Dream, 2005-6, Mixed Media Installation, Sculpture Square
A sense of destruction comes to mind when we are greeted by rubble or porcelain or white Celedon ware at the Sculpture Square Gallery. Place in a semi-darkened space, the work consists of a wall video projection, with a Chinese voice-over and Chinese subtitles of the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger accident, and heaps of broken ceramics. From the little platform constructed on the left of the gallery when you enter, it gives you a higher vantage point, enough to make out the shape of a rocket from the piles of broken ceramics, positioned strategically by the artist.
On closer look, the broken objects on the floor are ceramic cast from computer keyboards, toy dolls, tyres and other everyday household or common objects. You may find shoes or bottles too amongst the rubble. This could suggest the anxiety of consumerism, and its destruction of the environment, or the certain impending doom led by our quest for technological advancement, as signified by the doomed Challenger flight in the documentary projected on the wall.
The work has possibly two links: one with Conceptual Art and the use of mass produced Ready-mades, made legitimate by Marcel Duchamp in the early 20th Century; the other with the long Chinese tradition of Ceramics making. From a certain perspective, the work could also possibly reference Minimalism, the use of an absolute material white-ness. It really isn’t Minimalism because of the video work that pulls the viewer away from considering the work solely on the objects, but on the significance of NASA’s space shuttle accident, symbolic because it humbles mankind’s thirst for ‘progress’. It seems to question if we are reaching for the stars too quickly, or if religion played any interpretative role, are we trampling on the universe’s origins too lightly?
The work is successful to convey a sense of loss and frustration. A sense of loss because it fills like an eulogy for a failed Shuttle mission, replaying over and over again in the Sculpture Square Gallery, previously a chapel. The loss is also evident in the destruction of numerous ceramic pieces, functionless or devoid of function, but nonetheless disposed. The frustration can be felt if we imagine the process of the artist smashing up one piece at a time; each piece probably pain-stakingly casted by assistants. The work is comparable to fellow Chinese Artist Ah Xian’s work, which uses the traditional method of Cloisonne to create verisimilitudes of his portrait bust. In Ah Xian’s work, they are pain-stakingly assembled, experimented and they exude an exquisite sense of fragility and poise. In Jianhua’s work, we see the opposite, crude every day objects,but just as frail. Both are interested to revive the material of ceramics in contemporary art. Perhaps a stark contrast to the sensibility to material, in Ceramics Beyond Borders (http://web.jugas.org.sg/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=78&Itemid=2)*, a parallel exhibition at the Central Library by Japanese and Singapore artists preening in master craftsmanship.
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*link accessed on September 11, 2006. Japanese University Graduates Association of Singapore Web Site