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The 3rd ICMEA (International Ceramics Magazine Editor’s Association) Symposium: The Fuping Pottery Art Village, Shaanxi Province, China 8 – 12th of November 2010

10 Jun

Last year in November I was invited to attend the 3rd ICMEA symposium in China, because my ceramic sculpture Shelf Life was selected for permanent display in the ICMEA gallery at The Fuping Pottery Arts Village, Shaanxi Province. My article about the symposium has just been published in the Ceramics Ireland Magazine, Issue 27, pp. 10 -13. You can purchase a copy or subscribe to the magazine by visiting www.ceramicsireland.org

For those of you who prefer online reading, I have added the article to the following blog post.

The Fuping Pottery Art Village, Shaanxi Province, China.

The Fuping Pottery Art Village in Shaanxi Province, China, hosted the third International Ceramics Magazine Editors Association Symposium 8– 12th of November 2010. The triennial event was attended by ceramic artists, magazine editors and academics, and coordinated by the Fuping Pottery Art Village Director I-Chi Hsu and members of ICMEA, including the former Head Chair Janet Mansfield. The symposium provided an opportunity to present research papers and exhibit new ceramic art. In the opening ceremony speeches, the host I-Chi Hsu shared his vision of the symposium: a platform to build the reputation of Fuping as a world centre for ceramics and to stimulate interest in the history and contemporary production of ceramic art in China and abroad. Approximately one hundred participants attended exhibition openings, folk art shows and performances, fireworks and many excursions to significant cultural ceramics sites during the symposium.

On the first day, a large group of visiting Eastern European artists exhibited work that was made during a residency at the Fuping Pottery Workshop to celebrate the opening of the new dome shaped FLICAM Ceramic Museum. The Third ICMEA International Emerging Artists Competition Exhibition opened later in the day and showcased sixty -nine ceramic artworks that explored functional, sculptural and conceptual approaches to the medium. All of the selected pieces are now part of the permanent collection of the Fuping ICMEA gallery, including my ceramic sculpture Shelf Life. Shelf Life playfully explores questions of object identity and is a one out of six compositions made from porcelain and glaze. I was proud to see that all five Australian artists chosen for the show had made the effort to travel to China, including two recent RMIT graduates, Andrei Davidoff and Kellie Barnes. Andrei presented Denkyu Forest, an arrangement in which trees are substituted for porcelain, fluorescent light tubes and wires, whilst Kellie’s delicately cast glazed porcelain objects resembled components of architectural structures. The competition winners were announced in the evening: Gold prize (US2000) Sinead Glynn, Silver Prize (US1500) Gabriele Gisi, and Bronze Prize (US1000) Martin Grade. The night wrapped up with a spectacular display of Chinese fireworks.

Kim Goldsmith, Shelf Life (1/6), Southern Ice Porcelain and glaze, 60x40x20cm, 2007. Permanent collection of the Fuping Pottery Village ICMEA gallery, China.

During the three-day conference, twenty-one papers were presented covering a range of topics. After many discussions fuelled by the topic of the day or Sedrine beer (helping to “release our true emotions” according to the label) it was evident that recent activity within the International ceramics community has moved beyond the tedious art vs. craft debates, or the obsession with the Hamada – Leach ceramic philosophy. Instead, the speakers focused on the global-local position of ceramics and the necessity of critical discourse. Magazine editors debated the importance of critical peer reviewed articles and digital versions of journals to connect with young artists and academics. Strategies for the expansion and survival of ceramics magazines included revising target markets to engage a broader public readership by collaborating with recognised authors (such as Salman Rushdie or journalists from the New Yorker) and paying writers for their submissions. The adoption of digital technologies (Rhino, AutoCAD and clay printers) and offering ceramics residencies to artists from other disciplines were suggested by the European Ceramic Work Centre as alternative means to revitalise the general image and appeal of ceramics. The same fears that the “pure art” of hand-crafted ceramics will be destroyed by the hybrid, digital, global and interdisciplinary tastes of the art world continue to linger. Yet, whatever these new permutations may be, most of the artists at the conference seemed keen to embrace and support fresh technologies and modes of promotion if they sustain the future of ceramics practice.

Andrei Davidoff, Denkyu Forest, porcelain and florescent lights, dimensions vary. Permanent collection The Fuping Pottery Art Village ICMEA gallery.

