Installation view of Zhu Ohmu’s work <em>Organ pipe mud dauber, #10</em> 2022 (centre front) on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023.   Image: Tom Ross

Zhu Ohmu

Zhu Ohmu
(b. 1989, Taipei, Taiwan. Lives and works in Melbourne)

Zhu Ohmu is an artist working primarily with ceramics. Her work investigates the resurgence of the handmade and the ethics of slow practices amid a contemporary culture of mass production. At the same time, her work explores the conversation between nature, traditional crafts and emerging technologies.

Organ pipe mud dauber, #10, 2022, borrows its name from the eponymous wasp, a predatory insect that uses coils to build its nests. This is akin to how the artist builds her ceramic pieces, and how ceramic 3D printers layer coil upon coil. Built through stacking, folding and pressing, the vessel is dictated by the weight of moist clay, with the form emerging organically and intuitively, pushed to its utmost structural limits; the artist effectively handcrafts what is typically reserved for 3D printing technology. To create this vessel, Ohmu first spent time observing and playing with the material’s plasticity and workability, allowing her to manipulate the clay into a form that modern-day 3D printers cannot, because, as Ohmu herself puts it, ‘humans are capable of the patience, care and inquisitiveness needed for an intimate relationship with clay’. Characterised by an explicit curiosity about how humans can remain relevant in the age of automation, Organ pipe mud dauber, #10 continues Ohmu’s inquiry into the entangled relations between machine, human and non-human ecologies.

Ohmu completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, New Zealand, in 2011. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert, Sydney (2022), and Shepparton Art Museum (2019); and group exhibitions at Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Auckland (2021); Auckland Art Fair (2020); Sydney Contemporary Art Fair (2019); West Space, Melbourne (2019); Modern Times, Melbourne (2018); and more. She has been a finalist in the Victorian Craft Awards and the GreenWay Art Prize, and in 2011 was the winner of the Henrietta and Lola Anne Tunbridge Scholarship in New Zealand. Her work is held in the collections of Shepparton Art Museum and Artbank, and in private collections in Australia, New Zealand, Korea, France and the United States.