Yesterday’s tutorial with Claire was really helpful to clarify my thoughts about my practice and where I’m headed next. I explained to her how I have started to feel as if making only functional ware is not satisfying me creatively and that I want to bring ideas from my dissertation research into my ceramics. I’ve been researching time and temporality in relation to art and ceramics in particular with focus on artists like Keith Harrison (the firing as a durational event), Phoebe Cummings (exploring the ephemeral nature of raw clay) and thinking about how we visualise time either linearly or circularly. Already my functional ware is linking a little into these ideas…the subtle glazes from the reduction firing appear almost grey when they are taken from the kiln. However, over time, the subtleties of colour reveal themselves to me, as I’ve noticed having the pieces on my desk for weeks – they are blue, green, orange, purple and red. Spending time with these objects is similar to spending time in nature, a contemplation where beauty and complexity reveals itself to us gradually.
Claire suggested I visit potter Jack Welbourne, a graduate from the ceramic programme at Cardiff. She suggested it might be interesting to consider the role of the contemporary ‘country-potter’ in the modern world where many potters choose to have urban studios because it is cheaper and they have supportive networks in the community.
I’ve been thinking about the functional vessels I make in relation to the still life lectures we’ve had, in particular the way transient things like food and flowers are displayed in Dutch still life painting. I plan on setting myself a number of experimental tasks to begin next term. One of these might be throwing a series of my forms – jars, bowls and mugs in clay and positioning an unfired still-life of these in a plastic container, kept moist with water spray. I hope over time mould will develop on the greenware, creating a kind of Meret Oppenheim-esque repulsive juxtaposition of the comfortingly functional and the grotesque. Last year I left a load of thrown porcelain cylinders for weeks in a lidded plastic container and they developed a spotty orange mould on the surface. Working with raw clay isn’t necessarily the path I want to take but I need to begin to think of ceramics in terms of change and duration, of something temporal but immortal, evolving, re-configuring and holding in itself traces of the past.
Jasper suggested I look at the work of Anita Regek and Tamsin Van Essen who both explore decay and decomposition in their ceramic forms and surfaces. I’ve identified from my functional work the kind of forms and qualities I want to work with. The Vessel is a core characteristic as it links me to the lineage of ceramics historically and gas reductions firing’s qualities that allow the materials and chemicals to come alive and for the surfaces to become almost traces of events, are central to moving forward. Next term I want to make bigger and push myself to a place where the making becomes physically demanding on my strength and stamina. I feel very inspired by the work of Peter Voulkos and his macho, daredevil performance pieces in which he would throw over 20kg in one go. I’ve been a huge admirer of Gareth Mason’s work for years and his work too with it’s physicality and sense of stratified time is the kind of space I want to propel my work to next. Setting myself a task to construct a ceramic object and then deconstruct and reconfigure it in a new way over and over may be a way of drawing in ideas about time’s circular nature.