SAMSARA STORIES. Skuja Braden. The Corona Vase
The opening of the exhibition Samsara by the artist duo Skuja Braden at the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design coincided with the first day of the emergency state declared by the Latvian government due to Covid-19. It resulted in the exhibition being closed to the public from 13 March to 18 May 2020. Yet for both artists the time in quarantine was intensely creative as can be witnessed by the new porcelain art works which now complement the exhibition's exposition.

The first one created under these emergency circumstances was The Corona Vase, the shape and construction of which are a direct allusion to the so-called Snowball Blossoms vases created in the Meissen porcelain manufactory in the mid-17th century. The surface of the classically baroque white porcelain vase is densely covered with countless hand-crafted white delicate openwork flower heads. Once made exclusively for the needs of European royals and aristocrats, these vases are popular and still so much in demand that limited series are made in Meissen today. The artists were surprised by the similarity of these vases to the visual form of the new coronavirus. This was an opportunity to play out several historical parallels, with which the artists’ works are always so saturated. Another direct parallel with the classic tradition of Meissen's Snowball Blossoms vases is the fact that Skuja Braden always create their vases by hand as sculptural objects, right from the basic form to the smallest details.


 The Corona Vase can be considered a successful blend of several previous artists' ideas. Skuja Braden are known to take an active and immediate social stance and reaction to current political developments in the world. Among other works they had previously created are sculptural models of AIDS and the Herpes virus in porcelain. Thus, it was but natural and logical to arrive at an idea of ​​a vase that would depict the visual model of the virus as well as communicate their negative attitude towards those political leaders of today whom they would "never want to meet".

The Corona Vase only partially recalls the historical situation when such vases were made exclusively for the needs of the high-born. The current topicality lies somewhere else – it is a commentary on the irresponsible actions of many modern politicians. As far as the artists are concerned, due to the whims of many political leaders, who are in essence dictators, people have to suffer even during the pandemic caused by the coronavirus.

On the bulbous, somewhat heavy body of the vase the artists have created several white oval elevations reminiscent of swollen boils, on which they have depicted caricatured heads of Victor Orban, Recep Erdogan, Idriss Deby, Kim Yong Un, Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, Omar al-Bashir, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump. The heads of the political figures are complemented by porcelain skulls and bone fragments alternately covered in red or gilding, further highlighting the "head" - i.e. the detachment of the ruling politicians from the needs of ordinary people and the reality of life in general. The artists’ position is unmistakable – the dictators are viruses or boils on the healthy flesh of the people. However, alongside the "boils" there are Buddha's heads placed on the vase over the entire surface, symbolizing his presence in all spheres of life and promising relief from hardship and suffering through spiritual revelation and enlightenment.

The name of the vase is also wordplay through the connotations of the words ‘corona’ and ‘crown’ -  a delicious Mexican beer, a wreath laid on graves in Latvian, while in English it can denote the tip of the penis.

The painting of the vase is dominated by various shades of red - ranging from dark blood red to dull, almost transparent pink, burnished and matte gilding, as well as lustres, which impart a wide range of pearl shades to the porcelain creating, in places, a very naturalistic impression and associations with different shades of the human body and flesh.

Creatively applied by Skuja Braden, the tradition of Meissen porcelain classic Snowball Blossoms vases has acquired a fresh manifestation in response to the current events and in documenting the political situation at the beginning of the 21st century.


Written by Irēna Bužinska

Translated by Kristīne Veinberga

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