vlad basarab

Duration: january-march 2018

Vlad is our current artist-in-residence at New Harmony Clay Project. During his time in New Harmony, he will be working with high fire sculpture work as well as experimenting with local low-fire clay. He will explore new modes in contemporary ceramics as process-driven endeavors, and engage the transformational qualities of clay that form a communication with metaphorical, metaphysical, political, cultural and experimental undertones.

Basarab will also be making work for the exhibition Together Apart during the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) and hosted by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust between March 13-18, 2018. Together Apart ponders the made and unmade, focusing in particular on the shard, something that was once whole and is now partial.



quick facts

How many years have you been working as a clay artist? I have been working in clay for over 30 years.

What is your main clay body that you currently use?  I do not have a main clay body. In the past years, in Romania I have used terracotta clay that I dug up, while in China I have used stoneware and porcelain bodies that I combined.

What is the primary method you use for building your work? I use a thick paper clay slip that I trowel on top of canvases that I spread over unsealed concrete floors or tables. Once the clay is no longer like a paste, I manipulate it to build sculptures with it.

What is your favorite studio tool? I don’t necessarily have a favorite tool. It used to be the wheel for a lot of my functional work and sculpture. I guess, the trowel and the knife are my favorite.

Do you have any future clay wishes or dreams? I would like to build large scale monumental work, murals, outdoor sculptures fired on site and landart-type ephemeral works. 




The Archaeology of Memory: Books of Fire 

In the historical context of the 20th Century, when cultural heritage and books were destroyed on a larger scale than in any other century, my recent work brings to the attention of the 21st Century public, the human need to safe guard the past through an archaeology of memory. I was born in the 20th Century, have lived in both 20th and 21st  Century, and I have witnessed the rewriting of history at a very fast pace. Censorship, propaganda, misinformation, large scale brainwashing are some of the mass processes that have not only altered information, but entire cultures and belief systems.

The process of forgetting is unavoidable, especially in the current times when people are concerned with the new and the ephemeral. Over flooded with information, people have difficulty in finding the necessary time to make any meaningful use out of it. In our fast-moving society with plenty of distractions, it has become more difficult to remember.  However, memory is the only link to our past, our identity and our heritage.

The work from the Archaeology of Memory series, presented in real time performance and time-lapse videos, individual sculptures and large installations, addresses different forms of memory loss. I have chosen to reference books because they are historic symbols and instruments of knowledge, collective and personal memory. From the beginning of history, there has been a strong connection between written language and clay, as early forms of written language were found on clay tablets.

My intention is to compel the audience to reflect upon the temporal and psychological implications of memory loss (whether collective or individual,) caused by the natural process of forgetting and the inability to preserve knowledge, aging, as well as the activity of altering information and history world-wide.

As a contemporary artist, I want my artwork to be a catalyst for the viewer to start a thought process about the accuracy of information regarding the present and the past. The seemingly empty books presented in the series are meant to make the audience pause and ponder as to why they are unwritten and to therefore inspire the viewer to imagine what they may contain and to maybe encourage them to write their own histories. I think that my audience could potentially see my work through Caius Titus’ quote: ¨Verba Volant Scripta Manent¨ (spoken words fly away, written words remain). I also want the audience to be inspired to symbolically dig through the layers of history in the fashion of an archaeologist, in order to recover altered, hidden or lost history and writings.

The installation Books of Fire represents culture as the foundation of civilization, symbolized by the use of fired terracotta, porcelain and stoneware books as well as un-fired raw clay in the construction of an archaeological site in the likeness of an archetypal library. The title Books of Fire references book burning and the loss of knowledge that occurred throughout history when entire libraries burned to ashes. It is also related to the layer of meaning and information that the firing process added to the aesthetic results.

In my installations and videos, I have used unfired and fired ceramic books. The unfired clay books reference the fragility of knowledge and of the human condition, while the fired books become a symbol of permanence. The notion of historic time and permanence, present in the fired ceramic books, appears in contrast with the fragility of culture and knowledge suggested by the unfired books. The juxtaposition between unfired and fired clay books makes reference to the state of knowledge and the struggle for its survival and perpetuation. In China, I created for the Lilling Valley Ceramics Museum an installation of about one hundred ceramics books placed on mirrors to inspire the viewer to reflect upon one’s history and past.

The books from the Archaeology of Memory Series are symbolically left unwritten to suggest absence and forgetting. The books seem empty, void of any history or stories, with erased or inaccessible knowledge.

