The exhibition features works from 19 contemporary artists at one of the largest surveys of ceramics in local art history

Take a look around and you'll realise that ceramics has gotten a second wind and is experiencing a surge in popularity in recent years. The reason why isn't difficult to understand: like many art forms, engaging in the craft harnesses your creativity as you concentrate on the wheel in front of you; affording a sense of calm from the outside world. Ceramic classes have also become more accessible as most have popped up all over the country for curious art lovers interested in taking up a new hobby. Local shops now sell handcrafted pottery for discerning collectors looking for one-of-a-kind pieces as well. 

As part of Singapore Art Week this year, ceramicist and performance artist Jason Lim has partnered the folks behind independent art space Seed Art Space to curate and host one of Singapore's largest surveys of ceramics in local art history. The exhibition has been a long time coming and is held at Block 7 of the Gillman Barracks arts cluster from January 20 to February 13. It features works from a diverse group of 17 contemporary artists, including Daisy Toh and Angie Seah, alongside performances by multi-disciplinary artist Foo Aiwei and homegrown art rock band, The Observatory

Here are five works to look out for during your visit to the exhibition:

1. Mantra for Ethical Vessels by Jason Lim

Co-curator Jason Lim likens ceramics to the materiality of clay to set the tone of the exhibition. Mantra For Ethical Vessels presents a block of clay in its most fundamental form, where gallery-goers get to witness the product of three hours of backbreaking clay kneading. Vessel-shaped forms are printed on paper as he continues to work the block, which spurred him to contemplate on the topic of ethical ceramics in this hyperconnected digital age. 

(Related: Singaporean Ceramicists Loh Lik Kian and Debbie Ng’s Tableware Serves as Canvases For a Chef’s Plating)

2. Little Ironweeds by Tan Shao Qi

Moulded from porcelain, Tan Shao Qi's Little Ironweeds series explores the often overlooked floral and fauna in Singapore as well as its fragile nature in our urban landscape. Slightly different in its presentation to the other works on exhibit, the installation is situated in a cosy nook within the exhibition, with lights placed deliberately to amplify the porcelain forms through shadows in the background. 

3. Construction of Memories by Nelson Lim

Widely known in the local ceramics scene, Nelson Lim brings a portion of his larger body of work titled Construction of Memories to the exhibition this year. Lim has been working on this series since 2016 and previous renditions of it have been showcased at several locations around Asia, including the Yingge Ceramics Museum in Taiwan, where it stood as the largest ceramics artwork ever exhibited in the museum to date. Look closely and you'll notice that the artwork itself is constructed using several wire modular forms, each coated in porcelain and put together to create a cube-like installation. 

4. Listen to Mother Earth by Steven Low

Meticulously assembled to mimic that of the galaxy and its infinite elements, Steven Lows's Listen to Mother Earth is a one-of-a-kind installation that uses an ancient obvara firing technique originated in 12th century Eastern Europe. The artist first creates a number of spherical clay art pieces before dipping them into a yoghurt-like liquid made of water, flour, yeast and sugar. But how does that result in the ring-shaped pattern we see in the final pieces? Taken straight out of the kiln, the extreme heat from the clay art pieces combined with the liquid results in the unique texture we see. These clay art pieces are also dipped to the traditional rhythms of wind instrument the didgeridoo—one of Lim's favourite instruments to play. 

5. Mine/2 by Delia Prvacki

If this particular piece by Delia Prvacki looks familiar, the odds are you've probably chanced upon it before in 2016 where it was exhibited in collaboration with her husband Milenko Prvacki at the Esplanade Concourse. The artist has worked on this series since the early 2000s and a portion of that is now on showcase as a standalone installation. Displayed to portray that of a tapestry, the Romania-born artist uses the image of chains as an allegory to reflect her hometown of Transylvania in Romania, which is known as a gold mining city. 

Other programmes to look forward to 

  1. Curator-led tours on January 23 and 31: Join the curatorial team from Seed Art Space as they take you around and relate the works to the three broad themes of which the exhibition is divided into: urban and natural environments; identity and memory; community and performance.
  2. Artist in Conversation series: Held in four parts from January 23, hear directly from the participating artists on critical dialogues around clay as an art medium. 
  3. Artist performances: Foo Aiwei and Kent Lee perform a tea-drinking ceremony through telecommunication platform Zoom on January 23 and 24, while local band The Observatory performs in response to their clay installation Empty Vessels on January 30 and 31. 
  4. Artist demonstrations: Witness six participating artists work the potter's wheel and take you through various hand-building techniques in ceramics. Held in separate sessions from January 23. 
  5. Raku firing demonstration: Witness the ancient firing technique that dates back to the early 16th century most commonly known to make ceremonial tea wares for Zen Buddhist masters. Held on-site on February 5.

Find out more about the exhibition here

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