Mary O’Malley

USA b. 1985

‘Through my travels and research into the history of ceramics and its global economic and social relevance, I have become very interested in Chinese export porcelain, and in particular the specific cultural discrepancies in communication that seemed evident in the porcelain items created during the Ming dynasty by Eastern factories for Western Clients. Often, coats of arms would be applied upside down, or design instructions would be accidentally included in the artwork itself.’

Many contemporary Chinese products and artworks are still steeped in traditional aesthetics and porcelain is a common manufacturing material for items as varied as street lamps to baby rattles. The blue and white, Ming Dynasty Qinghua style porcelain [a foundation of the global market during the 16th, 17th, and 18th century] has become a commonplace decoration for export, with the once precious material and fine painting cheapened through mass production. Mary O’Malley developed Barbecue Setting in response to these cultural and historical aesthetics.

Whilst on a residency in JingDeZhen, China at the JingDeZhen Ceramics Institute, she was struck by the appropriation of American culture. Drawing from these contemporary examples of cultural confusion, Barbecue Setting absurdly and irreverently re-designs the Western trope of an American Barbecue, (a ritual deeply rooted in the soul of American culture) as product for the Eastern market. It stands as a satirical comment on globalization, cultural appropriation and the power of contemporary phenomena such as fake news to distort information and real understanding within contemporary society.