Ceramics is the medium that I predominantly use because clay represents the element that, on a metaphorical level, embodies the most dynamic qualities of life and nature through the transformations it undergoes, from volcanic eruptions to the erosion of mountains. The creative process of working with clay, from the making to the firing, is alchemical in its transformational nature. Ceramics is the physical and chemical process in which clay is transformed into a more permanent state of being. Fired clay is thereby allowed to become a vehicle for transmitting knowledge.

In Romania, I dug up my own low-temperature clay for terracotta from the village of Piscu and Scroviștea Forrest. I mixed the clay with paper pulp and nylon fibers and created many book pages that I pressed together to create books. In Jingdezhen, China, I created books out of porcelain and stoneware clays, at times combining the various forms of porcelain and stoneware, adding stains to the clay bodies and then fusing them together while still wet. While most people regarded porcelain as more precious than terracotta, I felt uninhibited when working with this material and took advantage of the opportunity to create dynamic forms and surfaces.

The majority of the books made in Romania were fired in traditional Romanian wood firing kilns from the former pottery villages of Potigrafu and Piscu. The use of wood as fuel left traces of the pattern and movement of flames on to the terracotta books. Upon loading the kiln, I filled the entire space of the kiln with tumble stacked clay books and the remaining space in-between the clay books I filled with horse manure. The minerals contained in the horse manure gave red, purple and pink color results. Fired to 960 degrees Celsius, all organic matter, horse manure and bacteria disappeared through the purifying heat of the fire.

I fired the books that I created in Jingdezhen out of porcelain and stoneware, in gas kilns at 1250, 1280 and 1330 degrees Celsius. I heavily reduced the kiln to create black carbon on the porcelain and allow the slow long flames of the reduction atmosphere to leave patterns on the stoneware body. The heavy reduction lended some nice results on both porcelain and stoneware. 




BORN: Bucharest, Romania, 1977        

Vlad Basarab is an artist working with ceramics, installation, video and performance. He is a member of the IAC International Academy of Ceramics of UNESCO, Geneva, Switzerland, member of the Union of Artists of Romania, and a member of NCECA (The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts), USA, of the Galateea Contemporary Art Gallery Group, Bucharest, Romania. He recently won the Award of Excellence at 2017 Cluj International Ceramics Biennale (7 member international jury, Cluj Museum of Art, Romania).

Basarab is a doctoral candidate at the University of Art in Bucharest with the working thesis Exercises of Recovering Collective Memory through Monumental Art and Multi-media Interventions in the Public Space. He received a Fulbright research grant to Romania with the theme Art as a Form of Remembering and Mourning the Victims of Cultural Censorship (2013-2014); 1st prize for the international competition for the Monument dedicated to the Romanian Language in Chișinău, Republic of Moldova (2014); Masters of Fine Arts Degree in Electronic Media from West Virginia University (2013); Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree in Ceramics, University of Alaska Anchorage (2001); President of non-profit organization Basarab Art & Science and Director of non-profit organization COMBINART 1+1= 10, Romania, In 2016, Basarab curated Coast to Coast, An exhibition of North-American Ceramics Artists at Brancoveanu Palace, Mogoșoaia, Romania. In 2017, he was a guest of honour of the European Comission Representation to Romania, European Union Pavilion at the Gaudeamus Book Fair, Bucharest, Romania.


Basarab has had 21 solo shows, from which the most important are: in 2017: Gaudeamus Book Fair, Bucharest; Libris Book Fair, Brașov, Romania; 2016: Galateea Contemporary Art, National Library of Romania, Bucharest, National Art Museum of Moldova, Chisinau, The Museum of Art, Arad, Romania; 2015 – 2016, Brukenthal National Contemporary Art Museum, Sibiu, Romania;  2015: Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Romanian Cultural Institute, New York; 2013: Paul Mesaros Gallery, Creative Arts Center, West Virginia University, Morgantown; in 2008: Simeza Gallery, Bucharest; in 2007: Mountain View Arts Center, Anchorage; 2001: Kimura Gallery, University of Alaska, Anchorage, Galeria GALLA, Bucharest, Romania.    


