In 2015, along with several other local ceramic artists, I was interviewed by Shanghai Culture Magazine in regards to my understanding and response to "Shanghainese Ceramics." Unfortunately, I do not have the English translation of each question, but I have included my responses for the article below. Be sure to click on the images below to see a larger version.
Literature, food, fashion, design, etc. are all important words I would use when describing Shanghai, but like any city, it is much more than can be described with words. There is a culture in Shanghai unique unto itself that is made up of all these things; however, it is the juxtaposition between a sophisticated, classical city and an epicenter of modernity, design and fashion that I find to be most intriguing about Shanghai. I continue to be amazed by the ways that the city has intertwined the abundance of art deco architecture and classical buildings, the old lane houses , and tree lined streets, with the new technologies in mass transit, massive LED lit buildings, and the newest fashions in the industries. And while yes, Shanghai is a sprawling metropolis, there are many times that I find myself enjoying the
Unfortunately, I am unaware of any traditions or developments of "Shanghai Pottery." It has been a great place to work for the network and business opportunities it presents, and yes, I do know several Ceramic artists working in Shanghai, but there does not seem to be any connecting theme and or characteristic unique to Shanghai and or the artists working in it. Shanghai Ceramic Artists do have a major advantage over artists working in other areas, and that is one of proximity in regards to audiences and places to exhibit. Bu,t whether working in a small village or in a major city like Shanghai, I believe that the artists working in Shanghai, like the artists working in the small village, create work that is personal and unique to them.
Again, I am unaware of any traditions or developments unique to "Shanghai Pottery." To try and compare it to the cities / traditions identified (i.e. Jingdezhen, Yixing, Longquan, Dehua) is an absurd notion. So, I suppose the both the strength and weakness of "Shanghai Pottery" would be that there is no identifiable tradition.
I think the above are all important parts of what make Shanghai, "Shanghai." I also believe it would be difficult for any artist working here to avoid the elements of what make up Shanghai, I suppose to live here and do so would be impossible. Having the mix of East and West does create an interesting dynamic that I imagine is just as influential to the Chinese Ceramic artists living and working here as it is to be, a foreigner living in Shanghai.
By far, the thing or idea that has impacted me most, is simply, the appreciation for the daily object. Perhaps the most convenient way to observe this value system can be done when drinking tea with others. It is during this that I feel people tend to slow down and observe and appreciate the subtleties of not only the tea itself, but also the tools used to serve it and the environment in which they sit. These experiences have caused me to also slow down and rethink the importance of the objects used in daily life. As I continue to develop and make new works in Shanghai, I believe I have tried to simplify the objects. Color, form, pattern, etc. are all parts of the process and finished piece that I continue to make an effort to simplify. I believe part of the reason for this is because of the continued contemplation of the daily object and the conversations I have with other artists here, but also perhaps in response to the sensory overload that is Shanghai.
Like a lot of industries in Shanghai, the ceramics being made here is a synthesis of traditional and modern. However, in regards to process and materials, many clay artists in Shanghai have either experience working in and or an understanding of the traditional techniques and materials used in the cities such as Jingdezhen, Yixing, Longquan and Dehua. With this knowledge and experience, these same artists can apply it to the creation of their ideas. It is important to understand that while the artist's ideas do most certainly inform their materials and process, the materials and process definitely reciprocate in how they influence and inform the artist's ideas.
I would like to see more growth in the Shanghai ceramic arts community: more exhibitions, more shared studios, more lectures and workshops, visiting artist's, etc. For being one of the largest, fastest cities in the world, it's clay community is not particularly large and or cohesive. I believe the potential for the ceramic arts in Shanghai is vast and I would like to see it's continued development. Increased involvement in any of the above areas would only help nurture the community.