BY CHRISTOPHER REID FLOCK & SIN-YING HO
Collecting is a human behavior. This behavior often begins in childhood and becomes a lifelong pursuit, love, and passion. Some novice collectors start by simply purchasing items that appeal to them and then slowly work at learning how to build a proper collection.
“In the beginning, circa 1977, George and Helen [Gardiner] did not know much about ceramics. 'We were naïve,' she would say later, 'but that soon changed.' George had an academic approach, and Helen had a great eye. They began to collect Ancient American pottery as well as ground porcelain and Harlequin figures (George was a director of Harlequin Books). In the late 1970s, they segued from being casual collectors to serious and expert investors in ceramics.” (Toronto Star, July 22, 2008).
Today, the Gardner Museum houses one of the world's great collections of ceramic art. It is also a collection spanning thousands of years of revolutionary technical achievements in the art of pottery production. Hard-wearing and ubiquitous, ceramics is one of the most common art forms and oldest manifestations of culture. Because of its durability, the fired clay of pottery remains a superb record of 11,000 years of developed civilizations. Ceramics are still present in every culture and at every social level—for eating and drinking, religious practice, and household decoration.
With Link, we want people to make the connection between collecting and the collection. We want the sculpture to enhance the viewer’s appreciation for the history of ceramics and increase their curiosity about cultural harmonizing through technology.
We made direct digital scans of five iconic, historical pieces from the Gardiner Museum’s permanent collection,each signifying their own culture heritage and technical advancement: Whistle in the form of a feline-masked seated figure; Tlapacoya' hollow 'baby' figure; Stirrup-spout Bottle with incised imagery; Molded flask with feline image; and Meiping Vase.
Utilizing the software program ZBrush, we then composed these five objects to intentionally look like a pile of collected toys in the shape of a cloud. Each of the five objects is also depicted as a brightly colored lollipop stuck in that cloud. Link looks more like white squeeze toys and colorful suckers than a collection of traditional clay artifacts, and yet through a marriage of art and science, the sculpture achieves a balance of past and future, indoor and outdoor, psychological and intellectual, childhood and adulthood, memory and experience, handcraft and digital, personal and public.
Similar to the fun and gravitas found in Jun Kaneko’s giant, striped “head”, Link is Alice-in-Wonderland-large, and offers the viewer a fantastical, as well as a spiritual, connection with their sense of awe and wonder. Everyone has stared at clouds and found familiar forms in their fluffiness. In the Link cloud, the 'baby' figure playfully approaches the mouth of the jaguar vase, hoping perhaps to hear the animal’s voice. The feline creature is cramped fore and aft like a playmate caught between friends. The Meiping Vase sits gently across the baby and the feline above rests within the plushness of the vase—iconic and strong, even when laid prone. The Stirrup-spout Bottle resembles an armor of protection and support.
We tap today’s information “cloud” to satisfy our insatiable consumption of information while sucking on lollipops to satisfy our need for sugar. The Link cloud compares the instant gratification of new technologies with that first lick of the lollipop. The colourful candies will attract the passerby’s inner child and peak their curiosity by stimulating their senses, culminating in acceptance and consumption of interesting and historically important Museum artifacts.