Georgian artist Lia Bagrationi filled the gallery of her exhibition On Point (November 7th, 2015) with pots as spiritual metaphors, giving the symbolism of these everyday objects clarity. The exhibition was apart of Artisterium 2015, a city-wide event in Tbilisi, Georgia, showcasing international contemporary art. The 58-year-old Georgian artist is associate professor at the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts, Georgia, and co-founder of the Georgian Art and Craft Foundation “The Clay Office.” Bagrationi’s contemporary ceramic art exhibition at Artarea Gallery makes the elusive concept of emptiness palpable in a powerful Taoism-inspired exhibition.
Bagrationi visualizes the ideas of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who uses pottery as a spiritual metaphor throughout his writing.
“The usefulness of a pot comes from its emptiness. Empty yourself of everything, let your mind become still.” – Lao Tzu
On Point attempts to reveal the invisible emptiness that Lao Tzo writes about. In the piece Mad Tea Party, Bagrationi installed an arrangement of unfired functional pottery forms that dissolved throughout the exhibition opening. Their structures are in the midst of a slow decay creating a moment of tension where the emptiness, the void, is suspended between existing and not. It makes the idea of emptiness, something that typically either exists or doesn’t exist, feel more like a process or an action, something that can be grasped and more palpably felt than an abstract concept. Looking at the dissolving work, you can feel the precious moment, when the void is deciding its own existence and contemplating its own value.
“We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.” – Lao Tzu
Another piece in On Point, and an ongoing series by Bagrationi, visualizes the void inside of pots with physical material. The artist presents large pots filled with a white substance. These pots are slowly deconstructed using a hammer in a live performance. Bagrationi chips away at the large unfired vessels revealing a solid mass, again visualizing emptiness and performing a metaphor for a journey to realizing Lao Tzu’s concepts. The revealed solid mass and broken shards are left in the gallery as evidence of the performance.
“Clay is molded to make a vessel
but the utility of the vessel
lies in the space where there is nothing…
Thus, taking advantage of what is,
we recognize the utility of what is not”
– Lao Tzu
Bagrationi removes actual function, tuning the pottery into symbols, read as material properties and metaphorical significance. She reminds us of the profound potential of these common domestic objects when they’re given the opportunity to speak as spiritual symbols.
Justin Crowe is a Writer and Director of Operations at cfile.daily
What do you think of Lia Bagrationi’s contemporary ceramic art installation and performance? Let us know in the comments!