In an obscure corner of the second floor of the Media and Public Affairs building lies the small and unusual art show “Ocean of Ink, River of Fire.” On display is modern Asian art, consisting of 11 scrolls and three mounted pieces of calligraphy and painting, and 19 oddly-shaped ceramics. “Oceans of Ink” refers to the flowing black ink used in calligraphy, while the “River of Fire” refers to the fire used to heat the ceramics.
As with most modern art, the final piece of work is much more interesting once the process is explained. This is true of a lot of the pieces. At first glance, Stephen Adiss’ works of calligraphy and painting look like Jackson Pollock-style modern art set to the tradition of Japanese calligraphy. Some pieces seem at first like random ink splatterings, but in most cases they create a character for a Japanese word.
The traditional Asian minimalist style of saying much with very little is readily apparent in Adiss’ works. Some consist of only a few dark lines of ink sharply contrasting a white or mostly white piece of paper. The most interesting piece consists of a human figure outlined with two delicately connected strokes. Forming the background of many of the pieces are subtle patterns of the specially created paper, many with Japanese images woven within. The brush strokes are intended to imitate or accent the patterns of the paper.
The curious pottery was created by a group of five ceramists who work from central Virginia: Randy Edmonson, Scott Meredith, Cricket Edmonson, John Jessiman and Stephen Addiss. The group calls itself “River of Fire.” Most interesting about their pottery is the fact that they use an anagama – a 20-foot long wood-burning kiln – in which they fire their pottery for four days and four nights. The various woods used, the outside temperature and humidity as well as the different ways of stoking the wood all affect the ceramics to make a truly unique piece. The remarkable pieces on display were not quite utilitarian but were incredibly ornate with varied designs and inconsistent colors.
“Oceans of Ink, River of Fire” is on display on the second floor of the MPA building until Nov. 30. The gallery is open from Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5p.m.. Special appointments or tours are available by calling (202) 994-1525.
On Thursday, Jonathan Chaves of the East Asian Languages and Literatures Department will give a lecture titled “The East Asian Painter as Poet” at 4:10 p.m. in room 310. The exhibition is free and open to the public and is a great introduction both to the new gallery floor and modern Asian art.