In September 2011, a group of Irish ceramic artists will travel to the Chinese town of Fuping, Shaanxi, to make the foundation collection for the newly built Irish Pavilion at the Fule International Ceramic Art Museum. The Irish Pavilion will showcase the best of the new wave of ceramic art emerging from Ireland, marrying the ancient techniques of the East to our own cultural traditions. It is a permanent exhibition space created to house the work of those ceramic artists whose subtlety, skill and vision captures the spirit of contemporary Ireland. Eleanor Flegg, writer, and Andrew Standen Raz, film maker and photographer, will travel with the group to document the residency. The Irish Pavilion opens on the 4th October 2011.
The blog is written by Eleanor Flegg, whose opinions may not necessarily reflect those of the group.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Irish hands on Chinese clay

At last - Fuping! The residency has started and thirteen Irish makers are up to the elbows in Chinese clay. It is a jubilant, confusing, chaotic time. The Ceramic Art Village is a vast complex of museums and hotels spread out among groves of apricot and persimmon. It's a madly grandiose dream and far bigger than we had imagined. The museums are monumental brick structures with massive domes and undulating curves. They are organic in shape and also in their cycles of construction and decay - there is a sense that if a building falls down they will just build another one. They were built to house the collections of ceramic art made on previous residencies, which ranges from the spectacular to the refreshingly panicky. It's a tough call - the brief is to respond to the Chinese experience, to shape this into an idea executable in clay, and to complete a body of museum-quality work with five weeks.
A few anxious lost-in-translation moments regarding the sourcing of equipment and materials. Our interpreter bombarded by anxious people urgently requiring clays and glazes and plaster moulds and throwing bats and internet access and coat hangers and fresh fruit and pouring slip and information about the firing ranges of kilns (she went somewhere else for an hour or so after that).
But all is well - time and urgency work a little differently here. We are treated like royalty - luxury far beyond the experience of most of us, let alone most Chinese people - so it seems a little churlish to fuss about the availability of Ethernet cables and extruders. On the other hand, we are expected to put on a good show. And so the see-saw of expectations and understanding continues. But all is well. Spirits are high and mud has not been slung. It is, as Alex said, great to be taken so seriously, because 'at home people think that you're a bit of a fool to be working in ceramics'...

1 comment:

  1. A beautiful start, Eleanor! Even in Vienna, where it has been alternately baking hot with some light summer rain showers I am transported to Fuping through your vivid descriptions of both the area and the activity there. It is now Friday evening in Austria, one day before my film VINYL screens for the first time in an Austrian Cinema, and two days before I take my Emirates Air flight to Shanghai. I have a 4hr layover in Dubai, my first culture shock en route to what I can only imagine will be an even more intense one. My bag (a professional shooter's backpack which will also double as my luggage) lies open, hopefully expecting just the right amount of equipment: a Canon 5D Mark II, 2 lenses, a mini tripod, a speedlite flash, a 2TB hard drive, a 17" macbook pro, a 1960's Konica 35mm, and a 1950's Brownie holiday 127. I just about have room for a t-shirt, socks, and some unread New Yorkers. I guess I can do some shopping in Shanghai if I really miss anything. I'm excited to shoot the progress of everyone's works, and, as I did with my previous art films, to find the cool in ceramics. No one dedicating their life to the creation of beauty in this strange and often ugly world could be accused of being a fool. Far from it. See you in a few days!