Last Friday evening, I was excitedly hurrying into the city during peak rush hour to catch the opening of Derek Au’s work at The Clay Studio in downtown Philadelphia. American-born of Chinese descent, Au lives and maintains his studio in Jingdezhen China, a region historically known for its ceramic traditions. Au’s pieces are made from delicate slabs of porcelain that he creates sympathetic to sheet metal patterns often found in tableware or more specifically, metal holloware. Pieces are perfectly celadon-glazed to create exceptionally functional tableware that at first glance do not appear to be something that one dines upon everyday. The imaginative display the curators of this exhibit envision actually employ silk-screened “stream of consciousness” quotes from the artist on the gallery walls surrounding the work; one of these quotes implies how one should not feel these ceramic pieces are intended to be “only for show” – but rather insists that one promises to interact with Au’s pieces at daily mealtimes.
Further, the most wonderful feature of seeing this installation in-person is a quote from Au where he speaks about an aspect of his career and life, prior to committing himself full-time to his life and work as an artist. One can only sympathize with Au’s past situation and in most circumstances, agree whole-heartedly as makers, designers or artists as to his decision:
“Years ago I spent a few months at The Clay Studio as a regular paying member. I had just quit some horrible (but high-paying) Internet start-up job, which had me living for almost eight months in a hotel in King of Prussia. One day I just packed my bags and left. I rented an apartment on South Street and walked to The Clay Studio almost every day. Didn’t even fire anything while I was there. Just throwing every day. No intention of making art or a statement, just throwing. It was one of the most peaceful times of my life.” —Derek Au
Derek Au can be viewed through September 30th, 2012 at The Clay Studio located at 137-139 North 2nd Street in downtown Philadelphia, PA.
Except where noted, images are courtesy of The Clay Studio, Philadelphia.