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‘Tile Project’ by Chen Hsian-Jung intersects handcrafted and machine produced objects
Tile project and Striped series by Chen Hsian-Jung
Image: Chen Hsian-Jung

‘Tile Project’ by Chen Hsian-Jung intersects handcrafted and machine produced objects

The Tile project and Striped series by Chen Hsian-Jung investigate the relationship and interdependency between handmade and machine made products. 

by Ria Jha
Published on : Nov 12, 2023

Taiwan-based ceramic artist Chen Hsian-Jung draws inspiration from the nuances of daily life, accentuating and distilling subjects and ideas through keen observation, and reimagining them as geometric forms infused with vibrant colours. With an intrigue towards mass-produced and industrialised goods, his recent product designs balance on the thin line between handcrafted and industrialised. As a ceramic artist, Jung believes his fascination with mass-produced objects is a contradiction, saying, “I'm inexplicably drawn to industrially mass-produced and standardised products. Perhaps it's their rational, precise design and the allure of industrial aesthetics that captivate me”.

The product designer often finds himself pondering over the worth of a ceramic artist, stating, “Must it be entirely handmade to be appreciated […] if machines are involved in certain steps of the process, with the ceramic artist only intervening later, can the work still be attributed solely to the artist?” he questions. The result of this inquiry led to the ideation of the Tile project exhibition which was unveiled on October 21, 2023 and will remain on display until November 19, 2023. For this solo exhibition, Jung reached out to tile manufacturers to procure unglazed tiles and glazing them himself, establishing a balance between handcrafted and machine-produced products.

Jung believes that standard tiles embody repetitive patterns which machines excel at, although the essence of humanity can only be manifested onto them by handcrafting the glaze and colour variations onto the tiles. “How does one encapsulate such a fleeting and dynamic ideation? The nuanced gradient resulting from airbrushing the glaze, the colour variations from overlapping different glazes, an impromptu decision to add another layer, or the spray gun tilting just slightly — each meticulously recorded on a tile, encapsulating the ever-evolving surge of inspiration, contemplation, uncertainty, and second-guessing during its creation,” he elaborates. Unlike the common small coloured tiles, the larger tiles offer a better canvas for delicate colour gradations. The taiwanese artist has abstracted constantly shifting colours of the sky throughout the day with a belief that they are like the pages of a calendar, where the flow of time is divided into discrete days, each of which appears to be independent yet inherently connected.

The Striped series by Jung is also a part of this exhibition, comprising geometrically shaped containers and ceramic sculptures with ambiguous functionalities. The ceramic art explores the relationship between handcrafted and machine-made objects. Commenting on the thought behind this project the sculpture artist relays, “The vibrant glazes coupled with precise stripe designs seek to emulate the feel of industrially produced items, mirroring today's penchant for mass-produced and standardised goods. In the relentless quest for perfection, which seems forever elusive, the inherent human touch complete with its imperfections emerges clearly in the finer details of each piece.”

To investigate the interactions and differences between these domains, Jung optimises workflow, removes manual imprints, and pursues accuracy and perfection with unwavering determination. At the same time, he purposefully blurs the line between artistic expression and practical use. Expressing the spirit of postmodernism and calling for a reassessment of our relationship with the items in our environment. Jung seeks to achieve perfection in handcrafted work while simultaneously searching for signs of human involvement in industrial products. The exhibition unravels where these seemingly contradictory entities converge and discourse by exploring their interplay and dialectics.

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