After the topical debates of day two were over, we visited the X’ian terracotta warriors at the original pit where a local farmer found over six thousand statues in the 1970’s. At the gift shop the actual farmer sat at a table signing exhibition catalogues for ten Yuan. That was rather unexpected, but I imagine that it was a profitable occupation since his farmland had been taken over as a tourist attraction. Ceramic conservators had painstakingly restored each broken figure, a feat almost more impressive than their original construction. The conservators remain at the site and can be witnessed remodelling the figures, or watching Youku, the Chinese equivalent of You tube, on their laptops! Outside of the pit, there were many small stalls where the locals sold images of Mao Zedong, Warrior figurines, or “bear skin” rugs that were in fact made from dog fur.

On the fourth day we ventured three hours by bus from Fuping to the mountain top pottery village Chen Lu. Along the way, we saw many low lying unfinished brick houses. Corn cobs were strung up on each house, and kernels spread on the ground to dry, ready to be pummelled into flour used to make special noodles. The village was a string of small potteries that made their wares for export or local sale atop the peak of a series of mountains tiered with green rice paddies. Visibility was minimal because of the combination of the smoke emanating from the wood stoked kilns and the thick smog and dust in the atmosphere due to heavy urban and industrial development in the region. The small studios contained rows of slip-cast porcelain jugs, tea sets, ornate wine cups and vases decorated with celadon or black glazes, carved patterns, and elaborate tiger and dragon sprigging. Most of the town was built from discarded terracotta: roof tiles were used for pavement,

Kellie Barnes, Untitled, porcelain and glaze, dimensions vary. Permanent collection of The Fuping Pottery Art Village, China.

pots stacked to make walls and glazed teapots marked the studio entrances.

The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen was established in the early 1980s and since this time, more studios in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing have emerged. Artists, designers and manufacturers can apply for a residency and pay a fee that covers accommodation, food and studio space. The workshop is surrounded by small studios that specifically focus on one or two aspects of ceramic practice, such as mould making or glazing. Resident artists treat these workshops as an extension of their studio, and may employ local craftspeople to replicate their own designs in small editions, learn a specific skill such as overglaze decoration or engraving, or fire batches of their work.  In the courtyard below the studios, there is a regular craft market where students from the local ceramic college have an opportunity to sell their wares to visitors.  The workshop has an education centre for children and adults to learn basic ceramic skills, and where the conference artists returned to present lectures and images of their work in the evening.

During the day, we drove to the Big Piece Ceramic Factory in the mountains outside of the town centre. The factory produces giant vases and bowls that are exported and purchased as decoration for homes and hotel lobbies. The vases were hand built and moulded in sections and then decorated by hand with traditional Chinese patterns and characters. Some of the pieces were three times the size of an adult. The last visit was to the Sambao Mountain Ceramic Studio where we met Jackson Lee, the American educated Chinese ceramicist who is the director of this studio. The studio is secluded and restful, nestled in mountain forests that overlook a small stream and low vegetable patches, offering Chinese or International ceramicists a tranquil space away from the city to create new work. Here we talked to the resident artists and enjoyed yet another delicious round table meal in the restaurant, which is a popular attraction for locals. After our stay in Jingdhezen the group split in two, some stopped over in Shanghai before their flight home, whilst the rest took a bus to Longquan for the Celadon Festival to visit the museum, ancient kilns, work factories and master studios.

Large ceramics factory, Jingdhezen

The third ICMEA Symposium was an intensely engaging and educational experience. We witnessed the role of Chinese ceramics as both an artefact of ancient history and a material applied to the modern and industrial development of new cities. It is clear that in China the biggest potential market for ceramic designs is within the built environment. However, as the country expands, so too does the interest in innovative ceramic art. ICMEA gave the group a rare opportunity to access studios and potteries local to China, and a chance to share our own perspectives, ideas and passion for clay with other International artists, editors and academics.

Chen Lu Ancient Pottery Village, China.

About the author

Kim Goldsmith completed a Master of Visual Arts, specialising in Ceramics, at the Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney, Australia in 2007. Since this time she has travelled to Egypt, Germany, Morocco, and China to present conference papers, and exhibit ceramics and paintings for International Symposiums. Currently, she is employed as an Art and Design Teaching Fellow, Bachelor of Architecture Program in the Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies at The University of Nottingham, Ningbo Campus, China. Her research and arts practice is focused on theories of object identity, material culture, craft theory, and the psychological/emotional experiences of architectural space.

http://www.kimgoldsmith.com

kim.goldsmith@nottingham.edu.cn

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Artist Bytes: Interview with Leon Nicholas Kalas

8 Jun

Leon Kalas Bab Fez Gallery Morocco 2009

Leon Nicholas Kalas is an Athens born artist based in Brooklyn, New York, USA. His oil paintings are predominantly figurative and he adopts a variety of styles and approaches from abstract to realist. He is a self-taught artist who developed his talents through self-discipline, passion and a keen interest in humanity, all of these skills honed over a lifetime and refined in his later years at formal art institutions in New York. Some of his paintings respond to the struggles of African-Americans, others are based on his experiences of travel to Morocco and many are celebrity portraits, including those of Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier. Leon’s dedication to the human form reveals a consistent interest in the individual identities that shape a nation; each unique portrait is emblematic of the diverse and complex nature of American society.

