Windows and Landscapes

2022

Mingshu Li explicitly draws inspiration from the environment around her. After coming to Norway, she started to observe the unfamiliar surroundings and collected elements from everyday life. “I lived in a collective apartment in Torshov, a six-square-metre bedroom was my indoor activity space. A printed Open Window by Henri Matisse was hung on the wall facing the bed. Every time I looked at it, I found solace in the colorful landscape outside Matisse's window.” In 2021, Li made a sculpture and called it "Window" before she moved out of this tiny room.

After that, Li found a bigger place, the printing moved out with her together.At the same time, she received the one-year artist assistant grant from the cultural council and started to work as an assistant to Irene Nordli. Li was inspired by the working practice during the year, which opens her eyes to various creating methods, pushes her to go beyond her comfort zone, and encourages her to find a way to continue the story of "Window". In this exhibition, Li shows several sculptures coming from her new idea: Kai Chuang. Kai Chuang means "open windows". It's a peculiar Chinese ceramic pattern placed on the conspicuous points of the ceramic ware. Simple lines are applied to outline the symmetrical shape of circle, square, rhombus, etc.; Various landscapes are drawn in the frames.

The Open Windowis still placed facing Li's bed, she looks at the painting every day as if there was a window on this wall that she could see through.

TUBES‘ FORM

2021

I was inspired by the audience's feedback that my works look like they come from 3D printers, which stimulates me to think about the relationship between handmade pieces and machine-made pieces. What's going to happen if I utilize the extruder machine to produce clay tubes; what if handmade pieces look perfect and precise, but machine-made pieces look just as rough and inaccurate? I embrace the idea of ​​sculpture in its broadest sense and explore both the formal and performative aspects of engaging with the material. I explore different ways of shaping clay—not only by my hands but also by equipment—clay extruder.

Meanwhile, I recognized the clay extruder is the best tool I ever found that brings together the ideas of holes and airflow in one movement — extruding. When I press the clay into the extruder, the reaction of the clay shows me how strong it is; the air bubbles inside of it always pop and make holes on the tube which can always tell stories of airflow by its shape. After changing the plasticity of clay and the angle of the hollow die kit in the extruder, I can adjust how much the tube is curved, but I could never know what the specific shape of the tube will be like.

BE FLOW IN BETWEEN OBJECTS AND SPACES

2019

When humans began to use wood-fired kilns to produce ceramic, they manipulated the airflow in the kiln. We design the internal structure, adjust the angles and position of works, and try to manage fire to ensure the production of the pieces. Humans can observe the airflow in kilns through the trace of fire on the finished products. Although most people now use electric or gas kilns, the air still flows between all the pieces. A hole in a kiln works in the same way as the umbilical cord inside a mother's body — the air inside of the sculptures interacts with the air in the kiln via a hole, similar to the fetus attached to the mother in order to receive oxygen from here. 

In Chinese, we use “qì” to describe air. This multiple-meaning character also symbolizes breath, material energy, life force and energy flow. I'd like to let my works express those energies. Whenever I open the kiln's door, the hot air comes towards me, material energy and airflow completely present in front of my face. At that moment, the works are breathing together with me; I can listen to their heartbeat. However, when the heat cools down, my enthusiasm disappears. When the works are installed in a specific exhibition space, they do not resonate with me. Therefore, I'm working with holes to represent airflow — not only in a kiln, but also when displayed in a physical exhibition space.Inside and outside spaces are reconnected with each other; empty space in the ceramic sculpture becomes a part of the shape. I can feel the flow of "qi" in the work because we are breathing together; we are sharing the air. For me, space is more active than ever before. 


I have tested it out using inflatable plastic to underline this principle through the display. Both inflatable plastic and ceramic need holes to take air in and out, although they have completely different properties. I displayed a sculpture on an inflatable plinth, which was transformed a bit due to the weight of the work. I tried to present contradictory outcomes by contrasting the air locked in plastic with the air going through ceramic sculptures.  

HOLES

2018

I believe the shape of the ceramic sculpture means not only the clay itself, but also the empty space inside. Holes as connectors create dialogues between the inside and outside; they as the extension of the surface and enter into a dialogue with the material to discover and create something new: space. A hole itself has as much shape-meaning as a solid mass; it utilizes space's bending and stretching to expand the surface area of ​​a sculpture within a limited space. It plays a similar significance as the blank space in painting, or the pauses in piano music in her works.