Masterfully realized with ceramic, glaze and stain, Ma‘s toy-like puppets appear to be houses. Their bodies have windows distributed along their chests and heads. They are the literal representation of the idea that the body is the house of the spirit. The eyes of some of Ma‘s figures are framed by planks, translating into a real fact the saying that ‘the eyes are the windows of the soul’.
Calvin Ma explains with disarming honesty that for his work he drew inspiration from the social anxiety he has suffered since his childhood. When he felt nervous and embarrassed he would turn to toys for comforting himself. The tactile activity of playing and the active imagination required for it would act as a shelter for his sensitive soul.
Beautifully detailed, Ma‘s fragile ceramics are often shaped as hybrid creatures, half human and half toy. Like toys, they have a playfully humorous side but, like humans often are, they seem troubled by a trace of gloom.
Art always works with me through associative thinking and Calvin Ma‘s Homebodies immediately put on my mind a book that I read some years ago: Set this house in order by Matt Ruff. In the book Andrew Gage’s character is inhabited by many people, as he suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder. They act in his inner self just as if they were living confined in a house. And they peek out in various situations as the story unfolds. I always imagined the manifestations of Gage’s many souls like the faces that peek out of Calvin Ma‘s sculptures.
To see more of Calvin Ma‘s art, visit his website here.
All the images thanks to Calvin Ma.