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United by Different. A Conversation with Artists and Curators of The Palace of Shattered Vessels Project

Published: 22.04.2019
Yuxi Sun Yuxi Sun
Author:
Yuxi Sun
Edited by:
Klimt02
Edited at:
Barcelona
Edited on:
2019
Curator Noga Zhang Shahar made a speech during the artist's talk session at FRAME 2019..
Curator Noga Zhang Shahar made a speech during the artist's talk session at FRAME 2019.

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Intro
The concept of “broken vessels” comes from the Jewish religion Kabbalah, where it is mentioned that when the vessel which is used for holding the light breaks, and then the shattered fragment becomes light. Hence, we believe that all of those old shattered chips would turn into “new light” after the re-creation by our artists.
/ Florance Xia

After the brief review of the exhibition The Palace of Shattered Vessels. I also prepared some questions to the curators, participating artists and the artists who would invite by Froots Gallery to make an artist-in-residence in Jingdezhen. Let’s have a look together how they think about this exhibition and their insights into this project.

中文版 - Chinese version      View / hide description

Questions to curators:

Q: While you were choosing those shattered vessels, is there any specific meaning/story behind your choice?
Florance Xia: The shattered vessels were donated by Ms Angela Lu (Ang Lu), who is the co-founder of FROOTS Gallery as well as the CEO of Artrade (an online art auction website). For a long time, Ms Lu wanted to see those shattered vessels transform into contemporary jewellery pieces, so this was the starting point of the project The Palace of Shattered Vessels.
The ceramic pieces chosen for this project originated from Jingdezhen. Those who have been to Jingdezhen all know the amount of remained old shattered chips is huge, and they are the accumulation of several past dynasties. However, the key point of the project The Palace of Shattered Vessels was not the age of the shattered chips, neither the origin of the kiln or the value behind the chips. Conversely, we gave shattered chips to each artist as a gift, because we treated them just as a type of material. There are plenty of makers and craftspeople use ceramic to make jewellery, so we would love to see what kind of unique pieces our contemporary jewellery artists will create? And we would like to understand the difference between the pieces made by pure craftspeople and our jewellery artists. What is the uniqueness of the artists’ creation?
Since contemporary jewellery is medium for the individual expression, the same shattered chips passed to different artists would have different results via our artists’ hands. Furthermore, the concept of broken vessels comes from the Jewish religion Kabbalah, where it is mentioned that when the vessel which is used for holding the light breaks, and then the shattered fragment becomes light. Hence, we believe that all of those old shattered chips would turn into a new light after the re-creation by our artists, no matter why they were abandoned or their value was depreciated. Due to the new creating process, the old chips were re-valued after all. The new value of the pieces is not about materiality, as it is a piece of new, alive and shining art work.

Q: FRAME in IHM is a great opportunity to present FROOTS Gallery. How did you try to present Chinese cultural element in such an international vibe?
Florance Xia: One kind of very important concept which merges into our blood is harmony. For instance, the Chinese are told to be mild in dealing with people, and not to show aggressiveness. Just using an individual element or an ancient symbol from China is not yet enough to be regarded as truly Chinese. China is a vast land with a long history. Each region has its own culture and tolerance, so while we were curating the exhibition, the core of the whole presentation is tolerant harmony. Each artist is an individual person, so the work they created is their own way to build the harmony vibe. Some people probably think this sounds a bit too ordinary, and it lacks character because the individual style is necessary for the artist in the contemporary jewellery field. However, since the whole project was led by the essence of harmony, then we made the exhibition possible, and artists also felt that they immersed in this harmony atmosphere. The whole exhibition is united because of the common material every artist used, and yet each project is still very different due to the personal touches. In this specially created system, united but different is the kind of Chinese vibe we intended, and it’s a sort of hidden essence for us.

Q: Based on 140 breathtaking pieces from all of your invited artists, what kind of work did you expect the most?
Noga Zhang Shahar: What I was looking forward to the most was the diversity of the results, and gaining the selection of contemporary jewellery which has a special meaning behind it. We are proud that there are 40 outstanding jewellery artists from 4 continents and 13 countries have taken part in our project. The conversation between East and West, history and present is very meaningful. It brings the art jewellery field further. We will continue this project, and we believe it will make a far-reaching influence.

