Most of the people on Taiwan, a sea-surrounded island, have heard the sound of the pounding surf and have sensed the vast distance and breadth of the ocean. I do not know whether an affectionate attachment for the sea in its boundlessness has indelibly marked the land for those who live here. We believe that the boundlessness of art may be just like that of the sea, and that creative freedom, like the sea, is just as borderless and absent of framework.
The 2008 Taiwan Ceramics Biennale, in its search for ceramic artworks, adopted the “boundless” spirit, and after two years’ preparation, the sending out of requests for submissions, and judging entries, a total of 684 ceramists from 58 countries on all five major continents participated. During the first round of evaluation, seven international jurors reviewed photographic images of the works and selected 114 finalists from 24 countries. For the final round at the end of March this year, the jurors were invited to meet at the Museum, where they then spent two days examining the original works. After several rounds of voting and cross-cutting discussion, they finally chose the winners: one Grand Prize, one Gold, two Silvers, three Bronzes, and five Merit Prizes, as well as seven Juror’s Recommendation Prizes. A total of 19 prizewinning artists thus emerged from the others.
By virtue of the present exhibition’s international search for artworks, the contemporary styles and latest trends in ceramic art around the world is displayed before our eyes. Upon careful appreciation and analysis of the themes and creative ideas among the 114 finalists, we readily discover four distinctive features of their mode of expression: (1) a return to the practicality of ceramics and the spirit of craftsmanship—a desire to express the beauty and utility of the vessel; (2) exploring the possibilities and aesthetics of three-dimensional form through sculptural works in the ceramics medium; (3) using ceramics as a medium for conceptual appeal, to reflect social realities and express concern for culture. The previous three categories have long been focuses of expression in ceramics. As for (4), this began recently with the popularity of object assemblies or installations. Works of this category form powerful visual and emotional tension through the interactive relations among object, environment, and viewer.
Now that the creative arts have entered the age of globalization, we might also ask how artists who have traveled or taken up residence abroad, emigrated, or studied overseas might use, inherit, and transform the cultures of their native countries. Traveler’s artist is labeled American by nationality, but the form of the work is clearly influenced by the ancient Chinese terracotta warrior figures. It turns out that the artist is an American of Chinese descent, and that the artist seeks to retrace memories of the ancestral homeland through the work. The Danish artist who created Tripod Ewer wrote, “Inspiration comes from the tripod vessels from the late Shang dynasty in China known as chüeh vessels. I want to place all the formal energy in the upper half via using the 3 points as a springboard.” That a Danish ceramist finds inspiration from ancient Eastern culture certainly indicates that creative borders are increasingly fluid and fragmented.
In summer 2008, the world’s creative energy in ceramics is concentrating in Taiwan. The 114 finalist works bear the unique creative ideas of their artists, and any categorization scheme would fail to interpret them fully. However, to give the viewing public a general understanding of this Biennale, we have divided the works into four groups based on theme and form—Vessels, Forms, Figures, and Objects—even though such a classification drifts like a string of floats on the sea. The purpose is merely to divide the space superficially into distinguishable areas. In fact, all the works are actually underneath the “floats,” and that is where their numinous creative lights mingle with one another.