Heidi Mckenzie | ben
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Korean Ceramics at Topkapi, Istanbul

Happened into this exhibition – thought I’d share – there was e a 7th century flattened bottle bamboo brushstroke painted vase that just makes me melt – sadly the photo didn’t come out…one of those reminders that the mind really can capture an image —

Balancing Act…

Here’s the artist statement for my solo show that ends my residency at Gaya – it’s been great, when I start to think about all the creative leaps and bounds, discoveries, learnings – I can’t wait to get back into the studio and start working again…

Each instant carries with it a multitude of possibilities. We are bombarded by choice at every turn, and yet we tend to ignore the natural undercurrent of the rhythm of life. In Balinese culture I have observed a pervasive sense of respect for the importance of the constant dialogue between good and evil. Balinese philosophy describes this ongoing play between opposing forces as “Rwa Bineda.” Many of the core themes in my work reflect similar notions of duality: fragility and strength; static motion; yearning, submission and ultimately transcendence. The varied work in this exhibition is inspired by my recent sojourn in Jingdezhen, China’s porcelain capital, my time at Gaya in Bali, and my own life’s twists and turns. I am just beginning to grasp the notion of “Rwa Bineda,” as I come to understand that balance is not an unattainable ideal, but an imperfect state of being that just happens one moment at a time.

Slip Sliding Away…

I realized rather late that one of the things I really wanted to do at Gaya was to continue to explore the concepts and techniques that I started to play with in China – so I had Made Bracuk make me moulds of my three Euclidian forms: the sphere, the cube and the prism – only this time much larger, moving from 8cm diameter to 14cm. I had the production centre make up some coloured clays – and away I went. Honestly – the frustration and disappointment has been intense, but also a big reminder to live in one of the guiding principles for my life: non-attachment. But – the great news is that I am learning and adjusting and working with all kinds of constraints I never thought I’d have to deal with – like the casting slip is not casting slip – it’s just porcelain, watered down. So unlike China, where you can pull a cast i 15 minutes, it took 24+ hours for each cast, and then another day to dry each piece to the point where I could decorate it with the transfer decals. I also read a very inspiring piece by Wouter Dam on patience and persistence – and realize that I am not spending enough time or taking the care needed to get the success that I’m striving for. I am invigorated to take it back to basics when I return home and start building up my skill arsenal to take things to another level.

Balinese Painting – Cultural Collision

We spent the morning at the largest national balinese gallery: Museum Puri Lukisan in Ubud. We were lucky, there was an opening that evening of a show of contemporary art by Batuan artists, and we got to see 46 artists’ work represented who have incorporated the impact of tourism and contemporary technology or political issues into their traditional way of making. Check out some of my top pics – I have a mix of contemporary, modern, postmodern and early works. One of my observations re the work from the 1930s-1960s is the remarkable resemblance of both the painting and the carving to that of the Inuit Peoples in northern Canada. Some of the carving looks as if it could be Haida from British Columbia.

One Step Forward: Two Steps Back

Bilijana Ciric’s curatorial triumph at Times Museum in Gwangzhou – I am pitching to review this exhibition. It was seminal, provocative and its poignant political activism set a tone of open critique of the institution at a global level.

We then travelled across the city to the Times Property Museum, a 100% privately funded major contemporary art space where curator, Bilijana Ciric was opening her major 30-artist exhibition, One Step Forward: Two Steps Back. This exhibition is a critique of the institution from the perspective of the artist and historically positioned over a 30 year period. I had met Bilijana in Toronto during the Toronto International Art Fair, and had attended her book launch on a similar theme. The work about Thai migrant workers berry picking in Sweden was especially poignant for me, as was the installation of Jean Hubert Martin’s Les Magiciens de la Terre (the seminal 1989 Paris World Fair that signaled to the world that Eurocentricism in contemporary art was no longer absolute).

Next to Times Museum is a small alternative artist education space founded by Xu Tan. We met some of his “disciples” and had a tour by one of the artists of his installation in the space.

Xu Tan introduced me to the whole community of regional curators and curators from Shanghai and Beijing – this was in important opening and officials, dignitaries from a number of consulates had flown in for the event. I ended up being invited to dine at the head table with the lead curator of the Times Museum, the curator and a number of international artists. I was also able to meet some of the Hong Kong contemporary art leaders at that same dinner – and having been to their galleries, and seen the recent exhibitions, was able to make meaningful connections.

On July 2 we spent the morning and early afternoon at a privately run Gwangzhou arts centre and video research library – we spent a couple of hours sharing our portfolios with the artists who work in the centre. I came away with a strong sense of the breadth and scope of what is happening on many levels in the non-commercial contemporary art scene in this vibrant city.

