The Vase Project: Made in China – Landscape in Blue
November 9 - January 14, 2015
The Vase Project: Made in China—Landscape in Blue is a conceptual work consisting of 101 porcelain vases painted by Qing Hua (blue-and-white) artists in Jingdezhen, China. The exhibition results from the unusual collaboration of the curator, Barbara Diduk, with the artists. Working with Zhao Yu (a ceramic-sculpture student at the time, now an assistant professor at the Hunan Normal University, in Changsha, China), Professor Diduk explored Jingdezhen, China’s “porcelain capital,” looking for vase painters who would participate in this project. Although all the vases depict the subject matter—landscape—traditionally found on vases, Diduk played a special role in the creation of the works. She asked the first artist to paint the vase with a landscape incorporating the ubiquitous kiln stacks of the city. The second painter was given a blank green-ware vase and asked to use the first piece for inspiration. Painted and fired one at a time, subsequent painters referred to the immediately previous artist’s work. The result is a “chain letter” of 101 vases in differentiated painting styles, capturing the interpretive liberties taken by individual vase painters in response to the landscape subject.
The installation examines contemporary industrial-landscape imagery in the context of the traditional, idealized landscape. The pieces taken together constitute a statement about the relationship between traditional and contemporary artifacts, with each piece deserving recognition in its own right. Displayed serially, in the order completed, the full aesthetic value of “Made in China—Landscape in Blue” emerges with the experience of the works viewed as an ensemble. Part visual narrative, part sociological study, and part archival document, it is a tribute to the largely unacknowledged artists and artisans caught working in a time of profound economic transformation.