Guns place a comforting distance between the person pulling the trigger and the violence that ensues. You can shoot an animal but you don’t have to feel the spray of its blood; you can kill a living creature without having to see its dying face up close. It’s not hard to imagine that if we had to do all of our killing up close, we’d do a lot less of it. In his new sculpture series, Karma III— Battlefield, Johnson Tsang unites guns with the carnage they cause.
While researching the Iraq War for an earlier project, Tsang stumbled upon an image that he just couldn’t shake. "One picture spoke very loud to me; it was a father with tears in his eyes, holding a young girl (his daughter I suppose) with his both hands, but one of her legs was badly wounded—it was like the bloody flesh in Karma III—Battlefield. As a father myself, it broke my heart and I shed tears as well,” he tells The Creators Project. "The picture of the bloody scene and the weapon which caused this result kept knocking [on the door of my mind]."
It’s not easy to render wet, fleshiness of innards in hard clay. Tsang spent three months hand-crafting each sculpture. "The most challenging part is coloring,” he writes. "It is hard to use ceramic colour to imitate the colour of weapons and flesh, because it involves different kind of colours from different temperature ranges. I needed to use coloured slips, underglazes, high temperature glazes, low temperature glazes, overgrazes, and metallic lustre.” And he didn't just render realistic gore and leave it at that—within the bloody messes of innards are tiny faces, screaming in pain. The work is jarring, and not at all easy to look at, but that’s the point. We shouldn’t be able to look at a gun without remembering what they’re capable of.
To learn more about Johnson’s Tsang’s work, click here.