Monday, February 06, 2006

Truth and Beauty on Commercial Street

The figures of humans in the ceramic show at the Pacific Heritage Museum on Commercial Street are about 8 inches to a foot tall and great to look at because they look human and they look beautiful both.


They have very specific human facial expressions, which ceramic figures often don't. That's because the part of them that is skin is unglazed and can take and preserve lots of detail.

So the guy sitting there reading a book and scratching his back has a detailed human expressions appropriate to that activitiy.

Ceramic figures made for aristocrats and royalty in the old days usually were glazed all over and therefore the people had blank expressions, because the glaze couldn't hold details, and because, I think, aristocrats like people with blank expressions so they can fantasize them being utterly obedient and in love the with current power distribution.


These ordinary people shown in clay figures doing ordinary things are wearing great clothes, which are glazed. The glazes are amazing, with different colors running together like fabric dyes or like iridescence. The colors aren't iridiscent but they blend in with each other and dance around each other in the way iridescent colors do.

Ordinary people with every day faces wearing their potentially amazing souls, is how I tend to see these ceramics.

The figures were made by the ceramic artists of Shiwan, who have made pottery containers for China since forever, for 4000 years. including times when ceramic containers were pretty much all there were, so these folks were really churning out the pottery containers and then in their spare time they would play with the clay they worked with at work.

They made among other things human figures for sale to ordinary people, with ordinary people faces and gorgeously glazed clothes.

The figure makers originally discovered how to make gorgeous glazes because they were working with flawed waste materials from the container-making business. The materials'flaws meant that they didn't know how the glazes would turn out. They learned to sometimes like the unpredictable glazes and semi-control their unpredictability.

And they made figures of down to earth people, or of Buddhas and famous people who had down-to-earth vibes, because that's who they were and that's who they sold containers to.

They weren't like the figurine makers in Europe and China who worked for the rulers and made idealized and, to me, boring figures.

"Rustic Splendors--Kiln Treasures from Shiwan"

Pacific Heritage Museum
Commercial Street near Montgomery

Through March 25