Q: During the curating process, what impressed you most? What was the most challenging issue?
Noga Zhang Shahar: The Palace of Shattered Vessels is one of the most complicated projects FROOTS has organized. It was not easy but we succeeded eventually, mostly owing to the support we received from the artists. This was the most impressive fact for me: FROOTS literally made this project possible together with all of our artists. When we had difficulties or problems, we got in contact with our artists, and I had the belief that they would help us as much as they could. The most challenging question is usually the unsolved one. Now we are working on the next step: we want to find the best location to continue the Palace of Shattered Vessels project. We also hope to get support and help from various sectors of the community.


Questions to participating artists:

Tanel Veenre
Necklace: Chinese Kiss I by Tanel Veenre, 2019. Material: bone, wood, cacholong, artificial bone, silver, china. Size: 30 cm. Wood sculpting, metalwork.


Q: What jumped into your head when you received shattered vessels?
Tanel Veenre: 
First they were just time capsules, coming from different 'planet'. 

Q: What message did you receive from those shattered vessels?
Tanel Veenre: I was playing around in my studio and then I had the box with bones I found while traveling on one Estonian island. It was probably a lamb, these islands are full of them. Somehow the contrast between fully natural bone and sharp piece of porcelain intrigued me to create these faces. They are both funny and scary, like Chineses masks. And the piece of porcelain is the tongue - so I named the series Chinese Kiss, kiss with the tongue :)

Q: Do you believe that you are capable to handle all kinds of material and concept via your own creating language? 
Tanel Veenre: It might be hard, really depends. I am very organic and playful in my creating process ... can switch easily between materials or concepts. From sleek and minimal carved brooches to elaborate and complicated neckpieces. But it has to trigger me, there should be an intrigue which keeps my passion up. I am bad at controlling the process and outcome, I feel more honest if I just go with the moment. So the piece of jewellery isn't ever formal or superficial.


Peter Hoogeboom
Brooch: Potters Pool Party 2 by Peter Hoogeboom, 2018. Material: antique porcelain, silver, gold. Size: 5.3 × 3.1 × 0.8 cm.


Q: What jumped into your head when you received shattered vessels?
Peter Hoogeboom: Seeing the shatters I immediately thought of the innumerable pendants, earrings and pins made out of a single shatter, you can find online nowadays. 
Just google: ceramics shard jewelry   
Also, I thought of Porcelain House in Tianjin, in which I had a tour in 2012. The guide told us that in the old days only the emperor and his family used porcelain tableware, the common people were not allowed to use it. They had stoneware and earthenware. When a porcelain bowl chipped it was broken entirely, so commoners could not use it. That’s why at some places in certain rivers large deposits of high-quality porcelain shards are found. Some of the shards used for decorating Porcelain House had a value of thousands of dollars. Wow!

Photo by Peter Hoogeboom.

And of course that house reminded me of Park Güell in Barcelona, with Gaudi’s mosaics of shards.

Q: What message did you receive from those shattered vessels?
Peter Hoogeboom: The shatters I got were old, but made of the same material I work with: porcelain. Of a bowl, once made by the fellow potter. I felt and I wanted to make a connection in material and craft. And I wanted to do his (her?) work justice. So I tried to find a visual balance between the application of the ancient shard and my contemporary addition. It felt like a handshake between colleagues over time and place.

Q: Do you believe that you are capable to handle all kinds of material and concept via your own creating language? 
Peter Hoogeboom: 
I was trained to find the right materials with the concept. During my education and the first years working as a professional, I did use many other materials (paper, wood, iron, glass, slate etc). Since I focused on clay in 1995, I work the other way around: trying to tell stories that have can be expressed with ceramics. But handling all materials? Not before mastering the use of many of them. With a new material, you need to learn about the possibilities and limitations of it, through a lot of handing, plenty of practice. And possibly discover new possibilities, new uses, setting new boundaries. Apart from all more conventional materials and techniques taught at the jewelry department in the academy, working with a new material asks for an extensive period of time to explore it.


Andrea Wagner
Brooch: Whispers Of Low Tide Over Remains Of Palace Of Shattered Vessels by Andrea Wagner, 2018. Material: Antique Chinese porcelain shards, silver, glass, glass/resin composite, paper, stainless steel (pins). Size: 11.5 x 8.5 x 4.5 cm. Photo by: Andrea Wagner. From series: The Palace Of Shattered Vessels.


Q: What jumped into your head when you received shattered vessels?
Q: What message did you receive from those shattered vessels?
Q: Do you believe that you are capable to handle all kinds of material and concept via your own creating language? 

