Shiyuan Xu

My work is inspired by the research of scientific and microscopic phenomena ranging from single-celled organisms in the ocean to diverse plant seeds on land, and to cells, the building blocks of all life form. My fascination with shapes, patterns, structures and textures of these microorganisms stimulates my creation. I reinterpret these visual elements into sculptural forms revealing the intricacy and fragility of the hidden world.

In D’Arcy Thompson’s ‘On Growth and Form’, the form of an object is a ‘diagram of forces’. I see the structure of these micro life forms as traces of their growth and response to the internal and external force. It is about movement, time and space. It records the way they move and grow. The way they react to the surrounding environment by interacting, altering, evolving and adapting to generate infinite new forms.

I hand-build structures with porcelain paperclay, and I use unconventional processes to apply glazes on the sculptural pieces. The materials allow me to push the boundaries of fragility and strength, simplicity and complex, order and chaos. Meticulously, the thin skeletal lines are weaved into a harmonious volume.

I see the rich history of porcelain as a part of my identity and use the classic Chinese ceramic color palette as one of the references of my work. Being an outsider in American, my experience offers me a new perspective to reflect my own cultural heritage. The regular and irregular structures and layers of my piece blend in with the memory of my sensations and personal experience. The repetitive and labor-intensive process seems to be a therapy to ease my anxiety and sense of uncertainty while facing constant challenges in the intersections of two cultures. My pieces are in many ways like living organisms. Absorbing and evolving, the reflections of my own life path. The work is an abstraction of the complexity and delicacy of life itself and my own roots.

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