Leon Kalas, Self Portrait, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Leon claims that his artworks are “not focused primarily on political/social issues”, yet it is hard not to see much of his oeuvre as a rebuke of the history of racial prejudice towards African-Americans.  Despite his intentions, the nature of his subject matter has caused controversy in the past and fired debate about the appropriateness of political imagery in public spaces. In 2007, Leon was employed as a curator for the Fillmore Real Estate Offices on Atlantic Avenue and Hoyt St in Brooklyn. He was responsible for coordinating rotating exhibitions of paintings of local Brooklyn artists that would furnish the offices. The partnership worked well until it was Leon’s turn to exhibit his collection of twelve paintings titled Social Injustice in America. The exhibition included images of black slavery and oppression, and one painting donned the text “black slaves for sale here”. The department was not amused, claiming that the imagery was too provocative for a business space. The Brooklyn Paper quoted Leon’s response: “Art is not geraniums and petunias…Art can be ugly.” And with that, Leon removed his exhibition from the offices, and resigned from his position as curator. The right to freedom – for expression, for culture, for race – is evidently a theme that permeates the artist’s life and his artwork. His art is not so much about provoking outrage, but generating awareness of important issues and at the same time celebrating the lives of people who have contributed something meaningful to American culture.

Leon Kalas, Descending from your throne you become a slave, oil on canvas.

In the following interview I ask Leon about his approach to art and of his experiences travelling to Morocco for an artist workshop.

Kim Goldsmith: The exhibition Social Injustice in America and some of your earlier paintings including Grieving for Injustice, focus on the history of African-Americans and the inequalities they have experienced. Why are you fascinated with their history and what inspired this series of paintings? I ask because you are in fact a Greek national, brought up in Brooklyn. Have you ever explored your personal experiences as a Greek American through your work?

Leon Kalas, Grieving for injustice, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Leon Kalas: This body of work Social Injustice in America derived from my own direct experience in the deep south, when I first came to America in 1960 as a young man thinking that I was coming to “The Land of the Free”. But when I visited South Carolina I witnessed signs “No colours served here” and “Rest rooms for whites only” and saw people going on the back of the bus to sit, simply because of the colour of their skin. So the statement “ Land of the free” was, and still is, a very hypocritical statement. Years later, when I grew up and truly realized what this statement meant, as a visual artist I simply wanted to express my anger and make a point that there is social injustice in this country. Besides, let us not forget that the Greeks were enslaved to the Turks for 500 years, so perhaps, because of my own history, I may know something about oppression, discrimination, and slavery.

Leon Kalas, Obama, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Kim: It seems that you have curated many exhibitions in Brooklyn over the last few years, is this correct? What prompted your interest to curate and promote the work of Brooklyn artists?

Leon: I used to own an art gallery in a small town called Havre de Grace in the State Maryland. There I curated many exhibitions helping the local artists. When I returned to New York, a corporation approached me, Consolidated Edison, who were looking for a curator to put up art exhibits of Brooklyn artists in their corporate gallery. I accepted the position and I continue to curate exhibits on a monthly basis.

Leon Kalas, The Embrace of Unity, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Kim: Despite your extensive Fine Arts training at the New York Academy of Art, The Art Students League, New York, and the Fashion Institute of Technology, you comment on your website that “Painting to me is a life force, not a career”. So, you have always desired to be an artist, and consider creative work to be a vocation. Have you always made a living from art, or did you work in some other profession in the past?

Leon: Creativity was always part of my life. I always painted ever since I can remember. But to make a living, I was a Trade Finance Officer for Bank of America International, and Chase Bank for 30 years combined, after graduating from Pace University in Economics. When I was forced to retire at the age of 62, I became a full-time artist, went to three art schools to refine what I had already learned throughout my life through experience and practice.

Leon Kalas, Homage to Rodin, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Kim: We first met in Rabat Morocco for the Second Spring Edition of the Visual Arts: Art, Storks and Nature in 2009. Was that your first workshop experience? Your oil paintings are composed of many rich layers of colour that can take weeks to paint. We had a time restriction of a few days to make the artwork for exhibition in Morocco, and so it was impossible for you to use oil paints. How did you cope with the time and material restrictions of the workshop? Did you learn something new or unexpected from this change in your process?

