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Being an artist who works predominantly with clay, I would like to continue this journey, as it has been one of experimentation, discovery and reflection. Essentially, I am very meticulous when it comes to making functional wares, such that fellow artists whom I worked with at Thow Kuang Pottery Jungle have commented that my works tend to be very neat.

For this project, I adopted the philosophy of wabi-sabi and indulge in sustained vessel-making. I let the clay element take me where it wants to. In addition, a feature of my work is allowing natural elements like water and time to change the final outcome of the forms. Water affects the course of the clay’s transformation when it is introduced to bone dry clay. In this way, nature has become my collaborator and the outcome maps out my conversation with clay.

My work is a process of playing with clay, making vessels–some functional, some more multifarious or conceptual. The journey is reflective and meditative: moulding clay where it wants to go; from being very controlled (making something predetermined) to going instead with the flow (allowing the momentum and unevenness in the clay to determine the outcomes).

 

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Firing the Dragon Kiln

Inquiry Process

What are your artistic philosophies/ guiding principles that governs your art making/artwork?

  • Every artistic journey is an adventure.  The outcome is usually different from what I have anticipated and there may be an interim outcome that gets worked on further and the creative journey continues … to be constantly exploring different ways of making art
  • I strive to be always aware of my environment, to be attuned to what’s going on around me, from micro to macro levels, to derive inspiration from such and respond to the impetus by going with the flow
  • To be reflective in my practice, to be open to different ideas, be inspired by other artists and their works; to connect with other clay artists, talk with them, work/collaborate with them

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Describe your personal artistic journey

  • Did Art at O and A levels
  • Did Art at NIE, learnt with artists like Sim Thong Kern, Sng Cheng Kiat, Chia Wai Hon, John Tan etc.
  • Learnt Ceramics with John Tan, then at Ang Mo Kio CC, then at Sam Mui Kuang, then with Lim Meng Kuang
  • Went for further studies at California College of Arts and Crafts (CCAC)
  • Experienced cultural shock, rude awakening.  Pottery considered a craft, not Art; turned to Installation Art and various other genres of Art like Print-making, aluminium/bronze casting, etc, including Performance Art
  • Started working at Thow Kuang Pottery Jungle from 2003
  • Took part in various group exhibition; collaborated with Jason Lim for “Three Tonnes of Clay” at Substation; Collaborated with Amanda Heng for Installation Art for “Longing” by Theatreworks

 

Share some of the previous art works made. Are they related to the current work for a l edge?

  • Started Conceptual works at CCAC where I invited my audience to drink water from bone dry cups; did “Time-based falling rods”  at CCAC where clay rods were inserted in the gaps between 2 buildings and leaving nature to activate their falling at different intervals; did other works for graduation shows that involved dissolution of clay by water or slurry
  • Experimented along this line in my work when I was teaching at The Chinese High School
  • Also did dissolution work in the last phase of “Three Tonnes of Clay”
  • Works done at Thow Kuang are essentially  functional stuff, played with agate wares, introducing water to bone dry works and letting it transform the works
  • Did a research project funded by NAC with fellow clay artists at Thow Kuang involving Wood firing the Dragon kiln, using local Jurong clay and ash glazes using local ingredients

 

For this piece of work, where did you get your inspirations from? What do you hope to achieve through the work?

  • From time to time, Thow Kuang Clay Artists would embarked on new challenges.  The idea came from an initiative by a fellow clay artists to do “wabi-sabi” works.  A meticulous “thrower” of functional wares, I thus embarked on a journey to embrace transience and imperfection, to just go with the flow and see where the exploration and inspiration take me

 

Share challenges or problems you have encountered along the way and how did you managed to overcome them

  • Warping of forms during firing – make more vessels to provide buffer for rejected wares
  • Time to do work: I tried to maximise the making during the school holidays as time to work on the project will be confined to the weekends mostly when school re-opens
  • As I work in clay, I need time to dry the works and to fire them

 

Does your teaching practice inform or interact your art making practice? How?

  • Taking the spirit of experimentation and exploration in my work, e.g. coating works with dry clay; playing with the materials I find in my working environment; stressing the clay and stretching it, work with the clay in as many different ways as I can; as in my teaching, guiding students with their own exploration and experimentation with media and techniques, encouraging them to take risk and learn from their mistakes or make new discoveries from their experimentation, encouraging students to be active makers of meaning
  • Embrace failed attempts, to be open to possibilities as these are stepping stones to new route
  • To be constantly curious about things, to be constantly engaged in creative investigation and problem-solving and to develop and build on one’s own artistic knowledge and skills; also drawing on one’s own tacit artistic knowledge in the process of art-making (Donald Schon, knowing in action)
  • To be reflective – constant active questioning and enquiry

 

|| Ng Siew Kuan

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