Malaysian sculptor’s new series connects art, healing and music

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Contemporary artist James Seet’s latest ceramic project is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the soul. An exercise in healing through the arts, these ceramic pieces double as wind and percussion instruments that will be used in musical performances throughout the exhibition at APW Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur from February 26 to February 13. March.

With over 20 years of experience working in sculpture and ceramics, Seet has had a number of projects under his belt including Tanahaira floating ceramic installation on a lake in Johor and a public art installation for an awareness campaign against domestic violence for Women’s Aid Organization in Kuala Lumpur a few years ago.

In 2020 he had a personal exhibition, Wobbly Sabiat Richard Koh Fine Art in Kuala Lumpur.

His first solo exhibition, a collaboration between Richard Koh Fine Art and The Back Room, took place at the Zhongshan Building in Kuala Lumpur, in 2019.

In a major post-pandemic release, Seet’s next show resonancecomposed of an exhibition, ceramics workshops and musical performances, is the first in which music assumes such an important role.

The inspiration for this multidisciplinary project comes from a desire to create art for the community, with the musical aspect serving as a form of healing therapy.

Seet’s ‘The Whisperer II’ is one of the ceramic wind instruments in his ‘re:sonance’ project. Photo: Wizard Photography

“The idea of ​​one art form to promote another art form is intriguing. Most importantly, it promotes community engagement and goes beyond the function of art to serve a purpose. Music often resonates within us and affects us emotionally and mentally. It calms us down and can generate positivity and hope, to bring comfort to people in this chaotic and uncertain time.

“Through this event, I hope the public will be recharged and inspired to reconnect with themselves and with society as a whole. It is a reminder that we are not alone. By resonating with each other, we heal our community,” Seet, 52, said in a recent interview.

The designs in this body of work are based on forms from nature, from seeds to mushrooms and vines.

There are percussion instruments, where sound is produced when struck; and wind instruments based on existing instruments like the flute, ocarina, didgeridoo, and horn.

There is also a piece where Seet explores the hydraulics in which sound is produced when water is forced out through holes in the instrument.

Seet’s “The Didg” is fashioned from vines and roots, following the undulation of the natural world. Photo: Photography Assistant

HaBa, the musical duo of Thong Yoong How and Kent Lee, will make music with these ceramic pieces in a series of on-site performances.

Other performers – dancers, guitarists, flautists and singers (Aiwei Foo, Blue Monk, Buddha Beat, FrhythmS Percussion, Teebai, Winnie Xuan, Syamil Norzalahuddin and YS Tang) – will also “step in” and engage in the ceramic works with improvised music and movements.

“It’s about conveying the idea of ​​resonance to the audience, where artists from different disciplines can interact with the music. Nothing here is repeated, which keeps it organic. Sometimes we get trapped within our limits of tradition and familiarity. This is about opening up possibilities,” adds Seet.

This artistic event is supported by the Malaysian Creative Industry Stimulus Package (Prisma), MyCreative Ventures and the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana).

stay grounded

Seet’s love affair with creating things with her hands began with modeling clay during her school days, followed by paper clay and polymer clay, before her ceramics today. today.

“I work with clay because it forces me to work with my hands. It is a way for me to reconnect with the earth and ground myself with its healing and regenerative vibrations. I can touch it, see it, smell it and almost taste it. I love the process with ceramics, there is always something new to learn – either a technique or an ingredient to create interesting results. I am fascinated by the geology, chemistry and sciences involved in the process,” he says.

Fueled by a sense of wonder for nature, Seet draws inspiration from her observations and incorporates different shapes and textures into her ceramic works.  Photo: Douglas HoFueled by a sense of wonder for nature, Seet draws inspiration from her observations and incorporates different shapes and textures into her ceramic works. Photo: Douglas Ho

His ceramic works in resonance have different markings and colors on their surfaces.

Just like seeing patterns in clouds, one can easily spot patterns resembling plants, flowers, and the nebula on these coins.

They’re all aesthetically pleasing, but a big part of the fun for Seet is that few results are predictable.

The various marks on the surface of the clay are achieved with glazes mixed with wood ash and by carbon sequestration, where organic materials such as dried banana peel, corn husk, flowers, l oats, paper and minerals such as salt, copper carbonate and copper wire are wrapped. around the piece of clay and wrapped in foil before baking.

This produces soot which is trapped on the surface of the clay, forming an imprint.

The Rattle Drum I from Seet, inspired by the shape of seeds and mushrooms, has pearls embedded in its outer circumference.  Photo: Photography AssistantThe Rattle Drum I from Seet, inspired by the shape of seeds and mushrooms, has pearls embedded in its outer circumference. Photo: Photography Assistant

“The colors are subtle and only show in relation to other parts of the work. It’s unpredictable and I have no control over it, that’s the beauty of it. And I love the ‘unboxing’ part, because I’m always pleasantly surprised every time. I also like the fact that I will never be able to create the exact same piece because each piece is unique,” ​​he says.

Seet finds it very therapeutic on the wheel and he notes that pottery has a way of teaching patience, acceptance and perseverance.

His advice to those new to this is to stick with it for a while.

“If you can’t master the first time, don’t give up, if you don’t get the results pictured in your mind, don’t give up and if it doesn’t go your way, try, try again. A once you pass this stage, you will start to like it. I am currently exploring other materials like wood and glass, but I will never stop using clay,” he says.

The wind instrument 'The Swirls' is inspired by the swirls of the vine and the contorting movements of the earthworm.  Photo: Photography AssistantThe wind instrument ‘The Swirls’ is inspired by the swirls of the vine and the contorting movements of the earthworm. Photo: Photography Assistant

Seet will lead the free ceramic workshops open to the public of all ages. Each participant will receive a small piece of clay to create their own work of art.

This will be printed and used as part of a wall art installation at a later date.

resonance is inspired by the beauty that exists in nature, which is often invisible to us in our rush to move on with our now ‘new normal’ lives of anxiety, chaos and the unknown.

“The workshop invites the public to literally come into contact with a piece of earth. Take a deep breath, reconnect with the vibrations of the earth and let it speak to you. When the installation is set up, they can then find their work among other things as a form of resonance“, he concludes.

Resonance is lit at APW Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur, from February 26 to March 13. To make an appointment for the ceramics workshop or to consult the program of musical performances, go to James Seet’s instagram Where Facebook.

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