Impression of NJU

MESSAGE from doctor’s study stay in programme EXPERTS4ASIA, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China, 2/9/2014 – 1/2/2015.

My name is Hana Novotná and I am a doctoral student at the Department of Art, Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. In 1991, I graduated from Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, CZ, Atelier of Ceramics and Porcelain, where I spent a long time as a teacher as well. In 2013, I have commenced my doctoral studies at the Department of Art, Masaryk University in Brno, where I also teach nowadays.

My dissertation is called „Porcelain as a conceptual medium“, tendencies towards new interpretation of porcelain artwork and its application not only as a utility material but also as a part of conceptual artwork, the subtitle being „A reflection of a new approach to the artistic education at tertiary studies“.

After the initial steps of my research at Nanjing University, Nanjing, China, including evaluation of conditions and options available for my work here, I decided to explore every relevant historical source accessible in Nanjing. One of the main reasons for such decision were the porcelain collections of Nanjing Museum, which accumulate porcelain artwork dated from the year 1664, this means from the golden age of Qing dynasty and the reign of emperors Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong. The other source of information for my dissertation was the Shanghai Museum, which keeps more than 500 items from the most famous porcelain furnaces in their collections. These collections of porcelain and ceramic artwork map the 8000 years old history of this artistic discipline, from the Neolitic era to the latter times of the Qing dynasty reign. Thanks to these collections, I could study and document the parallels appearing in the production of Chinese contemporary artists, this being updating of decoration, shapes or coloring. My dissertation would be merely formal without these authentic discoveries.

What I also fully understood here was that for the genuine reliability of my research, it is necessary for me to focus at the Chinese language as well. That allowed me to study the materials required directly, not only mediately, whether this relates to books, museum and art gallery collections or meeting the artists and discussions on their current work. To broaden my skills in Chinese, I used the opportunity given to me by Nanjing University – learning the Chinese language directly in the lectures, by intensive courses led by the local native speakers in the authentic environment for the whole period of my stay. These studies are essential for my dissertation, so as I could lead my research truly in depth. The knowledge of the language allows me to understand the Chinese culture, mentality, to be able to find the authentic materials which are essential for the dissertation; not to be dependent only on the indirect information, but to draw from the original sources instead. Since my dissertation is partly focused on the education at tertiary degree, these intensive studies also allowed me to observe the outstanding level of the Nanjing University educators.

Grade of teaching at Nanjing University is really on very high level. My experience was not only from the Chinese lessons, I was also studying calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting. Thanks to excellent teachers I learned a lot, not only for my research, also for my pedagogical work.

During this semester, I have already been given the opportunity to publish my experiences from the research at Nanjing University in the monograph called Trasy, which was created under the leadership of doc. PaedDr. Hana Babyrádová, Ph.D. at Masaryk University in Brno. The book was published during the May of 2015. By writing the article directly during my stay at Nanjing University I became the member of realization research team for this monograph.

The Trasy monograph is an expert publication dealing with research of analogies of historical aspects and contemporary innovative tendencies in education and art. It documents the experiments and research realized by students, educators, artists and theoreticians at Masaryk University. My contribution named „Na trase za zpětnou vazbou – DAO“(„At the trail of feedback – DAO“) focuses on using traditions and traditional patterns in porcelain artwork. The article aims to point out the one of universally valid significant moments for artwork creation, this being the necessity of realization of the historical context. Therefore, the porcelain artwork appears at the trail of feedback. To become more illustrative, two significantly different cultures are put into contrast, while still having a deep historical background in the particular field. The contemporary Czech artwork contrasts with Chinese artistic production. The selection of Czech part emerges from the contemporary work of the young artists. Chinese part is represented by world-famous and respected artists. References to the tradition are distinctively different in the particular artworks of every single artist. What is common for both parts is the historical parallel, an attempt to experiment, a new approach and application of newly discovered overlaps into this ancient material. The vision of a confrontation of the artistic approach to this phenomenon at two continents, two completely – not only geographically – different countries such as the Czech Republic and China, is the backbone of the whole text and my dissertation.

I also published my article “Celadon a mysterious colour ” in Yarrobil Magazine, Issue one, May 2015.
After arriving back to the Czech Republic, my research at Nanjing University was initially introduced at the lectures at the Department of Arts, Masaryk University in Brno. I also had some public lectures already on the topic come out of study and research at Nanjing University, Nanjing.

I would like to conclude by stating that all the freshly gained information from studies at Nanjing University will most certainly help me in search for the answers to my research questions I deal with in my dissertation and which relate to both historical and contemporary porcelain artwork in China. In our country, the current tendencies in work of contemporary Chinese artists are not very well-known. Therefore, my ambition is to introduce and at the same time confront both Czech and Chinese worlds of art. The personal experience with the approach to teaching at Chinese universities was greatly beneficial for me and my activities as an educator.

I am going to continue introduce the results of my stay at Nanjing University, Nanjing - publishing in specialized press, presented at exhibitions and lectures at schools and conferences both in the Czech Republic and abroad.

Brno, 30th of July, 2015 Hana Novotna, M.A. (Hana Novotná )

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