Rough Terrain: Ceramics by Kim-Anh Nguyen

By Ballard, Brett | Ceramics Art & Perception, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Rough Terrain: Ceramics by Kim-Anh Nguyen


Ballard, Brett, Ceramics Art & Perception


KIM-ANH NGUYEN WAS BORN IN ENGLAND AND SPENT part of her childhood in Vietnam and New Zealand before settling in Australia. She is a ceramic artist whose reputation has grown steadily since graduating in 2006. In 2008 Nguyen won the Stanhope Art Prize with Ethereal, a work that was praised for its beauty and transparency.

Nguyen's work strikes one as immediately attractive and possessed of great skill. It is possible to see how she is able to carry out commissions as she has done and extend her range of forms beyond the plinth. Nguyen uses coiling techniques and weaves small pellets of clay into beaker, basket and bowl forms. They are intriguing objects because, beyond their obvious beauty, one senses archaeology at work. Nguyen is an artist entirely in sympathy with her own culture and the culture of others. She acknowledges the influences of native people from the mountains of Vietnam, the Maoris of New Zealand and the Aborigines of Australia. It is a rich mix to incorporate in to one's work but, with any artist of interest, it is not the influences per se that matter, but what an artist is able to do with them.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The technique of coiling is ancient and has been the means of making baskets and textiles for centuries. There are many cultures in which women are engaged in this craft and Nguyen's technique brings to mind the weaving of flax for Maori baskets and the myriad woven forms from other cultures in the Pacific and Melanesian regions.

Nguyen suggests one of the fundamental influences for her is the spiral or koru, as it is known in Maori culture. It is taken from the tree fern and means new life and growth. Here Nguyen finds an apt metaphor for the production of vessels she makes. Each form becomes a journey from the base as it spirals forth to the upper edge. Once rightness has been achieved in the form, the journey of making ends.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The works of Nguyen's exhibition are divided into two series, the Spinifex series, that is to say the coiled works and the Road less Travelled Series, which are the thrown forms. Each set of works and their attendant process creates a dialogue back and forth, from the spiky to the rivulet, the monochrome to the sweetly coloured and the functional to the spiritual. …

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