Monday, 15 June 2009

REVIEW/INTERVIEW: Jessica Tsang at the Chinese Arts Centre

PUBLISHED: Manchester Evening News, CityLife, 15th June 2009

JESSICA Tsang, the new Breathe artist in residency, sits working on a metal frame the shape of a palm tree as I enter.

The live in studio space of the Chinese Arts Centre is filled with the work she made while away at The European Centre for Ceramics, in The Netherlands.

When talking to Citylife about her work, Jessica Tsang told of her present fascination with 2009 as the bicentenary of Darwin's birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work 'On the origin of Species'.

How this year, the public receive a not only “a moment of saturation of information but also a re-presentation of his work”.

Glazed coconut

It is an interest that becomes very clear when looking at her work. ‘Earth Rising’, a large ceramic dome on a metal stand, dripping and part covered with glaze, presents (or re-presents), the earth as it is seen from space.
The dark glaze like the shadow that falls over half the earth at any given point; the glazed coconut that hangs mid air symbolising the ever-rotating moon.

As Jessica said, the image of the rising earth “was the first time man saw, and was able to understand, earth as a whole entity”.

Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest is also present in Jessica’s art, though it should be noted that Darwin is not the driving force – rather a dialogue that ‘pulls together’ the theories and thought processes behind her recent creations.

Models of rabbits

‘The Universe where Rabbit versus Fox’, a personal favourite of mine, depicts 3d ceramic models of rabbits and foxes, on a flat clay shelf made up of a spectrum of coloured circles.

Jessica explained that the “colour in the piece, comes from a scientific model of how genes flow through a population”.

The animals, on the other hand, can be understood to symbolize the prey and the predator, the battle for survival between species. 

In her other work, coconuts feature heavily, as the “plant equivalent to the animal side of the work”.
This is because, as Jessica Tsang notes, “coconuts are the most successful plants in spreading between countries and across continents… they span 26 degrees north and south of the globe, thousands of miles apart”.

Saturn's ring system

In ‘Coconut pile’, they stand upon one another like a totem pole.
Made by filing the coconuts with glaze and burrowing them in sand; the glaze then “exploded out and made rings of coloured sand”, which surround the shapes like Saturn’s ring system. 

This touches upon anther theme within Jessica’s work: the dialogue between sculptural forms and the painted surface. The glaze literally paints the coconut and sand. It is a piece that arises out of experimentation and is self-determining.

During her residency, Jessica wishes to take upon a more research-based approach to her work, and ideas are already beginning to take formation.

Animal stampedes

Documentaries on the South Pacific, and Easter Island’s tribal and sculptural history, have prompted thoughts of filling the studio with sand.
While a sequence of small images, potentially depicting human objects and animal stampedes, might take shape, furthering her exploration of “migration and movement within nature”.

Whatever amounts from Jessica’s residency, it is sure to be both interesting and aesthetically arresting.
I enjoyed the simple yet fragile quality to her work, and her experimentations with materials, surfaces and the boundaries between sculptures and their frames. It is an Open Studio to look forward too.

Chinese Arts Centre. Breathe Artist in Residency May 21- August 21.  Open Studio August 13-21.
Mon-Sat 10am – 5pm and Sun 11am – 4pm.


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