Check out the transformation after three weeks into the exhibition. Did my potato-potato rust too?
Being a part of her family’s metal fabrication business was what got Ining started on incorporating metalworking into her art. Her piece consists of welded mild steel slabs constructed to form round, organic shapes depicting Russel Potatoes. Their charred surfaces of weldment are grinded and sanded away, revealing various flaws hidden beneath the hardened deposits. The material begins to rust the moment the piece is made, which reflects the perishable quality of mild steel.
What appears as defects are the results of the artist and her team’s experimentation with stick welding in an unusual way, in a way where the steel slabs are stacked together and then coated entirely with layers of slag and weld deposit. Such defects would be absent had the process been done to typical industrial standards, since they would compromise structural integrity. Yet, we might view them as intentional “inclusions” — after all, they do resemble the eyes we find on potatoes. These are inspirational to her as a budding metal welder.
Such flaws both challenge and liberate the relevance of craftsmanship with regard to sculpture-making.
Working on this project has allowed the artist to introduce something new and odd to the routines of the factory workers involved. Potato-shaped objects are rather out of the ordinary as far as their daily work is concerned. Interestingly though, we may observe the disappearance of such defects the more experienced the workers become.
These polished steel potatoes are presented (alongside brown washed potatoes) through an installation, whereby the artist becomes a vendor manning a potato stall. It allows the audience to participate in a make-believe interaction of buying potatoes. They have the opportunity to experience the weight and tactile quality of the pieces, and become part of an interaction where we might observe the interdependency of sculpture making and daily activity. Unlike working with metal, she has had more experience cutting, mashing, cooking and eating potatoes in her life.
The project draws on the term “Naked Potato” — a peeled potato without butter, without seasoning. As an artist, Ining is interested in the raw, sculptural beauty of her chosen material — mild steel. She plays with their natural state: unprocessed, unpurified, unfinished and imperfect. Taken perhaps, with a pinch of salt.