Wen-Hsi Harman

Detail of “Identity” (2015) by Wen-Hsi Harman

“Hybrid ceramics – in between Taipei and Bristol”


This paper will investigate, as a Taiwanese ceramic artist living away from my homeland, how my ceramic practice attempts to combine Taiwanese social rituals and context with my research through clay to express my cultural identity.
I created a series of ceramic works including handmade sculptural porcelain spoons, fingerprints, bananas, and traditional Chinese characters explore the tension of cross-cultural identity, between the East and the West.
First, I will explore some of the elements of traditional Taiwanese wedding ceremonies and show how I interpreted these in clay. Some of the elements I used were the chicken, a symbol of the start of the ceremony, and the traditional wooden cake moulds. Since the cake moulds were a similar shape to spoons, I developed this by creating sculptural porcelain spoons which also made reference to Welsh Love spoons and Taiwanese indigenous Amis pottery.
Second, I will discuss how I explored my personal identity through my fingerprint wall pieces. I will explain why/how I used my fingerprints as a tool to identify myself as the maker and as a kind of signature. Not only did the use of fingerprints offer an affirmation of my identity, but the repetitive nature of these pieces was a meditative process to comfort my situation of living “in-between.”

Third, I will analyse the status of bananas in Taiwan and how they were known as the King of Fruits in Taiwan from the 1930s to the 1960s, were smaller than Caribbean bananas, and also more chewy and sweet. For banana-growing countries, bananas are often of major economic importance in international trade with other countries. This fruit has huge political implications linked with who grows them, who trades them and who buys them, associated with human concerns and political awareness. My work demonstrates these tensions by assembling earthenware casts of real Western and Taiwanese bananas in different combinations.
Finally, I will discuss my installation work: the language of ceramics. I used traditional Chinese characters to reflect national identity and personal identity through the visual and physical aspects of language to communicate with the audience.
Being a ceramic artist living and working between two cultures offers me an opportunity to consider myself an outsider in both cultures. Making ceramics in different cultural locations has provided a catalyst to my work, reviewing and responding to the tension, confusion and ambiguity.
Click here to view Wen-Hsi Harman’s presentation  


éditorial N°1

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