A Garden from a Kiln

Behold how Singaporean artist Jason Lim’s Paradise portray the elegance of the Heliconia plant in fired clay

Issue: Sep 2014

Jason Lim’s Paradise details a subtle play of tonality and texture in the many ceramic pieces that form the leaves and flowers of the Heliconia plant
Jason Lim’s Paradise details a subtle play of tonality and texture in the many ceramic pieces that form the leaves and flowers of the Heliconia plant

If there is a genre of art that reminds one immediately of baking, it must be ceramic art. I had a chance to try out and got hooked on pottery during my university days, and I remember fondly the steps of “wedging” the clay – very much like kneading flour, “throwing” or form-making on the potter’s wheel, “turning” or finishing the hardened but unfired ware, glazing and firing. The feeling of moulding clay is therapeutic and the entire process of creation, most fascinating.

Elegant Garden “baked” with Skill

Singapore artist Jason Lim’s ceramic art piece titled Paradise likewise went through a fascinating process of creation, though not identical to the one described above. Featuring a segment of a tropical garden dominated by Heliconia plants, it is the centre piece gracing the lobby of The Orchard Residences, a 54-storey luxury condominium in the heart of the city. From far, one may think that this is a Batik painting. It is only upon coming near to it that one suddenly discovers it is made up of many pieces of ceramic components, differing subtly in tonality and texture, laid out on a brown background. Both the subject matter and the look and feel of the piece give the lobby a subtle, elegant tropical accent.

 

Master Ceramist

A slice of Paradise is the centrepiece in the lobby of The Orchard Residences, giving it an elegant tropical accent
A slice of Paradise is the centrepiece in the lobby of The Orchard Residences, giving it an elegant tropical accent

Jason was born in Singapore in 1966 and was educated at Central St Martins College of Art & Design in London and Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (LaSalle College of the Arts), where he obtained his master’s degree in Fine Arts. His repertoire includes many genres of art but he is best known for his ceramics. His works first came to my attention when he presented Just Dharma in the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. He created a chandelier made up of 1800 pieces of ceramic lotus flowers suspended in the Singapore pavilion. On the opening day of the pavilion, the chandelier was made to crash onto the floor as part of a performance and the relic remained there for the entire duration of the show. It must have shocked the audience when the ceramic flowers came crashing down from high above and breaking into many pieces in a loud crackling sound. It was brilliant as a piece of performance art as it was ceramic art! The artist’s message about destruction being just as important as creation in art and perhaps in life must have come across strongly.


Refining Fire

But the piece at The Orchard Residences is made to last, and much care went into its creation. Jason first did a master drawing of the overall composition in A3-size paper, and subsequently enlarged it to the actual size of the work of 5 by 3 metres. He then traced the enlarged drawing onto slabs of hand-rolled clay of about 2.5 centimetres thick and cut each component piece to shape. He took care to label each piece to avoid confusion when the time came to assemble them. After drying the pieces, he fired them in a large gas kiln at about 1200 degree Celsius for the desired effects.

“Having rich experiences with this particular clay type and using gas for firing allow me to explore the possibilities of gas firing and playing with atmospheric firing conditions. Controlling the supplies of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the kiln and placing the clay pieces at strategic spots allow (controlling and placing are 2 actions) for subtle variations of the fired work,” said Jason, who kept away from using coloured glaze for this piece - and in fact for most of his ceramic works - to realize a Minimalist intent. Less is more!

When asked what he liked about working with ceramics, he shared, “Clay is an organic material. It changes its state from being ephemeral during the making stage to being permanent after firing. It is a material I can work directly with my hands and feel connected with. My mind and soul are transferred onto the material in the most direct way though my hands.”

The amateur potter in me could not have agreed more.

Can you tell the name of the blossoms at the lower portion of Jason Lim's Paradise?
Can you tell the name of the blossoms at the lower portion of Jason Lim’s Paradise?

This article is contributed by CapitaLand Chief of Art Management, Francis Wong Hooe Wai

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