Andrea Wagner: Working with the beautiful antique pottery shards in this project fit my work like a glove. 
My work of the last years was like snapshots of a not yet existent reality in which architecture and nature are fused in complete symbiosis. In it, I've used self-made porcelain, sometimes elements of favorite white porcelain dishes that I'd accidentally broken. That's why I instantly loved the title because it fit into my work, and it was perfect to use as the title for the project pieces (I love titles, and my pieces often have very long names). 
For quite a while my work and its titles have been centered around water-related landscapes - resorts, lodges or other dwellings on beaches, coasts, the sea, or rivers. So as soon as I started to arrange and play around with the broken porcelain shards on my table my mental eye quickly started imagining underwater remains like lost underwater cities of the ancient world. Once I mentally visualized waves breaking over the ruins of such a palace the pieces just seemed to grow in my hands in reaction to the wonderful patterns and colors of the shards. 
While not every material might fit into the concept of my present way of working, I do believe that I'd be capable of using all kinds of material and bend it to my will or creative expression. It's always a matter of investigating characteristics and capabilities of a material; of asking myself how the material can be changed and adapted or taken apart and re-structured to become something I love. That's why I love workshops with new materials! A funny story is how during a workshop called Cow Now (by my former mentor Ruudt Peters) in the Dutch countryside beside cow fields I ended up making pieces from cow manure (everybody except the flies tried to distance themselves from my work area!) One of the pieces even ended up in a traveling exhibition (Spoons by Gallery RA, Amsterdam) to several museums. I found it quite amusing that this piece of shit achieved museum grade!  


Felieke van der Leest
Necklace: PJ Parrot and the Blackfoot Lemon Birds by Felieke van der Leest, 2018. Material: textile, plastic animals, oxidized silver, porcelain, glass beads. Size: 45 × 18 × 3 cm.


Felieke van der Leest gave the casual talk at FRAME 2019.


Q: What jumped into your head when you received shattered vessels?
Felieke van der Leest: I first panicked a little because what to do with these bits and pieces of material I never work with? Maybe I won’t get a good idea? Fortunately, I have been in this situation before so I know that in a while ideas will start flowing and in the end I will be happy with the result. 

Q: What message did you receive from those shattered vessels?
Felieke van der Leest: Uhm, I didn’t get any message from them.

Q: Do you believe that you are capable to handle all kinds of material and concept via your own creating language? 
Felieke van der Leest: Yes. I like once in a while to work with materials I normally not work with. You have to get out of your comfort zone, discover new things, think outside the box. Although I always return to my favourite materials: textile, plastic animals, beads and metal!


Jichang Chai
Brooch: Seem to be Loong by Jichang Chai, 2019. Material: acrylic, antique porcelain, brass, moonstone, rubber beads, shellfish beads, ceramic beads, lapis lazuli. Size: 9.5 × 8 × 3 cm. The Loong here refers to the dragon from Chinese mythology.


Q: What jumped into your head when you received shattered vessels?
Jichang Chai: My first impression of the whole project actually came from the image. We chose the shattered chips based on images online, so we didn’t have the exact ideas about its size, thickness or degree of new or old. We were only sure about the colour and the missing patterns. I started with the question of what is unique and what is handy for me. Because of my very first idea when I knew this topic was just to get away from all existing ceramic jewellery.

Q: What message did you receive from those shattered vessels?
Jichang Chai: It’s an overused element in China. It’s popular, commercial and accessible to all. How can I break the rules without overdoing it?

Q: Do you believe that you are capable to handle all kinds of material and concept via your own creating language? 
Jichang Chai: This is a good question, but I have to explain in two ways. Creating is a very personal and individual process. If it’s is about presenting my work and expressing my ideas – in this sense, I am capable of handling any topic, material, form, concept and so on. However, when it’s shown in the public and presented to the audience, it is very possible that all my preparation and arranged statements could be misunderstood, highlighted and ignored. Every reaction is possible. This is out of my control. The artwork in the studio or in an exhibition has two different statuses. Contemporary jewellery is a more interesting medium, as it needs to be worn. The work cannot be called complete if it has no connection to people instead of the author.


Yasmin Vinograd
Necklace: Vessel by Yasmin Vinograd, 2019. Material: porcelain, silver, basalt. Size: 9.5 × 8.7 × 2 cm.


Yasmin Vinograd gave the casual talk at FRAME 2019.


Q: What jumped into your head when you received shattered vessels?
When I held the shattered vessels for the first time, I felt I had received a personal message from the Chinese artist, beyond the distance of time, place, and culture

Q: What message did you receive from those shattered vessels?
It was an invitation to continue the blue brush strokes, using my personal language and materials, and give them a new life
 
Q: Do you believe that you are capable to handle all kinds of material and concept via your own creating language? 
yes, I feel that this is a conversation whose syntax is composed of form and essence, and therefore I believe that I will be able to lead this dialogue when meeting with different materials and concepts.


