Kay Aplin of the Ceramic House tells us about Interbeing

Kay Aplin in front of her Ceramic Wallpaper Peonies installation.
Photo: Sophie Sheinwald

Hi Kay, This is the Ceramic House’s 10th anniversary of taking part in AOH – and your new exhibition Emptiness is Form sounds really exciting. Can you tell us a bit about the origins of the theme and what the concept of Interbeing means?

Interbeing is our most ambitious project to date, a China-UK ceramics and sound collaborative project taking place throughout 2021, starting at AOH. It explores cultural exchange between two different making cultures, the UK and China, through two different disciplines, ceramics and sound art. The concept of ‘Interbeing’ comes from the Heart Sutra, a Buddhist text, showing how everything in the material world is intimately connected. The idea of ‘inter-being’ has helped us to develop an understanding of how divergent artists’ practices are already connected through a complex web of interdependency. We are not searching for common ground through a process of cultural exchange, but assuming its pre-existence and through this project, we want to fully explore this interconnectedness, and to deepen our knowledge of a culture vastly different from our own.

Eugene Chung’s work on tiled table. Photo: Bernard G Mills

Interbeing consists of 6 distinct elements and all of the titles relate to the concept of Interbeing. The show at The Ceramic House, Emptiness is Form, is followed by No Interdependent Origins at the Powell-Cotton Museum; Listening Hands, a film with the Chinese Community Centre London; Neither Increasing Nor Decreasing, a virtual exhibition at Chiddingstone Castle; Perfection of Understanding, a remote residency with Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute and Silk Roads and Floral Routes, an artist’s book.

Kay Aplin & Joseph Young hosting virtual opening on Zoom. Photo: Sophie Sheinwald

How were the artists selected for the exhibition?
In March-April 2019, Joseph Young, my co-curator at The Ceramic House and I travelled to Hong Kong and southern mainland China to research the project. We were looking for artists but also for producing partners to help us facilitate the wider cultural exchange. We visited Karin Weber Gallery in Hong Kong, Park 19 Arts Centre in Guangzhou, Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute and Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, among others. This is where we met the established artists featured in the show. We also wanted to exhibit work of artists of Chinese heritage living outside of China, we found many of these through personal contacts and also internet searches.

In Camera Gallery display. Photo: Bernard G Mills

Can you tell us about the sound artists and how their work will relate to that of the ceramicists?
Whilst we were in Hong Kong we met with Soundpocket who were very useful in suggesting artists working in sound. The artists are all involved in the remote residency Perfection of Understanding which will take place in October, followed by the launch of a film about the residency, in lieu of a physical exhibition. We wanted to introduce them to our audience as we would normally be hosting live events with sound artists throughout our exhibition here. We commissioned them to make a short performance film in their studios preceded by a live chat on instagram.

In Camera Gallery. Photo: Bernard G Mills

How can we access these performances?
The performances can be found on The Ceramic House Vimeo channel https://vimeo.com/theceramichouse and the live chats are archived on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/the_ceramic_house/

In Camera Gallery view. Photo: Bernard G Mills

Do you have further plans for this project and where can we see it?
All the details about the project can be found on a special Interbeing section of The Ceramic House website, www.theceramichouse.co.uk/interbeing which we recently had redesigned, and are very happy with. The various elements will be updated as the project progresses and you can also follow us on social media – Instagram @the_ceramic_house and on Facebook www.facebook.com/theceramichousebrighton

Jenny Chan’s work in front of Myung Nam An’s wall pieces in living room.
Photo: Bernard G Mills

Your entire house is an amazing gallery! What is it like living surrounded by such beautiful objects?
My motto is to be “surrounded by beauty at all times” so I’ve attempted to create a space that fits that description! It’s also constantly evolving as I am always creating new permanent tiled features for the house, in addition to adding to the permanent collection every time we host an exhibition.

Joseph Young performing at the opening. Photo: Sophie Sheinwald

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
Keeping this project going during a pandemic has certainly been challenging and a number of people have remarked about our resilience in adapting to the uncertain circumstances. We lost one of our main producing partners in the UK due to Covid, and because of travel restrictions, the international residency programmes have had to move online. The project has had to be completely redesigned from the bottom up, but nevertheless we are proud of what we have managed to achieve under extremely challenging conditions.

Llanbradach Facade with yellow roses. Photo: Bernard G Mills

Mosaic steps with Lau Yat Wai’s work. Photo: Bernard G Mills

View of loft display. Photo: Bernard G Mills

Visitor viewing the kitchen display. Photo: Syl Ojalla

Kay Aplin demonstrating sonic sculptures to visitors. Photo Syl Ojalla

The website will be continually updated as the various elements of the project progress throughout the year so keep an eye on what’s going on! The next part of the project, No Interdependent Origins, is already underway; the ceramicists are working in their studios in Hong Kong and collaborating remotely with the sound artists in the UK. The exhibition at the Powell-Cotton Museum promises to be very special so watch this space…

The Ceramic House is at:
75 Stanmer Villas, Brighton, BN1 7HN
On the Fiveways trail

See The Ceramic House online listing.