By Joseph Hopkinson, Artist, Ceramicist, Wales Arts International

06 December 2016 - 17:49

Joseph Hopkinson visits Kasongan Village in Yogyakarta
Buddha sculptures in Kasongan Village: The Centre of Pottery and Handicraft in Yogyakarta. Joseph Hopkinson visited Kasongan along with several other pottery and ceramic artisans places in Yogyakarta.  ©

Joseph Hopkinson

Two months ago, at the start of UK/ID Festival 2016, UK ceramicist Joseph Hopkinson departed to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, for residency. With support from Wales Arts International, Joseph lived in Yogyakarta for one month and created work for the 4th Jakarta Contemporary Ceramics Biennale and will exhibit it at the National Gallery of Indonesia alongside other amazing artists from around the world. This content is a piece tied together from bits and pieces Joseph collected and curated during his residency time. 

Arriving in the cultural city of Yogyakarta

Yogyakarta or as the locals call it Jogja has a has a long history, an abundance of culture, an incredibly active contemporary art scene as well as a fine cup of coffee.A lot of artists and art students live in Jogja and exhibit across Indonesia and internationally. Historical sites such as 9th century Hindu Temple Prambanan, and the 18th century Tamansari water castle, as well as many more, can be found in around Jogja. During my time in Jogja, I visited a lot of places. First, I visited Ali Vespa and his friends at their studio where they are preparing a sculpture for an exhibition in Jogja and paintings for sale across Indonesia. I also visited ICAN (Indonesian contemporary art network) open studio where Titarubi was putting the finishing touches on her work for the Singapore Biennale. I also visited Kasongan Village, the centre of ceramic and pottery handicraft in Yogyakarta. Walking around Kasongan ceramic village you can find many of these large wood fired kilns. A brick enclosure where dry rice straw is piled on top of ceramics as wood is burned beneath the kiln. The ceramic works from Kasongan range from vases, roof tiles, and decorative sculpture. Finishing varies and includes slips, engobes, acrylics, glazes and baseball caps. 

Asides from Kasongan and visits to local artists, I also got to visit one of the oldest art institute in Indonesia, Institut Seni Indonesia or ISI Yogyakarta (Art Institute of Indonesia). The institute has an impressive facilities. It also hosts talented students from Yogyakarta, across Indonesia as well as international students from Europe and beyond. Across the campus you can find many different art forms and crafts including ceramics, woodwork, metalwork, textiles, performance and music among others.The students are encouraged to explore many different skills before deciding a major. Many students decide to combine crafts and continue to work with a variety of different materials and techniques.

A tour to ceramic village with students from the university. Traditional methods of throwing, mold casting, sprig decoration and firing are demonstrated.
A tour to ceramic village with students from the university. Traditional methods of throwing, mold casting, sprig decoration and firing are demonstrated. ©

Joseph Hopkinson

A small example of students work from the Indonesian Institut of the Arts Yogyakarta with textiles, copper, ceramics and wood. ©

Joseph Hopkinson

Firing process with local potter, Mr. Salak, during the residency in Timboel Keramik Studio, Yogyakarta. ©

Joseph Hopkinson

"During the exhibition I would like to invite guests and visitors to take a souvenir with them to add to their private collection until there is only an empty crate." – Joseph Hopkinson. ©

Joseph Hopkinson.

Residency in Timboel Keramik Studio

My residency place, Timboel Keramik Studio used to be a large ceramic studio working with terracotta, ceramics is no longer produced here. Predominantly fibre glass re-enforced concrete products and aluminium and wood sculptures are manufactured. Unfortunately the large gas kilns and and larger wood kilns are mainly used as storage areas. I also got to work with Iocal potter. I fired with a local potter named Mr. Salak. The open fired kiln is constructed with a base made from pots spaced out to allow wood to be burned underneath as well as air flow. Asbestos roofing is used to create the walls of the kiln, a fantastic heat proof material if not something of a health concern. The fire is started slowly using wood and any other combustible material to hand. Slowly more wood is burned until the correct temperature is reached. At this point rice straw is carefully piled on top. From what I could understand the rice straw acts as an insulator and fills any gaps in the kilns construction so that heat is retained. More wood is fed underneath the kiln until the correct temperature is achieved. The whole process takes about 6 hours and fires to a low temperature no more than 800 degrees. The work is left overnight to cool down.

Ways of Clays: Exploring subtle differences and similarities between ancient artefact and souvenirs.

In my work I wanted to explore the subtle differences and similarities between an ancient artefact in a museum and the souvenirs that can be found everywhere. So when I created my souvenirs I wanted to make the process visible to make it apparent that they were mold cast and mass produced. I also wanted to use these wooden shipping containers to display the work and to add to the suggestion that these are commodities.

As I was making these what became interesting to me was the act of making; the plaster mold could tell a story that embodied that experience. I decided to use this as my ‘artefact’ and created a direct relationship between the ‘artefact’ and the souvenir.

I decided to choose the Buddha head based on the missing heads of Borrobudur. As when the ancient site was discovered collectors and museums would detach the head of the statue and much like the souvenirs of today would take it away to be displayed in public and private collections. Out of over 500 statues 257 are missing their heads, This is extremely noticeable when you visit the UNESCO world heritage site as you feel that there’s not much left for you to see.

During the exhibition I would like to invite guests and visitors to take a souvenir with them to add to their private collection until there is only an empty crate.

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