Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Vietnamese Ceramics: A Separate Tradition.

"The evolution of Vietnamese ceramics parallels the course of Vietnamese history, reflecting how people lived and how they related to neighbouring cultures. The vocabulary of ceramic shapes, glazes, and decorative motifs allows us to read the development of a culture that now has little remaining in the way of physical artefacts by which to trace its history.

The Chinese potter aimed for and frequently achieved perfect technique, characterised, for example, by the colossal and almost mechanist productions of the Longquan and Jingdezhen kilns. The Japanese tradition may be characterised by its consciousness of accidentally achieved beauty. The aesthetic appeal of Vietnamese ceramics, which combine informality with great technical skill, lies somewhere in between these two extremes.

It is the interface between art and technology that gives ceramics their flavour. Yanagai Soetsu, founder of the Mingei movement in Japan, was awed by the beauty achieved so casually by Korean potters. He wrote of the unconcerned manner in which a Korean would set up his wheel. If the wheel was slightly off-true, the potter would compensate in a very skilled way. Nevertheless, the results would probably not be straightened the potter simply would not care. The imperfections resulting from such an attitude can give great vigour to a vessel, yet they cannot be calculated, or the piece loses its quality of spontaneity.

It is this same serendipitous combination of spontaneity with technical excellence that makes Vietnamese ceramics so attractive.

The combination of skilled potting, rigorous shape, casual finish, free and calligraphic painting, and accidental glaze effects # all features typical of Vietnamese ceramic tradition # is powerful indeed. Perhaps the son of the former head of the Hue museum may be allowed to characterise the freedom and individualism of the Vietnamese ceramic tradition: "Chinese pottery is good for the eye; Vietnamese pottery is good for the heart."

The evolution of the ceramics of northern Vietnam over the last two thousand years reflects the links between a culture's artistic expression and its socioeconomic and geopolitical environments.

Editor's Note:

This above text is a very short and incomplete excerpt from a wonderful... book which is the first definitive study of the Vietnamese ceramic tradition in any language."

Vietnamese Ceramics by John Stevenson and John Guy, Art Media Resources, Ltd., Chicago, 1997.

1 comment:

Anna said...

sounds good, makes me think I should have a good look at Vietnamese ceramics.