Porcelain clay figures is something that you usually come across in your grandma’s house, or when you go and visit one of your old aunties. Usually when someone mentions porcelain and figures in the same sentence, you immediately think about those delicate small dolls, that are protected behind a glass cupboard. Well… Think again! The works of Johnson Tsang break that mental image, and does it in the first second you look at his Porcelain clay figures. Tsang’s realistic, yet surrealist works, just throw you far, far away from what you believe can be done with clay. Although Tsang claims that he is not so good with words, I think he did a pretty good work when answering my questions. Anyway, with a talent like his, who needs words to begin with. Feast your eyes with some of his works below.
How did you become to work in this medium? How long have you been working with it?
“I touched clay for the first time some 20 years ago. It was familiar and intimate, like touching someone’s smooth skin. I clearly felt the energy contained in the clay and how each of my movements affected it. It was as if I already knew how to engage it, knowing that the clay was waiting for me to bring it to life. My first ceramic work was a cup with human facial features. I was satisfied and excited when I held it in my hands, feeling the wonders of the simple material and how it had fulfilled my imagination of three-dimensional forms. Clay has become my best friend since that day.
Clay was there for me through the most difficult times in my life. For instance, I made sculptures of my mother when she was ill, and created Earth to Earth and Life Clock to depict the impermanent nature of life after she passed away. I created Survival after the Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan, and Make Tea, Not War! And Karma during the US war on Iraq. I have never been much of a talker, nor am I known for being good at expressing of myself, but my artworks speak the honest words from my heart.
I discovered that regardless of the mood I am in, I always immediately calm down when I come into contact with clay. The process creates a state of complete mental absorption as it eases my sorrows and balances my emotions. Gradually I have come to believe that clay has life, good and beautiful life. I also believe that as I touch clay, clay touches my subconscious mind. As I shape clay, clay shapes the real me.”
There seem to be kind of tension between the gentle porcelain clay figures you create and the extreme events they are presented in. Why is that?
“I like to tell stories. I use my angle to show my thought. It is something arouse from my inner feeling. More or less it is personal. I think there must be lots of different points of views from different viewers. I don’t mind what they think about my work. I actually like them to view my work in their very own way. They might have their own story interacting with mine.”
What is your typical work process from idea to completion?
“I believe my ideas always came from my subconscious. I am no good with words. However, I am so lucky to have this ability expressing myself. Once an idea is determined to work with. Here is the process:
- Throw a rounded shape form. Wait for few hours until it is rigid enough to hold the shape.
- Alter the rounded form into a desired shape when the clay is still wet.
- Sometime I need to add clay for a better shape.
- When the outline of the sculpture is done. Then set it for drying.
- Details carving when the clay is almost dry.
- Underglazie painting such as eyes of the babies.
- When the sculpture is totally dry. Bisque firing for 12 hours till 960 ć
- Glazing is needed on some sculpture. E.g. apply transparent glaze on the eyeballs.
- High temperature firing for 14 hours up to 1260. Cool down for 30 hours.
What materials do you prefer to work with?
“I used porcelain for most of my works. I love the purity and simplicity of its character. So I put colour as little as I could.“
Is there a certain piece you like best, more than the others?
“I like “Earth to Earth” most. I created it just after my mother passed away in 2007. Start from there, I never used another kind of clay but porcelain”
Can people commission work from you? How can you be contacted?
“It depends. I received lots of requests from all over the world. If the job is comparatively simple. I would try to fit their needs. However, I love creation too much. If I can choose, I rather spend time on my new project than repeating my works or making someone’s idea. My contact: firstname.lastname@example.org“