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Gatha Ceramics, Turning At The Bamboo Fence

Article: Wang Haoyi Photos: Chen Mingcong

Going to visit Huang Yiwen in his Shanhua studio, he had said that after passing the railway line, upon seeing a bamboo fence, make the turn into an alley, and several steps later you'll arrive at the gate. Behind the gate stood several solemn looking old trees of varying height, not lush and flowing, but calm and sparse, similar to Huang Yiwen's expression.

As a youth, Huang Yiwen studied painting, swiftly mastering the artistry of capturing light and shadow on flat canvases. Many years down the line, he commenced ceramics. With a renewed understanding of light and shadow, from calm, tranquil glaze decorations, along with the transformations of time and space, it appears that light and shadow do not cease to change. A ceramic sculpture, a chinese tea cup, a ceramic jar, all change with the movement of light and shadow, travelling through each era and its climate, beginning a dialogue with the spaces in which they are displayed. This wondrous and surprising realisation came to transform Huang Yiwen's creative approach, leaving painting as a memory of his youth. As he gained further experience in ceramic expression, he began to develop further possibilities, and after he came into contact with Buddhism, he merged meditative writing into ceramic creation.

One of these works, Jasper of the Ten Directions is a three level incense burner. The glaze on the top of the incense burner echoes the sound of an oar cutting through the water at night, deep and reserved, full of quietude in its rhythm. The piece only employs one glaze, but it flows all over the work in splendour; it is not dazzling, yet appears almost as if the rhymes of the ripples of the river at night are changing with shadow and light. Huang Yiwen says that this glaze is "Earth treasure glaze" of that his daughter fortuitously dug up from the mountainside.

As for the form of Jasper of the Ten Directions, its appearance is based on an ancient architectural model, displayed upon a table, this incense burner resembles a solemn place of worship in an ancient city, with its heavy eaves and well proportioned storeys. In Buddhism the Ten Directions are: east, west, south, north, northeast, southeast, southwest, northwest, above and below. They also represent the entire cosmos. With a free, leisurely heart, Huang Yiwen makes an offering of incense outside in his Jasper of the Ten Directions burner; this is not only an ingenious creation, but also one that augments the benevolent and accepting Buddhist spirit.

Ceasing All Mental Activity series comes from the concept that "All beings can be Buddha." "The pieces resemble cylindrical pagodas, not in traditional Chinese temple style, but ancient Indian stupas. Regarding architecture, the body of this ancient style of pagoda is circular and flat walled, with tall decorative ornamentation on the upper level, and a pedestal at the base. This style of pagoda is commonly seen in Tibetan Buddhism, and has hence been called a Lama pagoda, and also amrta-kalasa due to is close resemblance to a bottle.

Huang Yiwen uses the top half of the pagoda form as the basis for his creations, upon the upper, round walls, he carves the free form of the Bodhisattva, depicted in lithe lines and pure form, combining to give an impression of abundant compassion. At times, picking flowers in a mindless state, we may create our own little world. Among the pieces displayed in this exhibition, Huang Yiwen's dignified craftsmanship possesses an enchanting rhythm, in life like a poem, in Buddhism like that of a master uttering a sacred verse (sanskrit gatha). Hence, I have titled such splendid works "Gatha Ceramics".

Huang Yiwen and his wife, Kang Yuezu worked together on ceramic painted clothes and the project "Wuzhu Shengxin", a Buddhist metaphor suggesting that we cannot truly carry anything with us, that we must not hang things upon our hearts, but instead realise that every second counts, and not let empty moments pass us by. Kang Yuezu used batik dying techniques to decorate the surface of the clothes, employing subtle tones, imbuing them with a one-off quality similar to the un-calculated beauty of fired ceramics. The pair's joint exhibition gained widespread praise, with one of them tending the kiln and gluing the works, the other working in batik; only after firing and wax removal would the true fruits of their labour come to be seen. In between, these two worked to their utmost, becoming travellers of light and shadow.

I was overjoyed on that day when I turned at the bamboo fence, and had the opportunity to appreciate Huang Yiwen's Gatha Ceramics and Kang Yuezu's batik paintings.

Huang Yiwen

1998 Joint Exhibition, Tenghuang Art Centre
2007 Joint Exhibition of Southern Taiwan Ceramics Association, Tainan City Cultural Centre
2008 Joint Exhibition of Southern Taiwan Ceramics Association, Tainan City Cultural Centre
2009, Joint Exhibition of Southern Taiwan Ceramics Association, Tainan City Cultural Centre
2009, December First Exhibition of Ceramic Painted Clothes, Dongmen Art Gallery
2010, January Joint Exhibition Ceramic Painted Clothes, Pugang monastery 2010, March Joint Exhibition Ceramic Painted Clothes, Fangyuan Art Gallery
2010, April Art Association Joint Exhibition, Tainan County Cultural Centre, Southern District 2010, September, Art Association Joint Exhibition, Tainan County Xiaolong Cultural Park