As a ceramic artist, I seldom choose “function” as a theme for work. But with the exhibition Cup & Saucer, I took the opportunity to explore how “art” and “function” may coexist together. Historically in society, it had been difficult to separate “art” from “function.” But as time progresses, the two now seem to be worlds apart. Is it really true that “art” and “function” cannot come together?
The first time I saw the Twelve Cups with Flowers of the Months was at the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware in Hong Kong. The quiet yet elegant manner with which flowers were painted on the cups captured much of my attention. This set of Guan Kiln ceramics—with a style that originated from the Qing Dynasty’s Kangxi period—encompasses several art forms including: poetry, calligraphy and painting. Each cup has a designated flower of the lunar month, along with accompanying poetry, painted on it.
Among the most challenging part was to produce the separate pieces in a very repetitive and mechanical style. But by gradually improving, I once again observe that “practice can make perfect.” Even though on the surface it seems that both subject matter and the manner I had to work in has been restrictive, there was still much room for creativity. Perhaps this is the freedom that studio potters enjoy, unlike the assembly line style of arts and crafts production. The process has not been easy, but after months of putting the minds of fellow artists together and much problem solving, I gained much clarity for the direction of my work and enjoyed the process tremendously.