UNSW Art & Design and 4A present Clay Foundations: Can ceramics explore a national identity?



Panel discussion with Dr Wen-Hsi Harman, Ruth Ju-Shih Li, Jody Rallah, Bridie Moran, Professor Yu-Chieh Li, moderated by Professor Paul Gladston (UNSW)

A transcript will be available soon

Join artists exhibiting in 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art’s touring project Drawn by stonesDr Wen-Hsi Harman, Ruth Ju-Shih Li, Jody Rallah – along with exhibition curator Bridie Moran, Professor Yu-chieh Li of the Department of Visual Studies, Lingnan University, Hong Kong, and moderator UNSW Art & Design’s Professor Paul Gladston, to discuss how clay can be a means of connecting to culture, land and identity – and challenging these concepts.

From July – September 2021, Drawn by stones is being staged at Counihan Gallery, Brunswick on sovereign Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung land. The exhibition brings together artists who utilise the ceramic medium to interrogate contested histories, stolen land, Indigenous sovereignty, and concepts of national identity. Exhibiting artists from Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan investigate the creation of a sense of ‘nationhood’ and ownership through ceramics and demonstrate how the ceramic form can both memorialise and tell alternative histories. Using the works within the Drawn by stones exhibition as an entry point into this dialogue, speakers will explore a range of ideas and relate their own experiences in the practice and consideration of ceramic tradition, materials and objects.  

4A’s talks series invites presenters to rethink, recharge and reimagine contemporary issues through the arts, academia, journalism and related fields. Presented in partnership with UNSW Art & Design and Counihan Gallery, Brunswick, this special edition of 4A Talks allows 4A partner with UNSW to include the voices of researchers in our artistic dialogue; and with exhibition partner Counihan Gallery, we are pleased to digitally connect with Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung lands including an introduction from Gallery Curator Victor Griss for this special event.

Speaker biographies

Ruth Ju-Shih Li is a ceramic artist generally working between Australia, China and Taiwan. She explores different ways of narrating both traditional and multicultural concepts of beauty, transcendence and the sublime. Li draws from her diverse philosophical and cultural heritage, and from the language of dreams, myths and utopias. A recurring motif is her meditation on the fragile nature of self in relation to the paradoxes of time, life, death and spirituality, extending onwards to consider the transitory nature of the human condition. Li has exhibited internationally in Taiwan, South Korea, China, Thailand, Turkey and Australia.

Jody Rallah is a descendant of the Biri Gubba, Yuggera and Warangu peoples. Rallah is an emerging contemporary Indigenous Australian Artist based in the unceded lands of Yuggera language nation, Brisbane. She employs a concept-led interdisciplinary practice which investigates how celebrating cultural wealth by creating ‘knowledge vessels’ as embodiments of living histories ranging from sculptural installations, to painting and performance, can generate ancestral healing. Her practice addresses living histories as vessels embedded in materiality, investigating how haptic processes of making can be used to create conversations spanning between generations; connecting community throughout the generations and opening dialogues of cultural exchange for hopefully futures.

Wen-Hsi 文曦 Harman was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and is a ceramic artist currently living and working in Bristol, United Kingdom. She also is a member of the UNESCO-International Academy of Ceramics IAC and NCECA National Council on Education for the ceramic arts. Wen-Hsi studied her BA in Chinese Literature at the Soochow University, Taipei, Taiwan (2006). After this she studied her first MA in Chinese History of art in the National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan (2008). After this she studied her second MA in Contemporary Crafts (Ceramics) at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, UK (2010). She has been awarded the degree of the Doctor of Philosophy in ceramics at Bath Spa University, UK (2018). Wen-Hsi has exhibited her work internationally in Taiwan, South Korea, Britain, Germany, France, China, Denmark and Australia.

Bridie Moran is an arts manager, editor and curator, working across unceded Awabakal and Gadigal lands. Bridie has worked for over a decade with contemporary art and cultural organisations, and is a current PhD candidate at UNSW Art & Design, researching the history of craft policy and ceramics practice. Bridie is Project Curator and Stakeholder Manager at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, delivering the major touring exhibition project Drawn by stones in 2021 and 2022; and is the Assistant Editor of The Journal of Australian Ceramics. Bridie has delivered a range of exhibitions, programs, public art projects and publications across Australia and the Asia region, and was from 2017-2018 Board Director at Sydney artist-run initiative Firstdraft.

Yu-Chieh Li is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual Studies at Lingnan University. She has held research positions at UNSW Art and Design, Tate Research Centre: Asia, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Li’s research engages with aesthetics of performance art in Asia and postcolonial discourses. Her publications appear in Third TextWorld Art, and the MoMA’s art platform “post: notes on art in a global context,” with an edited volume Visual Representations of the Cold War and Postcolonial Struggles recently published by Routledge (co-edited with Midori Yamamura). Currently she is working on a book project examining affect and the artistic autonomy of post-socialist China.

Paul Gladston is the inaugural Judith Neilson Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. He was previously Professor of Contemporary Visual Cultures and Critical Theory at the University of Nottingham (2015-2018) and, prior to that, Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham (2010-2015) and inaugural Head of the School of International Communications at the University of Nottingham Ningbo, China (2005-2010). Paul has written extensively on contemporary art and culture with respect to the concerns of critical/cultural theory. His numerous book-length publications include Contemporary Chinese Art: A Critical History (2014), awarded ‘best publication’ at the Awards of Art China (2015), and Contemporary Chinese Art, Aesthetic Modernity and Zhang Peili: Towards a Critical Contemporaneity (2019). He was an academic adviser to the internationally-acclaimed exhibition ‘Art of Change: New Directions from China’, Hayward Gallery-South Bank Centre, London (2012), and co-curator—with Dr Lynne Howarth-Gladston—of the exhibitions, ‘Dis/Continuing Traditions; Contemporary Video Art from China’, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart, Tasmania (2021) and ‘New China/New Art: Contemporary Video from Shanghai and Hangzhou’, Djanogly Gallery, University of Nottingham (2015).

This event will feature a Welcome to Country to Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung lands, and an introduction to Counihan Gallery, Brunswick from Curator Victor Griss

Victor Griss is the Gallery Curator at the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick. Leading a small, committed team for over 7 years, Victor has overseen the expansion and upgrade of the gallery, delivered an engaged annual exhibition program, led a new five-year gallery strategic plan, fostered relationships with the local arts community and public gallery sector, and developed the Moreland Art Collection. He previously held collections, curatorial and managerial roles at Deakin University Art Gallery. Victor holds a Master’s degree in Liberal Arts (Museums and Collections) from the Australian National University and an Honours degree in Visual Art from Northern Territory University. He was awarded a Post Graduate Scholarship from the National Museum of Australia and has previously been a board member of The City of Whitehorse Visual Arts Committee, the Czech and Slovak Film Festival of Australia and The School of Art Advisory Committee, RMIT.

This event is presented in partnership with: UNSW Art & Design, Counihan Gallery in Brunswick, Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office Sydney

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