Evoking Micro Life, Porcelain Sculptures by Shiyuan Xu Swell in Intricate Shapes



Art Craft

#nature #porcelain #sculpture

March 9, 2022

Grace Ebert

“Hybrid #1” (2021), colored porcelain paperclay and glaze, 20 × 7 × 18.5 inches. Photo by Guy Nicol

At once rigidly skeletal and imbued with rhythmic movement, the porcelain sculptures that comprise Shiyuan Xu’s Growth series are intricate recreations of single-celled organisms, molecules, and other micro lifeforms. The Chinese artist hand-builds delicate ceramic works of three-dimensional webbing that swell and surges into amorphous shapes mimicking a range of living creatures. Stretching up to two feet, the enlarged, abstract sculptures incorporate both the universal nature of evolution and change, while directly tying to Xu’s background. “My attempt of using the classical Chinese blue and white and celadon color palette in a contemporary way reflects my own narratives, life experience, and cultural heritage” she shares, explaining further:

The regular and irregular structures and layers of my piece blend in with the memory of my sensations and personal experience. The repetitive and labor-intensive process seems to be a therapy to ease my anxiety and sense of uncertainty while facing constant challenges in the intersections of two cultures.

To create each piece, Xu undertakes a laborious process that involves applying a heavy glaze and then using a knife to scratch the edges away. The removal leaves a line of raw clay coursing through the middle of each segment, and works like “Blue Vein #4” and “Hybrid #1” emphasize that central element with color. “After the piece is fired, I repeat the same process many times, to spray, scrape, and fire again, until the surface texture is accumulating to very obvious degree,” she tells Colossal, noting that she sometimes replicates these steps ten times—check out the artist’s Instagram for a detailed look at her process.

Xu is currently an artist-in-residence at Chicago’s Lillstreet Art Center, and if you’re in London, you can see her work from May 10 to 15 with Ting-Ying Gallery at Design Center Chelsea Harbour.

“Vena #4” (2020), porcelain paperclay and glaze, 23 × 10 ×17 inches. Photo by Guy Nicol

“Vena #9” (2021), porcelain paperclay and glaze, 24 × 8 × 18 inches. Photo by Jeanne Donegan

“Vena Celadon #2” (2021), porcelain paperclay and glaze, 20.5 × 13 × 12 inches. Photo by Guy Nicol

“Blue Vein #14” (2021), colored porcelain paperclay and glaze, 14 × 6.25 × 20 inches. Photo by Jeanne Donegan

Detail of “Blue Vein #14” (2021), colored porcelain paperclay and glaze, 14 × 6.25 × 20 inches. Photo by Jeanne Donegan

“Vena #4” (2021), colored porcelain paperclay and glaze, 19.5 × 8 × 19 inches. Photo by Guy Nicol

Detail of “Vena #9” (2021), porcelain paperclay and glaze, 24 × 8 × 18 inches. Photo by Jeanne Donegan

“Vena #3” (2019), porcelain paperclay and glaze, 19.5 × 11 ×10.5 inches. Photo by Guy Nicol

#nature #porcelain #sculpture

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