MEND - An exhibition of mended ceramics and tableware.
Opening Friday 8 August 6-8pm
Exhibition 8-25 August
I have my favourite teacup, my favourite teapot, my favourite porridge bowl. Inevitably things sometimes break, and often I am heartbroken. This show is about the treasuring of objects, and the tracing of personal history and the vicissitudes of time through objects, and about how a material break is not the end. When mended, the visible fracture adds to the story of the vessel. A gold line of repair not only shows how the vessel is put together and how it broke, the immaterial emotional and aesthetic qualities of the vessel also become more apparent. The mended object becomes a new whole.
The traditional Japanese craft of kintsugi (‘gold repair’) dates back to the tea masters of Japan in the 16th Century, where stories of tea bowls being the more beautiful for having been broken then mended are first recorded. Two beautiful Japanese cultural and aesthetic ideas are encapsulated in the practice of kinstugi. The first is the idea of mono no aware (lit. ‘the pathos of things’) which talks to an awareness of the transience of things. It is the realisation that all things are impermanent, and with that realisation an appreciation of their beauty is heightened (think of the ephemeral Spring blossoms). The second is mushin (lit. ‘no mind). In her essay ‘A Tearoom View of Mended Ceramics’ Christy Bartlett talks of the connotations within the concept of mushin of 'equanimity amid changing conditions and the removal from a desire to impose one’s will on the world'. Bartlett notes that 'the only willfullness in the process of kinstugi is the effort to assist with the rebirth of something whose existence has been threatened, something that has held value for others'.
Melbourne ceramicist Kate Hill learnt the practice of mending ceramics during her time in Japan, and when I first started thinking about this gallery show late last year it was a perfect fit to collaborate with Kate. Her skills and thoughtful approach to the concept have brought this show to life in a way I could only have dreamed of. My deepest thanks go to Kate, the artists who made the vessels and who have encouraged their being part of the show, and finally to all of the people who have contributed their broken vessels to this show. It makes for a beautiful story.
I learnt about repairing pottery whilst in Japan last year for an art festival. I’d returned to Yamanashi, where I’d lived for eight months the year before, and was staying with my friend Yuko Yokota, whose exquisite weavings grace this exhibition. With an appreciation for things handmade and well used, Yuko’s home, with cups of tea at hand, seemed like the perfect place to be taught kintsugi by a mutual friend visiting from Kyoto.
This technique has drawn me in for it’s underlying notions of repair, reuse, and appreciation for things not perfect, as much as any aesthetic result. This exhibition has allowed me to explore pottery from working with old, rather than creating new, and thus learn from, and build on, the rich and colourful history of each object. This history is both physical - how it has worn over time, chipped, cracked or faded - and inherently social - each piece has a relationship to the people who use it. I have learnt of the former through the act of repairing - a secret conversation between the piece and myself in my studio, as I arrange the salvaged chips, or follow the crack lines with a fine brush. The social aspect has come to me via conversations and emails, heartfelt stories about the people and places that these objects have touched.
I am humbled to hear these stories, become a part of the objects lives, and to deepen my research and practice into materials, places and people. Thank you to all of the makers and collectors of this pottery, for wanting to take part, and for Bree for encouraging this project, and completely understanding the sentiment involved.