The imperfections of beauty

The quote, "Beauty is found in imperfections" sums up what Bathma "Bak" Kaew-Ngok, a pottery and ceramics expert, and Naomi Daimaru, a Japanese floral expressionist artist, express in their art exhibition "Woods Of Masterpiece".

Bak unveils traditional Japanese ceramics that have been delicately handcrafted, using unprocessed clay to reveal their natural beauty. Daimaru complements the ceramics with flowers and leafy stems through her ikebana, the sophisticated Japanese art of flower arrangement. Guru speaks to both artists about their perspectives on the imperfect beauty of nature.

What  are you trying to convey through your art?

Daimaru: 'Seeing is believing'. The first thing you sense when walking into our exhibition is our determination. The spirit of nature is what we want to deliver to people who live far away from it, which they can experience when looking at or feeling our art.

Bak: My ceramics are the closest thing to nature because they are created from the five elements of nature. They are made out of clay and rock that represent the Earth and I use fire and wind to burn and dry them. So, people, somehow, can feel nature through my ceramics.

'Forest' and 'Life' are the core components of 'Woods Of Masterpiece', so how are these two words related?

Daimaru: You have to think about the forest as a metaphor for life. It is vast and crowded with mysteries waiting to be discovered. We do not know what will happen when we walk into a deep forest. In life, we will never know what awaits us in the future. It is full of surprises, hopes and disappointments. Life is a journey that leads to endless learning. As we get older, it's like we take another step, walking deeper and deeper in the forest. Even though there are hiccups along the way, in the end, we learn something from them. As an artist, I never regret trial and error. Everything I have been through has given me life lessons and I believe that we can choose the path we want and who we want to become. Anything could happen in the forest of our life, so we should focus on what we are doing in the present as best we can.

Can you explain why city dwellers need to get in touch with nature?

Daimaru: Human beings are part of nature, too. Being surrounded by nature is like returning to Mother Nature, recharging yourself with the force of life.

Bak: Unlike art nowadays, in which everything can be done digitally, ceramics is the traditional way of making art. It is done by hand, comes in a 3D tangible form and is packed with natural materials. Therefore, my art will be an intermediary for city people who want to feel the touch of nature.

Could you describe your style of pottery?

Bak: Throwing pottery on a kicking wheel and hand moulding are my go-to style for making ceramics. I have used unprocessed clay to reveal the authentic colours and textures of each soil. I did paint my ceramics too, but I prefer to bring out the maximum potential of the clay, showing the fascination of the beauty of nature.

What motivates you to keep making ceramics?

Bak: Pottery reminds me of my childhood when I spent most of my time playing with mud and soil in a backyard. When I was a kid, I always hid my dirty hands from my mother after playing outside. Believe it or not, when my hands are clean, sometimes it makes me unhappy.

What is the difference between Thai and Japanese pottery?

Bak: Thai art leans on symmetry and balancing, which has been influenced by Chinese art since ancient times. Think of baan song thai [traditional Thai house] and Thai motifs. The symmetry of Thai art makes me very nervous when making art because its tidiness feels like a box that confines my creativity. On the other hand, the imperfection concept of wabi-sabi and zen speak to me. Japanese ceramics have their own uniqueness and there are no rules or standards to judge your expression. When I went to Japan to study the essence of Japanese pottery, I had to let go of my focus on symmetry to embrace freedom of artistic expression. The lesson I learned from studying Japanese pottery is 'Beauty doesn't always have to be perfect'.

What does ikebana mean to you?

Daimaru: It's the communication between me and flowers, and also gives me an answer and the life purpose that I'm searching for. I do not have fixed rules when I do ikebana because it all comes from my inner spirit. I always let my imagination and feelings roam freely. You can notice the artist's frame of mind through their ikebana style. When I'm in a good mood, my ikebana will look spirited through vibrant flowers and leafy stems that are arranged harmoniously. On the other hand, when I have a bad day, you can feel my sadness through my ikebana.

What makes ikebana stand out from other flower arrangement styles?

Daimaru: Ikebana can't be compared to a typical flower arrangement. It is an elaborate art/ritual, like the tea ceremony and calligraphy of Japan, that conveys deeper meaning and greater importance than just decorative flowers. Ikebana is made up of the spirit of an artist, expressing their sentiments through arranging flowers.

How would you like to encourage people to stay in touch with nature and conserve it?

Daimaru: Appreciate every little thing in your life. How about paying more attention to your surroundings, like nature, for example? Giving it love and consideration by realising nature is part of you. 

"Woods Of Masterpiece", an art exhibition by Bathma "Bak" Kaew-Ngok and Naomi Daimaru, is on display on the fourth floor of Central: The Original Store until Oct 31.

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