The Idea of Stories in Objects and Space in Art

I’ve just finished reading “The Hare with the Amber Eyes” by Edmund De Waal. A potter by trade, he inherited 264 netsuke. They had been in his family for 150 years and he set out in the book to trace the life of the netsuke and the stories of the Ephrussi family.

One theme from the book is the idea of objects having a life and absorbing stories, loved and handled by unknown people before, journeys as they are bought, sold and travel the world; the fact that many are bought for a reason, a love token, or to make a wedding, a birthday a gift with meaning. This is very true of the netsuke; small objects created out of ivory,jade and wood by japanese craftsmen in the 1800’s.

It was a happy coincidence that having just finished the book, there was a BBC ‘Imagine’ programme on Edmund, the story of the netsuke and a his new project ‘Atemwende’.

The new project links his love of poetry and music to pottery. He explored the music of poetry and importance of the breath, the space, the hesitation, the spaces. Akin to negative space in art, these still moments are so important. and once you are aware of them, very beautiful, meditative.

I’ve been thinking about new ways to make pauses, spaces and silences, where breath is held inside and between each vessel, between the objects and the vitrines, the vitrines and the room. In working with the vessel, working with porcelain, and with colors that express the great history of Oriental ceramics, but also the colors of modernism and minimalism; this seems to be enough material to be getting on with.
—Edmund de Waal

edmund de waal atemwende

I love the installation and you could stand and look at the 3000 little pots each made by Edmund for hours, the eye moving from group to group. He sees them as an expression of poetry and some of the pieces also as music, but for me it’s about the objects, and particularly about the spaces and the way the objects displace space around them.

There’s a lot more I could have written here. The ‘Imagine’ programme might not be available any more, but there is lots of information online from the Gagosian Gallery in New York and Edmund’s own website here.

All this reminds me of Allyson Hallett’s poems, ‘The Stone Library’, but I will save that post for another day.

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