The Vase Project: Made in China—Landscape in Blue consists of 101 porcelain vases painted by Qing Hua (blue-and-white) artists in Jingdezhen, China, from 2004 to 2006. The exhibition will be on display in the Williams Center Gallery, April 1-May 21.
Although all the vases depict a landscape, which is traditionally found on vases, curator Barbara Diduk, Dana Professor of Art at Dickinson College, 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 and provided him with a sketch of what she had in mind. 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 previous artist’s work. The result is a “chain letter” of 101 painted vases, a living archive of current painting in Jingdezhen, which incorporates historic practices. Taken together, the pieces constitute a statement about the relationship between traditional and contemporary artifacts. The full aesthetic value of the exhibit only emerges when viewing the works as an ensemble. For this show, the pieces are displayed in the order completed to accentuate their linear relationship.
The pieces comprising the installation were created during a moment of economic transition in Jingdezhen – known as the capital of porcelain — where thousands of objects are still created and painted by hand. Part visual narrative, part sociological study, and part archival document, the exhibit pays tribute to the largely unacknowledged artists and artisans caught working in a time of profound economic transformation.
Diduk, who is also a ceramic artist, will give the curator’s talk at 4:10 p.m. Thursday, April 14, in room 108 of the Williams Center. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon-5 p.m., and 7:30-9 p.m. on the evenings of public performances in the Williams Center. For more information, contact Michiko Okaya, director of Lafayette art galleries, at (610) 330-5361 or via email.
In addition, Maris Gillette, whose research focuses on Jingdezhen and the effects on ceramists of China’s transition to a market economy, will give the Carol P. Dorian ’79 Memorial Lecture in Art History at 4:10 p.m. Wednesday, April 6 in room 108 of the Williams Center. The title of the talk is “Counterfeiting and Capitalism in China’s Ceramic Art World.”
An anthropologist, curator, and filmmaker based in Philadelphia, Gillette is professor and chair of anthropology and coordinator of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at Haverford College.
Exhibitions at the Williams Center Gallery are funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the National Endowment for the Arts.