Surprisingly, this is the first issue of TAASA Review dedicated to ceramics: surprising because the results of a membership survey published in the second issue of the Review (March 1992) showed ceramics to be the principal area of interest to the largest number of members (followed closely by painting and sculpture).
Certainly there have been excellent articles devoted to ceramics in various issues of the Review, as there have been lectures and symposia over the years. Indeed, lectures on any aspect of ceramics draw a good audience, as evident when the distinguished Chinese ceramics scholar Professor Zhang Pusheng spoke to a packed auditorium at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on the early history of Chinese blue and white porcelain at the second VisAsia Hing Yiu Mok Mandarin Language Lecture in February this year. That Professor Zhang, whose many titles include Deputy Chair of the National Ancient Chinese Ceramic Society, and Member of the National Cultural Relic Appraisal Board, could fill the Gallery auditorium with a lecture in Mandarin (no translation) demonstrates the unceasing allure of Chinese ceramics. It was because of the popularity of Chinese ceramics that TAASA brought Rosemary Scott, a contributor to this current issue, to Australia as keynote speaker at its 1997 symposium on Chinese ceramics.
Nowadays the appeal of Chinese porcelain, particularly imperial, is not only aesthetic, technical or historical, but undeniably financial. I recall some years ago a graph published by a leading auction house proving that Chinese porcelain appreciated in monetary value faster than any other item. The world-record price fetched by our cover piece, discussed in great depth for its rarity, historical and aesthetic qualities by Rosemary Scott, is proof of the ever-escalating prices paid for good Chinese porcelain. Admittedly this magnificent and rare guan jar is an exceptional piece in terms of its fine porcelain body, the use of the highest quality of cobalt blue, and the quality of the draftsmanship. Significant too is the use of narrative scenes inspired by illustrations from contemporary woodblock printed editions of popular dramas, a choice that testifies to the enduring Chinese absorption with literature and tonal ink painting.
Apart from Rosemary, I would like to record my warmest thanks and appreciation to the other distinguished contributors to this issue. It is perhaps part of the passion and commitment that ceramics elicit in scholars and collectors that they are prepared to share their knowledge so freely and generously. This issue contains previously unpublished material by knowledgeable and informative contributors who give us the benefits of their research and field work. Tradition dominates the issue - the traditions of local village potters, traditions dictated by 'Chinese taste' and religious beliefs. Ann Roberts discusses some 'Chinese taste' Qing porcelains from the Kenny Estate; Mae Anna Pang demonstrates the persistent influence that Song classics from the well-known Kent collection at the National Gallery of Victoria continue to exert over Australian contemporary potters like Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, whose survey show is on at the NGV through to March 2006.
A far cry from the subtle glaze colours and purity of form that define the Song aesthetic is revealed in Clare Pollard's article on the exceptional Japanese potter Miyagawa Kozan (1842-1916) and his saikumono (literally 'handiwork objects'). Here elaborate and colourful decoration extends to intricately modelled high-relief birds, insects and plants, exemplifying the lovingly detailed observation of nature so intrinsic to the Japanese aesthetic. While most readers are familiar with the East Asian ceramic traditions, in their elegantly written account of the different processes used by present-day women earthenware potters in mainland Southeast Asia, Louise Cort and Leedom Lefferts alert us to the differences that lie at the heart of seemingly similar 'simple' pots - differences that 'may lead to a radically different understanding of contemporary Southeast Asia'. Mainland Southeast Asia is covered too in the article on Pyu stucco at Pagan by Pamela Gutman and Bob Hudson which takes us into the realm of architectural decoration and the use of moulded, handformed, incised and stamped decoration on walls, pediments and bricks. To date no analysis of the stucco has been undertaken, indicating - as with the research revealed in Cort and Lefferts' article - just how much exciting research is still waiting to be done in the field of Southeast Asian ceramics in particular. With the continuing support of those researching Asian ceramics, hopefully the TAASA Review can regularly inform you of new discoveries.
Jackie Menzies is Head Curator of Asian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The first exhibition on which she worked was of late Chinese Imperial porcelain.
4 A NEWLY DISCOVERED YUAN DYNASTY NARRATIVE JAR - Rosemary Scott
7 NOT PRIMITIVE, CERTAINLY NOT SIMPLE: WOMEN’S EARTHENWARE PRODUCTION IN MAINLAND SOUTHEAST ASIA - Louise Cort and Leedom Lefferts
10 MARVELS OR ABERRATIONS? EARLY PRODUCTS OF THE KOZAN STUDIO - Clare Pollard
13 CHINESE CLASSIC WARES FROM THE KENT COLLECTION AND THEIR IMPACT ON AUSTRALIAN POTTERS - Mae Anna Pang
16 FOUR TREASURES FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION - Ann Roberts
18 GIFTS OF THE ARTISTS: CONTEMPORARY ASIAN ART AT THE QAG - Zoe Butt
20 PYU STUCCO AT PAGAN - Pamela Gutman and Bob Hudson
23 BOOK REVIEW: TANG INTERPRETATIONS - Edmund Capon
24 WHAT’S ON IN AUSTRALIA: DECEMBER 2005 – MARCH 2006 - Compiled by Tina Burge
25 TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY DECEMBER 2005 – MARCH 2006
26 TAASA ACTIVITIES – REPORTS