The first in the series of slip cast tea bowls has been bisque fired. So far I have been able to reproduce an exact form from the model I shaped on the lathe. I have already started to test different thicknesses. This is achieved by increasing the time the slip is left in the cast. Does dignity have a certain thickness? I feel this is a path worth encroaching upon.
(Sales, S. 2015)
So how successful are these bowls? How do they measure against the four pillars, unpretentious beauty, dignity, purity and humility?
White, a pure colour, unadulterated. But how will this impact glazing opportunities? It is possible to combine glazes and achieve purity?
Its form is as intended, pure and unadulterated. Is it beautiful though? Quite an ambiguous target, beauty, as it is highly subjective. Maybe the form is a little squat; something more slender and able to fit in one hand? Its few parts have a humble quality which I think is very suitable.
So dignity remains the most illusive so far. ‘The state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect’ (Oxford Dictionary 2015). I respect the simplicity and purity of the piece, but I feel I am a long way from achieving honour.
I feel that honour will most likely be achieved after glazing; a period where the completed tea bowl can be assessed as being successful or not.
‘unpretentious beauty, purity, dignity, and humility’.
(Touching Stone 2015)
These words are going to be the goals of my quest. They have become a beacon, something to head for in the dark moments of my research. If I can aim for these four landmarks, then I feel I am heading in the right direction.
In order to support how I quantify my success, I feel it is essential to clarify exactly what the definitions of my four beacons are.
Oxford Dictionaries elaborates:
Unpretentious: ‘Not attempting to impress others with an appearance of greater importance, talent, or culture than is actually possessed.’
Beauty: ‘A combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially thesight’
Dignity: ‘The state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect’
Purity: ‘Freedom from adulteration or contamination’
Humility: ‘The quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance’
(Oxford Dictionaries, 2015)
Being such an influential artist, how could I resist being in London and not visiting the latest Ai WeiWei show at the Royal Academy. The costly entry fee prepared me for something spectacular.
(Sales, S. 2015)
I anticipated seeing some well known works for the first time (captured above) and I hoped to see works I had never seen. What I’ve always admired about Ai’s work are the social and cultural veins that run through it, highlighting the oppressive nature of the Chinese Government. Potentially I had been so awed by the stand alone power of his works, that I hadn’t truly acknowledged what would happen when gathered under one roof. Sadly, by the end of 90 mins viewing, empathy, shock, anger and sadness was replaced with numbness. My head and heart was rendered unable to respond to any more of China’s atrocities. The work was so explicitly labeled that I could make no other interpretations than the ones prescribed on the gallery walls.
But what did work? What was useful for the research I am undertaking?
As documented above, the bright ceramic vases were a welcomed change in tone. Questioning the value of an object, whether worth more as a neolithic vase or as a defaced vase by the artist. How much does provenance and form add value?
I was extremely impressed and inspired by range of materials used. The ceramic brickwork, once Ai’s studio – now demolished by the Chinese Government – tells a story of China and of the present day fight Ai faces.
Many of the works were about how the Chinese Government’s movement to monitor and even detain Ai over recent years. With these artworks Ai has written himself into China’s history.