I was born and raised in China – a place that has deep cultural history, especially for ceramics. In Jingdezhen, people intrinsically understand the deep roots of porcelain culture and it runs throughout the city. While this can be a celebratory cultural characteristic of the nation, it also means that local ceramic artists are bound by a predetermined process that has been passed down for generations. I often wonder how we can grow and find new innovations while also maintaining a rich tradition. I have two bodies of work – one that is inspired by the interiors of traditional slipcast wares and one that re-envisions ancient overglaze techniques.
During my studies in Jingdezhen I have visited ancient kiln sites to understand the history and society surrounding Chinese ceramics. From the rubble I have seen remnants of ceramics in mid-production: shards of bisqueware reveal themselves and tell a story of a different time. From these broken works I have been able to see the interiors of these vessels, something you would not normally see if it was intact. Hidden patterns emerge from the inside because of complex mold/slipcasting design. From these intricate patterns I have derived my inspiration; I exploit the slipcasting process to create aestheticized surfaces to talk about interior and exterior space. Using this frame of reference also lets me learn about Jingdezhen through a contemporary art practice.
My other body of work also investigates Chinese culture and heritage from a ceramic perspective. I use an ancient surfacing technique called Wucai (a Kanxi technique in Qing dynasty), which predates China Paint (present-day enamel painting). With the help of digital technology I utilize Wucai to create contemporary imagery. My background is in Ceramic Chemical Engineering and I find it fascinating to marry materials that are in danger of being forgotten with cutting-edge methods of making.
-- Ming Zhan
Ming Zhan (born YouMing Zhan) was born in Jangxi Province, China. He holds a Masters in Fine Art from Jingdezhen Ceramic Institue and specialized in Surface Design. Soon after his Bachelors training in Ceramic Engineering (Inorganic NonmetallicMaterials) he worked in Research and Development for the ceramic industry in China. He now is the Program Manager of the International Studio at Taoxichuan in Jingdezhen, China, a ceramic studio dedicated to the cross-pollination of ideas and theory in clay between countries. In 2018 he published his first series of illustrations depicting traditional figures as seen in the historic Yongle Palace; In 2019 it was republished in large poster format, which sells internationally.