What is permanence? How and why did we come up with this notion of something lasting forever? What does it mean to last? What does existence mean in a timeline with no beginning or end? I'm interested in the ability of ceramic objects to alter our sense of time by foregrounding the tiny intricacies and ephemerality of human activity against the expansiveness of geological time. For me, art making is about the dilation of time for reverie, contemplation, discovery and awe. Art transports the viewer into a place without beginning or end, filled with possibility and unanswerable questions.
When working with clay, I tend to handle it slowly, methodically and intimately, and without many tools. I believe that this approach helps impart an understanding of time that is largely absent from our current experience of the world. I enjoy clay's responsiveness to touch, and its compliant, yet stubborn and sometimes wily character. Ironically, once a malleable lump of clay is transformed into a "permanent" ceramic object, it also becomes fragile and thereby precious. So in one way, permanence is related to the stability of form, to which we have attached tremendous value.
For the past two and a half years, I've meditated on the idea of "permanence" by hand-making and accumulating bonelike "sticks" (as well as the broken shards from moving them around) that I then use to construct larger, temporary and simple forms. The various combinations of material, form and meta-form speak about the fine line between certain perceived polarities, such as: the tenuous and stable, the individual and collective, protection and imprisonment, order and chaos, and serenity and violence. Most recently, I've been focusing on the incorporation of other materials, as well as recorded sound, light, and video projections. My goal with this new exploration is to collapse action, object, and document into a seamless and interdependent whole that stimulates beguiling questions regarding the human perception of existence. View images
Shu-Mei Chan was born in Hong Kong in 1973, and raised in New Jersey, USA. She received a BA from Wesleyan University in 1996, concentrating in fine arts and East Asian Studies. A few years later, she discovered clay, which led her to Helena, Montana, and her husband-to-be, Daniel Evans. They proceeded to the NY State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, where Chan studied with Anton Reijnders. Currently, she is pursuing an MFA at Indiana University, Bloomington.
Chan has received national recognition, including the 2007 International Residency Fellowship from the National Council on Education for the Ceramics Arts (NCECA), which supported her residency at The Australian National University (ANU) School of Arts Ceramics Workshop. She describes her process as "glacial movement towards a momentary glimpse of the incompleteness of human perception." The Clay Studio of Philadelphia will host her first major solo exhibition in May 2008.
Persistence, 2006 (front)
Porcelain and plastic
May I Have Your Attention, 2007 (installation detail)
Fired and raw porcelain, utility hooks
Porcelain and plastic
Installing work at the ANU School of Art, Ceramics Workshop, 2007
Porcelain, hot glue, painted drywall, plastic, video projection and sound