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Artist Ling Chun combines hair and clay in playful, unexpected ways. Describing her ceramic forms as “playgrounds for the glaze”, the Seattle based creative adopts a ‘more is more’ approach, crafting handmade sculptures bursting with colour and texture. The resulting pieces are so animated that they seem to resemble creatures rather than objects, charmingly lopsided misfits and oddities with fittingly whimsical names such as Three Musketeers and Fanta Fountain.

COMMA_revised size
COMMA, COMMA, COMMA, 2017
Around and Around_HI
Around and Around, 2016

While the combination of hair and clay is perhaps not an obvious or expected union, the silky, flowing synthetic hair favoured by Chun seems to balance the solidity of her heavy ceramic forms, instilling the sculptures with a lightness and tactility. The inclusion of hair also serves as a nod to Chun’s (brief) stint at beauty school: “the use of hair in my work becomes a perfect marriage of my background as a beauty school dropout and my current obsession with colour glaze chemistry”, she explains.

Through her work, Chun says that she hopes to challenge the rules and roles of ceramics by disassociating the material from its stereotypical or culturally accepted uses. The very process of creating the pieces goes against the format used for creating functional ceramics: removing still-hot pieces from the kiln, Chun apply liquid glazes to the surface, creating a sizzling sound and a haze of steam until the glaze sticks. It’s an intuitive process that emerges through multiple firings and layers of glaze. The work is born of the spontaneous dripping, sliding, running, climbing and crawling that occurs. We spoke to Chun about her creative process, craft vs fine art, and why hair and clay are a match made in heaven.

Ling Chun_LOAF
LOAF, 2017

How would you sum up your work in a sentence? My lust and greed for colour, my untranslatable language, my cultural bridges, my playground for the glaze and my over-the-top, ostentatious alter-ego.

What are some of the themes you explore within your practice? The history of hair, the invention of language, the interaction of colour, and the chemistry of glaze.

Confetti_installation shot_HI _4
Confetti, detail, 2017

What inspired you to start using hair as one of your core materials? I was a beauty school dropout! That part of me has always been there, and eventually worked her way out into my ceramic sculpture. One day, while I was in a bathroom, I found myself in a repulsive response to my own hair down in the drain. I was inspired by my own ambivalent reaction to hair; while I spent hour after hour on haircare, only a few seconds after it falls from my body, I’m immediately repulsed by it. I began to look into the versatility of hair. I’m also a colour enthusiast, so with the full range of choice of hair dye and colour wigs, the use of hair in my work becomes a perfect marriage of my background as a beauty school dropout and my current obsession with colour glaze chemistry.

What does hair as a material offer your work that other materials don’t? The haptic quality of the hair offers a sense of caring and lightness into my work, it balances the permanence of ceramics, and becomes the metamorphosis of the glazes.

Green Jar_5
Green Jar, 2018
12 Bluish-Red
Blue-ish Red, 2017
“The haptic quality of the hair offers a sense of caring and lightness into my work, it balances the permanence of ceramics.”
Ling Chun
Fanta Fountain_HI
Fanta Fountain, 2017

With its connotations of functionality, pottery has previously been perceived as firmly inhabiting the world of ‘craft’ as opposed to the world of ‘fine art’. However, ceramic artists are challenging these perceptions with increasingly boundary-blurring works. What’s your take on this? In less than a decade, the contemporary ceramic art scene has shifted. Although there is tension between what’s viewed as ‘craft’ or ‘fine art’, we need to embrace the concept of the liminal, showing how traditional practices and new conceptual approaches interact. I think craft and fine art exist horizontally, one informing the other. With my work, I want to share my perspective of what ceramics can do and encourage new ways of thinking about ceramics as fine art, with respect for and understanding of its nature as craft.

piece-of-cake_
Piece of Cake, 2017
Credits

Images Ling Chun
Interview Emma de Clercq

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