Leon: The art camp in Rabat was my very first experience and I was not prepared for that. I had no brushes or pigments or media in which to work with. I had assumed that this was going to be given to me at the camp. However, because my work consists of many layers and takes a long time to finish, I brought with me three finished paintings for the exhibition in Rabat and left them there. But while I was there, just as to be part of the working process with others, someone gave me some pigments and I painted a portrait. I did not have any media in which to mix my paint with so I used olive oil. It was terrible, and I am sure until today, a year later, the painting must be still wet. What I learned out of this experience is to be well prepared in my next art camp. I left that painting in Rabat with someone who wanted it from the Art Camp.

Leon painting with Moroccan orphans Rabat beach, Morocco 2009.

Kim: I also arrived in Morocco without any art materials, and brought with me a few ceramic eggs I had made in my studio. I intended to make a sculpture with them, but all I could find was pink toilet paper in my hotel room. I used this to make a nest for the eggs, and in some ways I found the process liberating and spontaneous. Art camps are a good opportunity for experimentation, because you can make mistakes without big consequences.

I noticed that you have one of your paintings in a recent exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and that this is not the first time. Some of your older paintings such as the Evolution I and II series refer to the collection of tribal masks held at the museum. How does it feel to have your work on show in such a well-respected gallery, but also amongst the artefacts that have inspired and informed some of your artwork?

Leon: Being exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art In New York, was an experience of a lifetime and I was so very lucky that I was chosen. It was like having my fifteen minutes of fame. When I went to the opening with my friends, I had a very strange feeling seeing my work hanging on their walls next to the great Masters. I will never forget that moment.

Leon Kalas, Evolution, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Kim: The last paintings I saw of yours were portraits of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and various images of the Sahara Desert and the Moroccan flag. Are you continuing with these works, or something new? Do you have any upcoming exhibitions that you are involved with?

Leon: I presently have an exhibition of twenty portraits of the men and women of the Bowery Mission, a non-profit organization in Manhattan, at Madison Avenue and 31 Street. Inspired by my visit to Morocco, and after experiencing the warm, friendly and very hospitable people, plus the democratic rule of the country by their King, I have painted a series of portraits of: His Majesty, Mohammed VI King of Morocco, The Crown prince, and the Royal Family.  I hope one day I will be invited by the Ministry of Culture in Rabat to have them exhibited in Morocco. I have sent them a proposal and I am waiting for their response. In the meantime, I am looking for a gallery here in New York in which to have a preview of these portraits. Hopefully soon.  If you go to my website: www.leonkalas.com you will be able to see a couple of these portraits.

Leon Kalas, Joyeux Anniversaire, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Leon Kalas, Sahara, oil on canvas. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Artist Bytes: The Art of Patricia Goodrich

26 May

Patricia Goodrich

It is my great pleasure to publish the first Artist Bytes Profile on my friend and fellow artist, Patricia Goodrich from the USA.  We first met in May 2009 during the 2nd Spring Festival for the Visual Arts: Art, Storks and Nature in Rabat-Sale Morocco and became reacquainted in March 2010 during the 8th International Women’s Festival: Art and Development in Asillah, Morocco. She is a published poet and multidisciplinary artist, who makes sculptures, paintings and mixed media installations. From the 14-24th August the Inirii Museum in Alba Iulia, Romania will present a solo exhibition of her work titled Art Beyond Borders that is sponsored by the Romanian Inter-Art Foundation . The Virtual Artist’s Collective published a book of her poetry titled Red Mud in 2009, and will release another book On the line of the Orient Express around fall this year.

Patricia is a perfect example of the itinerant artist. In the last few years her  art has taken her on expeditions throughout the USA, Europe, and Africa. I imagine her artworks to be pinpoints on a map of the world,  that enable us to follow the trails of Patricia’s expansive artistic career.  The  artist often uses materials found on location and she has an intuitive understanding of the way that landscape shapes and defines our experience of place. Whether it be the  traced  lines of paint and pigment on canvas; the carved organic forms made from wood, salt, stone or steel; recorded voices of international artists on cassette tapes for her Voices Underground Audio Project; or the words and rhythms of her poetry, all of her creative works follow the contours of the landscape and capture a moment in which the artist engaged with, and attempted to become a part of, her immediate environment.

If any one person can demonstrate the benefit of intercultural exchange and involvement in artist’s workshops and conferences, it would be Patricia. Through constant exposure to the perspectives of diverse International artists, cultures and countries, she has shaped a unique perception of the world through her art and established herself a home within a global artistic community.

