Art: In Residence – Calvin Tay

The Luzerne’s first artist-in-residence talks about capturing the beauty in the worn and mundane.

Here’s a secret. In each lift lobby from level 5 to 8 of The Luzerne is a photograph containing 32 artworks that have been pieced together. Guests come and go, and encounters with this photograph are usually brief. But linger on and look closely, and you may just spot a familiar fragment that looks exactly like the artwork hanging in your guest room.

These photographs, one on every floor, are produced by Singapore-based artist Calvin Tay and commissioned by The Luzerne. Using repurposed broken ceramic pieces from Luzerne’s factory, he created 128 pieces of artwork that, when pieced together, revealed something bigger. The artworks visualized the network of cracks and crevices that the artist had traced from the walls and floors of factory grounds and around Dehua. The patterns were routed onto wood panels, then painted and filled in with broken ceramic pieces.

“The patterns are seen as old and weathered, but the rejected ceramic fragments ‘repair’ these fractures,” explains Calvin. It was a way of exploring and capturing the beauty of the worn and broken.

Consideration was also made to translate the language and processes of ceramic manufacturing into the art-making. Firstly, by using materials found in and around the factory, and secondly, by working closely with local craftsmen to frame and assemble the final artworks. We spoke to the artist as he shares more about his creative process and his fascination with materials.

Why does materiality hold so much intrigue for you?

I think it stems from my years in university as an industrial design student. Materials have the ability to tell stories. They show you the big picture while capturing the subtleties at the same time.

And what do you find beautiful or interesting about ceramics as a material?

The malleability and possibility of it before it is fired into permanence.

The significance of involving the workers in the process?

The artworks had always been a collaboration with them since they were the ones who created the ceramic pieces I had repurposed. So, involving them in the finishing process was a poetic way of closing the loop.

Did you have a chance to know Dehua better in the process?

Yes. Wherever I go, I make it a point to familiarize myself with the place. A good way to do that is through the local people. I like to think that people gravitate towards people. This is why I fall in love with a place and return again. To a huge extent, it also helped that I spoke Mandarin and a little Hokkien.

What do you hope your guests would take away from your work?

Whoever sees these works, I would like them to find beauty in the old, mundane and the worn in their lives. It is easy to discredit and quickly replace something old and broken. If we dwell a little longer and look deeper, we can hopefully realize its overlooked value.

To see The Luzerne’s dedicated ceramics workshop, or have a hand at painting ceramics wares, visit our studios located within The Space.

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