (Accessed: 12 December).
Figure4. Steven, L. (2011), Deconstructed [online image] Available at: https://stevenyounglee.com/work/deconstructed (Accessed: 12 December).