Tommy Zen presents a series of dazzling works whose contours and lines evoke a distant past, like the ethereal silhouettes of archaeological remains, beholders of early civilisations. Some appear to represent the strong and stout heart of an active volcano, while others convey imperial vigils, solemnly guarding.
Through a process of creation resulting from a long reflective approach, the techniques developed by Zen require several hand-executed steps for every piece. The artist adorns his works with silver, copper or bronze. By virtue of its form, its shades and its texture, each piece is entirely unique.
With remarkable intensity, the works embody the spirit of our time: decidedly postmodern, they emerge through the eyes of an innovative artist inspired by a global culture that transcends space and time.
7500 years separate Tommy Zen from his Neolithic pottery ancestors. It is, however, the same kind of coiling that is repeated and the same pigments that are used: sienna and umber, the dark reds of Hacilar vases, the jet black of Cilician ceramists.
The shapes of Tommy Zen’s work also draw from the origins of humanity, so much so that they look like vestiges brought to light by a passionate archaeologist. Glazed amphorae in which the Phoenician sailors kept oil, red pottery from the people of El Ran, huge storage jars of the Cretan civilization, Nineveh vases with long tapered legs, cinerary urns as found in Tibeto-Burman tombs, wells with ferrules that played a big role in the development of Indus cities... His inspiration may be diverse, but it generates work that bears a strange and fascinating power of evocation every time.
Hieratic and mysterious, Tommy Zen's large vases disturb our subconscious. They remind us of those ancient times when the command of magical forces of nature and the universe pervaded every artistic event. They are objects that transcend their domestic calling to reach cosmogony: source of life as containers for water and provisions, eternal rest in the secrets of burial urns. These are the libation vases that appease malicious spirits, the vases offering food to the souls of the dead, the ritual vases of shamans and soothsayers.
Some redden like the hearts of half-asleep volcanoes; others have their flanks glow like barbaric armour where improbable milky ways are conjured. Still others have the warm patina of antique furniture imagined in darkened sandalwood-scented rooms: the brilliance of acute blues aptly called "Prussian", the yellows that pulsate above the Neapolitan streets on bright sunny days.
These are the objects that bring about escape from every day life.
Cabinetmakers – from father to son, generation after generation – compose Tommy Zen's Venetian family. With woodworker’s blood, he cannot lie: to enamel and traditional glaze, the ceramist prefers the plasters and gilding of luxury furniture. He borrows the oxidants on bronze or silver sheets from Italian Renaissance and, from Ancestral China, the lacquered varnishes that create deep shades in which the eye gets lost. With the fusion of many techniques developed over more than twenty years, pieces like no other are born, pieces whose unfathomable surfaces owe nothing to conventional glazes.
Each piece is entirely hand-sanded and baked at high heat (2200 °F), which increases its resistance to shocks. Sizes range from 36 to 144 inches in height and 29 to 60 inches in diameter. As for shape, anything is possible: from palm tree planter to roman thermal baths; same goes for colour – pigments or oxidants – and surface texture.