The following piece of writing  provides an insight into one of the artist’s festival experiences.

View of Asillah Morocco

Shifting Sands: Morocco’s Creative Women Festival
Written by Patricia Goodrich

Two months have passed since the Festival of Creative Women: Art & Development in Asillah, Morocco, and here in the USA I feel its influence almost daily.  Last night I opened an email from Fatima, a painter whose vibrant colors reached from her clothing right into her art works, a woman with whom I shared a circle of conversation and fresh brewed tea along the sea near the walls of the old city medina.

Patricia and Fatima

This was a conference/exhibition where time was available to become acquainted, to laugh, and to communicate in the universal language of art stitched together with French, Arabic, Berber, English, and a good measure of gestures.  Sufi music, couture fashion, meeting the Princess Charifa Lalla Oum Keltoum, walks through the winding medina streets and along the sea, the warm hospitality of our hosts— all were there.  And still with me here, as I search out possibilities for the craftswomen to exhibit their works here, a desert and ocean away.

Patricia with Mina Boutoutla, President of the Artisans Cooperative in the North Atlas mountains and Asass Khan.

Sufi Musicians

The work I chose to exhibit, two abstract paintings from my Rivers Without Boundaries series, another titled The Fire Within, and  Almost Perfect, an egg-shaped jadeite sculpture, were influenced in part by my misconception that figurative work should be avoided in Morocco, a largely Islamic country. Yet when I arrived at the festival, I found the women were creating portraits, landscape, abstract works, often incorporating cultural symbols and colors into canvases, graphics, and even into traditionally woven fabrics, rugs and blankets.  Yet, my own selections did reflect the festival: art pushing beyond boundaries, created from an inner spirit and passion, celebrating the imperfection of what it is to be human.

Patricia Goodrich, Rivers Without Boundaries (one of a series), acrylic on canvas, 2010. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Patricia Goodrich, Almost Perfect, polished jadeite stone, 2010. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The festival, founded eight years ago by Wafaa el Houdaybi and supported by the Association of Contemporary Artists with the patronage of the Princess, benefits not only the women painters, sculptors, and crafts artists, it inspires and informs non-Moroccan artists like me through the connections we make and by erasing preconceptions of what it is to be a Muslim woman creating art.  The Festival also promotes connection and economic development among the Moroccan artists.  For instance, two of the crafts artists represented a cooperative of women weavers from the Atlas Mountains and another woman and her husband brought their hand-woven fabrics used for finest quality traditional garments. Joining the company of the Moroccan artists were also dynamic artists Kim Goldsmith from Australia and Natasha Novak from Slovenia.  We were four continents drawn together!

Natasha Novak, Kim Goldsmith, Wafaa El Houdaybi and Patricia Goodrich

Married couple Hamzaoui Aycha and Ole Bzou presenting their silk woven fabrics.

Yet, men were not excluded.  In fact, their participation was integral to the conference and its influence on me. Knowledgeable, progressive men from Egypt, the Emirates, and Morocco spoke about the origin and influence of Berber language and the bridge between traditional and modern architecture.  Art critics reviewed the exhibitions. More, they interacted with conference participants over long conversations, shared meals, and much drinking of mint tea.

Patricia with exhibition guests at King Mohammed's palace in Asillah

This Festival reminded me we are grains of sand shifting in a common desert, waves in the same ocean. How grateful I am to share this world of arts and artists and appreciators of it all.

Morrocan artists and craftspeople with Patricia in the gallery, Asillah

Artist Bytes: Textile paintings by Kim Goldsmith

13 May

Currently I am working on a series of paintings inspired by the many vibrant woven rugs and tapestries I saw on my travels in Morocco in 2009-10. The patterns and imagery for the paintings use personal symbolism, but the memory of the Moroccan fabrics is suggested in the unusual combination of colour.

I am interested in the possibility of evoking the sense of touch in the viewer. I treat the canvas as a three-dimensional object-in-space and intend to emphasise the characteristics of form, colour and texture that allude to the fabric’s object-hood, rather than create an illusionistic image of a textile.

The idea that I can confuse the sensory perception of the audience becomes a constant stimulus for my work. In the past I have experimented with forms and glazes that make porcelain  look and feel like some other material, such as plastic or flesh. In my Shelf Life Series of 2008 I attempted to trigger childhood memories of plastic toys by developing a specific glaze for my porcelain objects (for images check out my link www.noise.net/spoonfeeder).

My background as a ceramic artist is now influencing the form and approach of my painting practice. The ultimate aim for my series of Textile paintings is to move the imagery beyond the surface of the canvas and create something that lies between sculpture and painting.

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