Questions to selected artist-in-residence artists:

Avital Avital

Object: Summer Dress Series by Avital Avital, 2019. Material: porcelain, paint.


Q: It’s about your trip to Jingdezhen, so can you describe your first impression of Jingdezhen?
Avital Avital: ohhh, its too early for me to think about it... but excitement from the unknown, I can not describe my feelings because I have not been there yet, but I am certainly supposed to have a wonderful experience. Chinese people are very kind.

Q: What do you expect the most from this artist in residency programme?
Avital Avital: Create new art in a new environment that seems to be the most fun.

Q: What’s the most special part in your work?
Avital Avital: My Sisyphean. also I think my fragility art comes out straight. Every time I get an idea and I start working on it I’m drawn to the complexity. 


Paul Smith
Sculpture: Icebear and Girl by Paul Smith, 2018. Material: ceramic. Size: 27 x 21 cm.


Q: It’s about your trip to Jingdezhen, so can you describe your first impression of Jingdezhen(JDZ)?
Paul Smith: My first impression of JDZ was one of classic culture shock! After about a week I felt more comfortable and able to really take things in, with the help of Yaqi, the studio manager here. 
The Sculpture Factory area especially is a warren of, quite often, unkempt buildings. They house wonderful craftsmen and artists of all kinds. 
Sculptors, mould-makers, slip casters, press-moulders, clay and glaze shops, public kilns and small galleries. 
A very special place which I feel might be threatened eventually by creeping ‘improvement’. 
JDZ itself is a dizzying mix of hi-tech, chaotic traffic and amazing food everywhere. 

Q: What do you expect the most from this artist in residency programme?
Paul Smith: The FROOTS residency programme is tailored to the individual. 
The facilities are good, with plenty of light and a small bisque kiln.  In my case, I am investigating different production methods - slip casting and press moulding of new work made here in the first week. Firstly it is a learning experience for me, but if I can produce work of some value, then all the better. I am unfamiliar with porcelain and the glazed involved, so it will be a voyage of discovery. 

Q: What’s the most special part of your work?
Paul Smith: I suppose the element of my work that attracts people most is the simplicity and warmth. 
In my work I try to evoke a simpler way, a step back from the fast pace of modern life. Peace and tranquillity and a connection with nature. A naive abstraction with a stripped back style. 


Claudia Biehne
Claudia Biehne at her studio in Leipzig, photo by Stefan Passig.


Q: It’s about your trip to Jingdezhen, so can you describe your first impression of Jingdezhen?
Claudia Biehne: Jingdezhen with its history especial in porcelain is far away from Leipzig. I have never been to China before. All my knowledge about the country and the people I have got from the internet. Some ceramic artists from Europe and America I know, went to Jingdezhen to work there for a while.  All of them recommended me deeply to go there. 
When I see the images of Jindezhen on my screen I see deep-rooted tradition, but also a here and now. It is some kind unreal to recognize the high quantity, the dimensions of the huge porcelain objects and the technical know how.
 
Q: What do you expect the most from this artist in residency programme?
Claudia Biehne: Every action has its reaction. If you travel to another corner of the world the reaction is thinkable big for you. You encounter another climate, thinking and circumstances that are far away from your daily life. 
In Leipzig, I have a small studio with a small kiln. When I think about Jingdezhen I think big. 
At the moment I work on murals. I excited about the forthcoming possibility to see them in another size.
Besides the technical challenge, I am looking for cooperation with FROOTS in Shanghai.
I do not know what will happen in China, but I know something will happen and so I see my life enriched in the near future.

Q: What’s the most special part of your work?
Claudia Biehne: Nowadays our life becomes some sort of artificial. If somebody switched off all flat screens of the world, nothing seems to existent. Porcelain is durable. It comes from the ground and it is a part of nature. Nature is always existent. You can injure it but you can never switch it off. There was nature before the existent of the human being and there will be nature after our existent. Nature is endless and creative. It is full of power. To discover and feel that mystery is my interest.
 

About the author

Yuxi Sun completed her Bachelor of Arts in Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 2015. She finished her Master of Fine Arts in Gemstone and Jewellery at the University of Applied Science Trier, Campus Idar-Oberstein in 2018. Meanwhile, she has been interning at Klimt02 since 2017.
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