2017: Exhibition of international artists from the collection of Jingdezhen Ceramics University, International Studio at Ji Zhou Kiln, Ji An, Jiangxi, China; SUPORT, Galeria Turnătoria, Bucharest, Romania; The IV-th International Cultural Exchange Romania-Korea, Boryeong Si Museum, South Korea; Jingpiao – Jingdezhen A City in Dialogue with the World, Jingdezhen China Ceramics Museum; Cluj International Ceramics Biennale (Excellence Prize), Cluj Art Museum, Romania; Macsabal International Woodfired Ceramics Symposium Exhibition, Zibo Ceramics Fair, Shandong, China; Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale 2017 (Honorory mention), Icheon World Ceramic Center, Gyeonggi-do, Republic of Korea; The 4th "Hong Guang Zi Qi" International Ceramic Art Festival, Kai Hong Tang Art Museum, Yixing, China; Incandescent Metaphors, Arcade 24, Bistrița Năsăud and Art Nuveau, Târgu Mureș, Romania; 2016: The Mode-International Ceramics Art invitational Exhibition in LiLing Ceramics Valley Museum, China; 2015: NCECA International Biennial, Providence, Rhode Island; European International Book Art in Bucharest, Romania; Facets of Hyperconnectivity, The Brancoveanu Palace, Mogosoaia, Romania; Rhythm Repetition Ritual (Best of Show), Pottery Northwest, Seattle, Washington; Invisible Cities: Art as a Political Sublety in Central/ Eastern Europe, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Re-animation II, The Brancoveanu Palace, Mogosoaia; 2014: Re-animation I, Bucharest International Print Biennial; British Flute Society Convention; NEURON, Galeria IX, Bucharest, Romania; Exchange / 2014 Berlin Fulbright Grantee Juried Exhibition, Staycation Museum, Germany; Romanian Atheneum, Bucharest; 2013: The International Ceramics Biennale, Cluj, Romania; Earth Moves: Shifts in Ceramic Art and Design, Arvada, Colorado; Fifth International Artists' Book Exhibition at the King St. Stephen Museum, Székesfehérvár, Hungary; 2012: Project Spaces, National Council of Education on the Ceramics Art, Seattle, Washington; Decorative Arts Biennial, Bucharest; Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition at Kentuck Knob, Pennsylvania.


In 2018, as part of NCECA concurrent exhibitions, Basarab will organize Together/Apart at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and will curate ClayVoiceRomania at City of Asylum in Pittsburgh, USA. In 2016, he curated Coast to Coast, An invitational exhibition of North-American Ceramicists, at The Bracoveanu Palace Cultural Center, Mogosoaia/Bucharest, Romania, as well as took part in the curatorial team of Arts in Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania.


Basarab had many public lectures: 2017: Guest of Honour of the European Comission at the Gaudeamus Book Fair, Romania; The Pottery Workshop, Jingdezhen, China; International School of Jingdezhen Ceramics University, Jingdezhen, China; Jingpiao – Jingdezhen, A City in Dialogue with the World, Jingdezhen Ceramics University;  International Ceramics Association, Yixing, China; in 2016: Nanjing University Ceramics Department, Nanjing, China; Museum of Art Arad, Romania; in 2015: Habitus, Sibiu, Romania; Romanian Cultural Institute New York; Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; in 2014: Cross Cultural Encounters, Traumatic Affect and Paths of Remembrance, National University of Bucharest, American Studies in Romania; American Corners, National Library of Romania, Bucharest; The University of Fine Arts, Iasi, Romania; in 2013: Rethinking Intermediality in the Digital Age/ Conference of the International Society for Intermedial Studies at Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania, Cluj, Romania; Cluj International Ceramics Bienniale, Museum of Art, Cluj Napoca, Romania; University of Alaska Anchorage, Fine Arts Building; University of Missouri Kansas City; in 2007: University of Alaska Anchorage, Fine Arts Building.


Artron Art Group, China; Museum of Art, Cluj-Napoca, Romania; Toyaseum, Korea Ceramics Foundation, Icheon World Ceramic Center, Gyeonggi-do, Korea; Yixing Museum, Yixing, China; Taishuan Ceramics Factory Co Ltd, Zibo, Shandong, China; Kayfull Hotel, Yixing, China; Liling Ceramics Valley Museum, Hunan, China; Jingdezhen Asia Europe America Ceramics and Glass Center, Jingdezhen, China; Libris, Brașov, Romania; Senso TV, Bucharest, Romania; Arad Art Museum, Romania; West Virginia University, Health Science Center, Morgantown, West Virginia; Academy of Sciences, Chisinau, Republic of Moldova; Municipality of Belvi, Sardegna, Italy; Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, Arvada, Colorado, USA; King St. Stephen Museum, Székesfehérvár, Hungary; Creative Arts Center, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration, Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, USA; Saint Andrew the Apostle Romanian Orthodox Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; St. Mary's Romanian Orthodox Cathedral, Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Dormition of the Mother of God Orthodox Monastery, Rives Junction, Michigan, USA; The Ascension of the Lord Romanian Orthodox Monastery, Clinton, Michigan, USA.