By Heidi Trautmann
I received Semral Oztan’s interesting article on her journey to Shanghai on the occasion of the 2nd International Modern Pot Art Biennal Exhibitionin May 2010 and I want to congratulate her for having been chosen as one of the 50 artists from all over the world to take part in the Biennale. How exciting!
I had to get some more information on it in the internet. The important criteria for the jury were high standard of art work which is comprehensible since Chinese pottery and ceramic art is considered to be among the best ones in the world. The sponsors were the Shanghai Arts and Crafts Association and the Shanghai Arts and Crafts Museum.
Such an event is most important since the art as such is having difficulties to survive worldwide; machine made i.e. pressed ware with patterns printed is much cheaper than the traditional hand made ware; the costs have become too high. What a pleasure it is though to hold in my hands a ceramic piece, knock at it and hear the sound which should be pure like a bell. Then the glazing and firing technique are well kept secrets of masters. Ceramic sculptures have their collectors worldwide. I saw the most wonderful collections of all parts of China in the museum of Taipei; they said they could have a new display every single day of the year and they would still not come to an end. Chiang Kai-Check and his people had taken all treasures with them when they left China and went to settle in Isla Formosa.
Semral Oztan was invited to come to Shanghai to represent her country at the Biennale in May and she went there with her friend Türkan Mengi. Her piece of art, the Cyprus bird teapot, which had won the appreciation of the jury had already been sent on its way ahead of her. She explains it with the following words: “My series of Cyprus birds had started flying with my first exhibition in 1998. From then on it appeared on many art pieces, sometimes it flew to settle on a branch, sometimes it settled at the rim of a plate, or it became part of a panel or as an independent sculpture. Now, for Shanghai it changed into a teapot. – With this idea of mine to keep our Cypriot culture alive, I finally – after ten years - was given an award which opened the doors for me to the Far East and for a special travelling experience full of wonders.”
Semral had heard from all sides what an exciting city Shanghai was, so her expectations overruled her insecurity of what might be ahead of her, but when she arrived at the airport and saw their hosts waiting for them with their names written on panels all anxiety was gone and she could fully concentrate on the days to come.
“People may imagine Shanghai as a city of modern skyscrapers but it is much more than that, it is a place of architectural extravagancy, a play ground of art activity, esthetic statements in concrete and steel, the viewer is invited to recognize the form of a hat, a princess’ crown, a space craft or a huge pencil, I’d say, an open air sculpture park. But Shanghai has many more sides, there is the river dominating the city and along it the old French style buildings, opposite the modern area, and in-between the various styles of architecture are the Chinese quarters ducking, looking lost, but as a whole representing the two cultural sides. We were shown around these areas and I was especially impressed by the ceramic workshops in Ceramic Town where the poor make their living by producing ware the old traditional way, we were all overwhelmed by the beauty of it.”
Here speaks the learnt ceramic artist who is well informed on ceramic history: “To see with my own eyes in our modern times ceramists still using the ceramic Dragon Kiln, a technique which is 600 years old, made me shiver of excitement. We were introduced to the tea ceremony and all that goes with it, and I was especially impressed by the properties of the purple clay, which is used in this connection and by the incredible range of designs. The teapot culture and its history goes back 2400 years and it is very precious to them, as a reflection of Chinese history.”
The tea ceremony is known as a traditional ceremony following certain rules. Basically, it is meant to get together, have kind thoughts of friendship and beauty.
Semral says: “They believe that communicating with different countries will improve their own art and creativity and they plan to open a modern Pot Art Museum and they want to start with the exhibits of the 50 participating artists from 30 different countries. The biennale will be a continuous event and since they believe that spring is the rejuvenating time of the year the event will always take place in spring.”
I sincerely believe Semral when she states that this event will be one for her to remember dearly. Not only for the kind hospitality by the Head of the Ceramic Institution, Mr Ge who is a ceramic artist himself, and his wife, but also for the opportunity to learn about the immense culture of this old country as the representative of her country.
An exchange of cultures by meeting in Shanghai for a “tea ceremony” with different world communities. What a lovely idea. Thank you, Semral, for sharing your thoughts with us.