Contemporary ceramic art is characterized by a wide array of approaches to the medium, including functional and figurative works, sculpture, and installations. Despite this diversity of activity, the medium of ceramics is often relegated a marginal role within contemporary art, particularly in the gallery scene. Widely considered functional craft or decorative art, ceramics are not prominently featured in the discourse between fine arts and postmodern content.
This proposed exhibition intends to promote the role of ceramics in this discourse, ironically, by subverting the iconography of the decorative arts to engage the viewer. Through the Gilded Looking Glass is a collection of works that infiltrate and exploit beauty – a notion intimately connected to the decorative arts. The works are indeed beautiful; inspired by 18th century French porcelains (Sevres and Meissen) and ceramic ormolu, these meticulously crafted, richly ornamented vessels lure and please the viewer. The grandiosity of the excessive ornamentation – including gilded leaf, scrafito, painting and decal ornament – is amplified by wall decoration and dramatic lighting. If it is possible to be too rich, perhaps these vessels are.But with further examination, the distanced elitism suggested by this ornate display is undermined. The showcase of bombastic ornament offers a means to critique formalism, utopianism and social detachment. Adding to the historic forms and decoration, I have incorporated personal images, elements of technology (including sound and video), and a variety of non-traditional materials. This interplay relates the work to the contemporary social context, while drawing on archetypes of wealth, opulence and fabricated beauty to inform the overall narrative. The resultant tension between the decorative arts and nontraditional elements invokes layered reactions from the viewer: attraction, surprise, confusion, and reflection.
Humour is also central to the works in Through the Gilded Looking Glass. Humour is apparent in the titling of the works (e.g., Just What is it that Makes Asian Men so Appealing?), self-deprecating humour (e.g., Royal with Cheese) and ridiculous ornamental elements (e.g., swaying plastic flowers in Passenger’s Paradise). By employing satire, I create a point of access. As in the statement, “many a truth was said in jest,” humour offers the viewer is a portal to a further reading of the works.
The subject matter for Through the Gilded Looking Glass spans self-identity, power relationships, citizen apathy and engagement, and consumerism. While seemingly diverse, these works are thematically unified. Visually, the exorbitant decoration is common to the series. Conceptually, the works demonstrate tension between beauty, and its close proximity to the ‘Other’ – the un-beautiful. The vessels, then, mirror our everyday lives, and our inability to shut out the uncomfortable and tragic elements of life – no amount of decoration can mask this. Through the Gilded Looking Glass is an ornamented reflection of human existence.