Research Projects

New Export China: Translations across time and place in contemporary Chinese porcelain art

A transcultural, materials-focused study of works in porcelain by Ai Weiwei, Liu Jianhua, Ah Xian and Sin-ying Ho and other contemporary Chinese artists, originating in PhD research (2016-19) at the Australian National University, Canberra, and conversations with artists while studying at the Beijing Foreign Studies University (2014-15). Project funding has been provided by a Prime Minister’s Australia-Asia Postgraduate Endeavour Award (2014) and Kathleen Woodroofe Scholarship (2016).

Although porcelain has served for centuries as a vehicle for the transmission of cultural knowledge from China to the world, its enduring relevance and resonance in the era of the global contemporary, when our mutual implication in networks of trade and exchange is clearer than at any other moment in history, has yet to received sustained study. Taking a thematic approach, this project positions porcelain art within an interdisciplinary field of study, demonstrating how works by the selected artists contribute to current debates surrounding archival intervention, ownership of heritage, cultural stereotypes, the movement of global capital and migrant labour, issues of authenticity in artistic production, and political statements of racial and gender identity.

“Splendid Deformities”: An emancipatory critique of cultural homogeneity in Sin-ying Ho’s deformed ceramics‘, View: Theories and Practices of Visual Culture, no. 24 (January 2020)

Remembering people and places past/passed in contemporary ceramics by Ah Xian, Ai Weiwei, Sin-ying Ho and Liu Jianhua‘, Garland, no. 15 (2019)

Smashing vases: Ceramics and the aesthetics of destruction in works by Ai Weiwei and Liu Jianhua‘, ESPACE Art Actuel, no. 122 (Spring-Summer 2019): 36-45

The visual and tactile experience of the monochrome: Mapping surfacescapes in Ai Weiwei’s Colored Vases and Liu Jianhua’s Container series‘, TAASA Review 28, no. 1 (March 2019): 4-6

‘Drifting through the Porcelain Capital: Art residencies and the enforced continuity of an illustrious past in Jingdezhen, China’, Kunstlicht 39, no. 2 (2018): 39-49

Sin-ying Ho’s Garden of Eden‘, TAASA Review 26, no. 4 (December 2017): 12-14 & cover image

Negotiating ‘Chinese-Australian’ Identity: Ah Xian’s Dr John Yu (2004) and his China China series (1998-2004)‘, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art 17, no. 1 (August 2017): 33-53. – Awarded the 2018 Best Scholarly Article in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art Prize

Flesh and Clay: Ah Xian’s Porcelain Body-Casts‘, Fine Print, no. 8 (2016)

Sin-ying Ho (b. 1963), Identity, 2001, porcelain with underglaze cobalt-blue decoration, digital decals, 28 x 30.5 cm. © and courtesy the artist.

Objects from Elsewhere: Transcultural constructions of identity

A new project inspired by the findings of New Export China and extending that project’s focus to include historic networks of global exchange, tracing the role that ‘objects from elsewhere’ have played and continue to play in the formation of racial, cultural and personal identities.

The aim of Objects from Elsewhere is to offer new insight into the material expressions of Whiteness and Blackness that circulated in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century networks of global exchange, focusing on the trade in ceramics and slaves connecting China, Africa, North America, and Europe. The project will involve new research into African markets for Chinese export ceramics, identifying how these were used to generate relational selfhoods that were transplanted to North America by enslaved labourers, intersecting with and interjecting within White American and European conceptions of self.

Guan Wei’s “Australerie” ceramics and the binary bind of identity politics‘, Index Journal, no. 1 (March 2020)

La maladie de porcelaine: Liu Jianhua’s Regular/Fragile (2007) at Oxburgh Hall and the history of massed porcelain display in English aristocratic interiors‘, Oxford Art Journal 42, no. 3 (December 2019): 253-81. Awarded the inaugural Oxford Art Journal Essay Prize for Early Career Researchers

The Santos Palace ceiling, c.1680-85, Ambassade de France à Lisbonne, Portugal. © Jonathan Gration.

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