The Warriors Of 5-12. 2008

The Warriors of 5-12:

“5 – 12 我要爱 “I want to be loved – I want to love someone”

In September, 2007 I was rushed to hospital for emergency open-heart surgery – a quadruple heart bypass operation. Just over nine months later I arrived in Fuping to create my work alongside the other members of the British contingent that I had been invited to select to go to the New International Ceramics Museums in Fuping, Fu-Le China; it was still being built on the site of a working brick and tile works! This was my first visit to China and one that I had planned for four years. Just over three months before our arrival (on May12/2008) a catastrophic earthquake struck Szechuan in the western provinces of China. No-body died in the complex operation; no-one knows how many people and particularly children perished in the Earthquake.

These events were linked in the first body of work made since my recovery. The marks inscribed on my body, in surgery – my scarred torso – were translated onto the skin of the clay. I deployed extruded tubes of clay, appropriated from the factory roof-tile production-line, as elements for expressive self-representation. The impersonal, extruded clay pipes from the Fuping factory have been penetrated, torn, opened and stitched in an ‘earth-material- memory’ of the cataclysm visited on both individual and nation.

This identity evoked by the vessel-forms applied initially to myself, the single unitary scarred body. When I grouped the elements together they recalled the photographs of the roll-call of the prisoners of the Nazi concentration camps. Fuping is  near the old capital, Xian, where the Qin tomb of the ‘Terracotta warriors’ is located. I created a personal ‘army’ that are not merely personal guardians but also stand for those who have fallen. The heart stands not just for the pump that keeps us alive but also used symbolically in “the heart of the nation” and for love both personal and for unknown strangers.

[The date 5- 1-2 is pronounced wo yao ai which sounds in Chinese also like the words for “I want to be loved.” and also “I want to love someone”; it was used extensively as a message sent on social media].