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    In Depth ‖ Torbj?rn Kvasb?, Chief Curator and Juror of the 2023 Biennale: Clay is Not the Medium, "I" am

    Torbj?rn Kvasb?

    Art is a form of creativity, a process of self-creation.
    Clay is not the medium; I am the medium.
    It's not that I am shaping it, but it is shaping me.
    This is my language, my way, my energy. Always has been and always will be.
    ——Torbj?rn Kvasb?

    Torbj?rn Kvasb?, a prominent participant in the Norwegian contemporary ceramic art movement of the 1970s, has been a distinctive force in innovative pottery techniques and explorations of artistic expression in ceramics. Committed to advancing the contemporary development of Norwegian ceramic art and fostering mutual learning and exchange with the international contemporary ceramic art community, Kvasb? has made a lasting impact.
    In 2023, this ceramic artist, hailing from the frigid landscapes of Norway, arrived in Jingdezhen. He embarked on the creation of installation art using thousands, even tens of thousands, of porcelain plates and bottles. This formidable physical labor represents a beautiful symbiosis between him and the materials, an experience he insists on completing personally. With his slender figure, he conceals himself within the artworks, imbuing them with strength, purpose, and attitude.

    Art, Seeking Value in Communication

    Kvasb? currently serves as the President of the International Academy of Ceramics (IAC). Drawing from his rich artistic practice, he provides a reference point for fellow artists, assisting young members in discovering their goals, professional identity, and suitable modes of work. He enhances their individual recognition, offering them a higher platform, more opportunities, and support and encouragement in adversity.
    As a result, for two consecutive editions of the Jingdezhen International Ceramic Art Biennale, Kvasb? has taken on the roles of curator and juror. The call for entries spanned 48 countries worldwide, with 260 selected works from 27 countries. This collection encompasses diverse creations and concepts from ceramic artists globally, covering various artistic expressions such as painting, sculpture, installations, and multimedia. It also provides insights into the growth of the younger generation of ceramic artists. Kvasb? believes, "Jingdezhen Ceramic University enjoys a high reputation worldwide. President Lyu Pinchang, through the unprecedented scale of the biennale, gathers ceramic artists from around the world to showcase the results and phenomena of contemporary artistic practices. With a more open attitude, it explores and pays attention to the artistic growth of young people, holding significant meaning in the development of contemporary ceramics."

    Kvasb? also highly praised the work "霜翎/Frost Feather," recipient of the First Prize, "It surpasses the boundaries of impossibility and possibility, seamlessly blending traditional Chinese blue-and-white with contemporary artistic concepts, presenting a remarkably novel effect. The suspended display in space, resonates with the white sand on the ground and ceramic leaves, creating a tremendous visual impact. I really like this piece."

    Based on the jurying criteria of the biennale, Kvasb? suggests that the standards for evaluating art are not rigid; they can evolve through open, fair, and democratic processes that foster communication and discussion. The jurors' perspectives and experiences can mutually influence each other and help to give their unique verdict.
    Moreover, Kvasb? highlights the importance for participating artists to maximize the benefits of the international ceramic art biennale's prestigious platform. Through active participation, exchange, and discussion, artists can contribute to a cross-pollination of ideas on a horizontal level. Within this international ceramic community, such exchanges transcend notions of right or wrong, serving as lateral opportunities for learning, absorption, and integration.

    Within the expansive domain of a biennale, what the public sees is not just individual artworks but a collection of art, a vibrant assembly of individuals. This encompasses the emotions behind each creation, as well as the artist's understanding and response to society and the era as a whole.
    Artworks serve not only as a showcase of the self but also as a means of communication, becoming a fundamental way for us to understand the artistic processes of our time. If artworks are merely submitted for exhibition without effective communication, they resemble scattered fragments with relatively narrow significance. Kvasb? believes that the crucial significance of a biennale lies in communication, in fostering a sense of "harmony in diversity." It brings together works from different cultures and perspectives worldwide, providing a platform for them to be seen. He advocates for the establishment of a system in biennales where, over a span of two years, artists who receive top honors are invited to partake in creative activities, exchange ideas, and join residencies worldwide. Such a system would contribute significantly to enhancing the contemporary value of the biennale and more effectively transmit and diffuse artistic energy.

    Artist = Craft + Thought

    Kvasb? was an active participant in the Norwegian contemporary ceramic art movement of the 1970s, consistently exploring the language of ceramic materials and creatively transforming contemporary ceramic art concepts.

    In Jingdezhen, apart from creating large-scale installation art, Kvasb? also experiments with materials and techniques such as white porcelain, blue-and-white porcelain, or lustrous glazes, which are either absent or scarce in the Western context. "Everything I do is based on what I already know, and known successful experiences are in the past. Now, I want to use the experiences of the Song Dynasty to create something for today, to express and present emotions. If I do this, my today becomes history." Clearly, Kvasb? possesses a sober understanding of tradition as an artist and an objective perception. He aims to utilize the best moments from history to shape his contemporary creations.

    For young artists, he believes that experimenting and making mistakes in their works are excellent means of self-discovery. Frustration and setbacks become driving forces, pushing individuals to move forward. Only through continuous experimentation, learning from mistakes, can one approach success.

    Each person's work is their own private literature and cannot be ghost-written by others. The craft and thought mastered by artists are inseparable; their expression, material language, craft techniques, and creative processes are interconnected. There is communication and dialogue between the artist and the materials. The artist infuses their ideas and thoughts into the process of dialogue with the materials, and, in turn, the materials provide the artist with new feedback and knowledge, becoming the foundation for subsequent creations. This process is dynamic, where artists draw inspiration from materials and use that inspiration to guide their expressive abilities—a transformative process.

    Obsessing with craftsmanship is not enough; without this transformation process, one might only produce decorative items, lacking the vitality and interest of art.

    Traditional Pathways

    Tradition not only exists in history but also hides within contemporary creations. Kvasb? has walked the path of tradition, using it as a backdrop for experimenting with new things. "Everything I've never seen before is always traditional. I never thought about breaking away from tradition. For me, tradition is not a stagnant past tense; it is happening, an ever-changing tense, and I keep adding elements to it." He never sees himself as updating tradition; it is growing, continually developing with new feelings, new opportunities, and new experiences. Even Kvasb? himself is a dynamic tradition, with ever-changing pathways—from the past towards the future, a lively and growing process.

    In his seventies, Kvasb? pays no attention to age. He deliberately ignores the changes in age, echoing Nora Ephron's sentiment: "I feel bad about my neck. Only my neck." He has fortunately found a passionate pursuit that fills his entire life. He strives to break his own limits, giving his best in every artwork, climbing higher mountains, expanding his horizons, reaching undiscovered territories, and never tiring of the journey.