Migration, transplanting, and growing up in a colony like Hong Kong generates a sense of displacement and involves a constant negotiation of my identity. At birth my given name is Ho Sin-Ying, a Cantonese-English name that was translated from Chinese phonetics to English. In school I studied English but did not use it socially or domestically outside of school. This created a dichotomy in my life that was effected by the colonial environment of Hong Kong in the 70’s and 80’s. This paradox is a phenomenon not only for me but it also affects our global village.
In 2001, I created a body of work focused on expressing and describing the collision course of Eastern culture and Western culture. The context of this work includes: new vs. old, technology vs. tradition, communication vs. language, aesthetics vs. cultural identity and economy vs. power. I examined the relationship between the language of symbols and the symbols of ornament inspired from Chinese porcelain export-wares. I used icons, signs and corporate logos to re-contextualize the intersecting cultures of East and West, new and old, in the 21st- century economic globalization.
In this series of works, I also demonstrated that visual signs and linguistic symbols are equally important for tracing and recording human history, culture, and geography. Drawing from written languages, symbols, international signs, computer binary codes and symbols of ornaments, I applied densely painted decorative motifs from both East and West onto a classical porcelain vessel to signify the identity of the cultures. These details cross the boundaries of time and geographic distance. My work invites the viewer’s mind to contemplate as I raise the questions of whether there are meanings or discernible patterns of human endeavours.
I combined a traditional Once Fire technique from Jingdezhen and employed the hand painted fine line cobalt painting style (Gong Bi Qing Hua) that flourished in the Ming Dynasty of China. I often use digital decal printing on clay to form juxtapositions in my work. The decal printing allows me to produce homemade images and patterns, using a computer, that can be transferred onto the glazed ceramic work. The decals are made permanent by re-firing the artwork. Aesthetically, this method forms a strong red and blue colour contrast. Conceptually, combining old and new means to create art is another way for me to negotiate the shift and change between technology and hand tools such as the brush.
As the world moves towards greater globalization, many nationalities and cultures will merge together and evolve into an unknown global culture. I reference my own experience being Chinese and living in North America, with the cultural collisions I have endured. This cross-cultural experience speaks to a universal phenomenon.
To develop the idea further, I created a body of work entitled Meeting Places. From Collision Course to Meeting Places, I continued to explore the possibility and relationship between form and surface. I experimented with an alternative way of making multi-part moulds. These forms were constructed by wheel throwing, cutting and pasting together. I kept the evidence of extracting the classical forms as well as creating an abstract form. The process of construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of the painted hybrid porcelain vessels transforms familiar forms into unfamiliar and unidentified sculptures. This illustrated the intersection of cultures— East and West, new and old culture.
My most recent body of work is entitled Garden of Eden. The shape was inspired by the silhouette of the human figure and each vessel of the group of eight is six to seven feet tall. Universal human nature and human traits, such as greed and other materialistic desires, the impact of marketing, hopes and technological transformations are intrinsic to the concept of this series.-- Sin-ying Ho