OCT Terminal & Shenzhen

Siya Chen, Yam Lau and I had a guided private tour of the OCT Art galleries. The shows were by an artist couple: Inga Svala Thorsdottire (Iceland) and Wu Shanzhuan (China). The exhibition, What a Form: A Reportage, was minimalist, yet provocative – and challenges its audience to consider the dynamics of form and space, and the journey to discovery – quoting Wittgenstien heavily – and drawing on Euclidian geometry. (images will be posted on my blog later this evening).

I suggested cold-calling one of the artists in residence at the OCT, an American, Adam Avikainen. Adam ended up coming to lunch with us, and then decided to join us in Guangzhou. Adam is an emergent, yet internationally exhibiting conceptual artist – and we spent some time having him discuss his portfolio with us. He was preparing for a group show at OCT Terminal. Adam was open about the pitfalls of working with a super star curator, with whom he is currently working – Anselm Franke.

We also toured the local Fine Art Museum, the Design Studios of OCT and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Shenzhen. The photo’s are highlights.

Bangkok in 24 hours

Let me start by saying in reached 52C with the humidex the day I spent in Bangkok. It’s an incredibly easy city to get around in by cab or “tuk tuk” – and I literally got taken for a ride with the usual tourist scam (the government has declared a special day, all temples are free, you just have to visit the government emporium…) It was fun – hot, but fun. I bought a new set of clothes for under $10 in the market I sweat so much. It’s a beautiful city – and catching the Wat Po (one of the three main attractions of Bangkok, and the only one still open by the time I regrouped) was an experience of a lifetime – this is the LARGE reclining buddha, and all the amazing ceramic roof tile work and light poles – giving Jingdezhen a run for their money! In the evening I googled great vegetarian restaurants in my area, and found myself at a LOVELY vegan place, and ended up sharing a table with three lovely young women, interns at the United Nations – an unexpected pleasure.

Moving Images…of the ceramic kind

I can’t explain the feelings I have when an artist truly makes an indelible mark on my soul. There have only been a handful, at least in the ceramic sculpture sphere – Brian Kakas, Wouter Dam, and Eva Hild. Yesterday I happened upon a solo show of Eva Hild at Gallery Nilsson et Chiglien – apparently Hong Kong’s only contemporary ceramic art gallery. I couldn’t believe it! I mean I was determined to find this other little gallery, and had been wandering trying to find it for some time when I just saw the vinyl on the glass out of the corner of my eye. It took me a few seconds to register, and when I walked into the gallery I was standing amidst over twenty of Hild’s works – and I felt an intimacy with the artist that is hard to define. I felt as if I had made some kind of psychic connection with the artist without her physical presence. (She had been there in person two weeks prior for the opening, and I’m kicking myself for not having known, but things happen for a reason…). The young woman, Elizabeth, who managed the gallery struck just the right chord –she was informative and respectful of my viewing experience, but in the end we found we too had a connection, and before I knew it, it was time for me to head back to Kowloon Tong. I bought the catalogue – not something I do lightly while travelling for nearly five months – every book is a considered acquisition, and means giving up something else in exchange. Eva Hild is astonishing. Her work is transportative. It is a dream of mine to meet her and have a chance to just sit down and “talk shop.”

The last few images are a charcoal grey Wouter Dam – a beauty, and a few others…

The Way of Dao – Today

I went to the Hong Kong Museum of Art today and spent over an hour on the contemporary art floor – and was blown away. I have an insatiable appetite for getting inside the mind of a conceptual artist, and for me, really well-curated contemporary art is one of my greatest joys. This exhibition was one of those moments in time where I just lost myself in the flow of ideas, images and creation. The moving images, the film pieces were brilliant as well – the letters spilling into the body parts, and the large letters, you can’t tell the scale from the images, but they are at least 12 meters high – and they are the seasons. The same artist did a virtual “Real Life” movie of Central Park – of her imagination based on the seasons, complete with visitors – and of course, there were the rows and rows of ink bowls – telling us that uniformity is beautiful, nothing is dull, everything has a plain genesis… and the ceramic gloves and underwear, crumpled on the ground underneath the clothes line. Brilliant!

Ceramics in the Mall: The Elements

  • In Hong Kong there’s no incongruity in placing fine art in the middle of a mall. Mall’s are sacred places, almost places of worship – certainly places to be revered, and to plan a cultural event around, and increasingly to exhibit fine art. The Splendour of the French Table: Heritage and Modernity throughout the centuries. This was in Elements, a massive mall at least 3 times the size of Yorkdale or the Eatons Centre – there were three installations, one in Earth, one in Fire and one in Water.