A French Artist’s Modern Take on Chinese Porcelain Traditions

Inspired by Carl Jung’s interpretations of dreams, artist and filmmaker Charlotte Cornaton has created a series of porcelain book sculptures that depict her oniric life. The delicate, wrinkled pages of her sculptures reveal dreams in a variety of ways—through calligraphy, drawings, and abstract ink splotches—paralleling the hallucinatory and ambiguous nature of reverie. The 21 hand-painted porcelain sculptures are currently on view in “Insomnio” at Paris’s Galerie BSL, illuminated in a dark gallery space, further emphasizing the slumberous experience. She reinvents traditional porcelain craft in a variety of pieces in order to reflect the fantastical nature of dreams. The cobalt calligraphy in many of her works is disrupted by twists of the porcelain paper, mirroring the ways dreams distort otherwise linear stories, while other pieces, such as Sang (2014) (French for blood), literally saturate the pages with cow’s blood in enamel. 

Cornaton travelled to Jingdezhen, China, in 2014 for a residency at a historic ceramic workshop, where she created the series, called “Insomnio,” using traditional techniques, such as engraving the porcelain with a celadon glaze and drawing with a cloisonné technique. Though focused in ceramics, Cornaton has incorporated her sculptures into costumes and stop-animation films, merging the ancestral process with contemporary themes such as vanity, gender, and Eastern spiritual traditions, assimilating these ancient techniques with modern technology. 

The intricate and ephemeral works reflect on common dream motifs, such as drowning (Noyade), snakes (Serpent), and natural disasters (Storm, Chaos), but offer the artist’s uniquely modern perspective (all works, 2014). “Insomnio” interrogates contemporary vanitas traditions, religious artworks that were originally created to remind viewers of the fleeting nature of worldly possessions but have since become more ornamental. But instead of focusing on materiality, Cornaton looks at the transience of dreams. The works in themselves are decorative monuments to dreams in a sense, revealing the futility and beauty in society’s attempt to record and analyze the subconscious.  

Sola Agustsson

Insomnio: Enlightening Porcelain Books” is on view at Galerie BSL, Paris, Nov. 6, 2014–Jan. 17, 2015.

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