“Looking around Marie Torbensdatter Hermann’s most recent exhibition of work, we may well have a similar feeling: that we are in the presence of pots that don’t quite need us. They are just fine on their own, thank you. Poised atop their handmade clay shelves, microcosms like the implacably calm still life paintings of Morandi, or set out in a neat ring on the gallery floor, these ceramic sculptures have a quiet assurance, an ease that belies the difficulty of their own making.
You almost have to remind yourself that it’s by no means easy to create this sense of completeness. The usual way of doing it is to make objects that are resolutely alien to everyday experience: the abstract geometries of De Stijl, the weird and hermetic object-poems of the Surrealists, the industrial quality of Minimalist sculpture, or the unearthly light and space created by artist James Turrell. While Hermann’s work is influenced by all of these art historical references, she appeals to something more humble and humane than any of them.
While her commitment to achieving a unified aesthetic impression is total, it seems to me that her greatest interest as an artist comes at the level of the detail. Yes, she knows she must (according to some modernist logic) ‘earn’ the right to create an interesting shape, like a sharp break in the profile of a vase, or a gentle curve in the rim of a plate. For her, these subtle touches have to make sense within an overriding context. There is nothing whimsical about them. But all the same, Hermann infuses these little maneuvers with a great deal of enjoyment – just as the slight sway of a violin or the mournful swell of an oboe might convey the emotion that a composer feels for his own symphony. Hermann’s pots may inhabit worlds of their own, and to that extent they stand proudly and resolutely apart. But through the deft and playful touches that are everywhere in this exhibition, we are let into something very human indeed: something not too far from bliss.” Glenn Adamson, Head of Graduate Studies at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, about Marie T. Hermann’s work.
We’re opening submissions for all contemporary ceramic artists. If you submit your work to Ceramics Now, you could be featured on our website (as a featured artist), and in print, beginning Issue nr. 2 (March 2012). Contact us.
Ceramics Now Magazine is a contemporary ceramic art magazine published in Romania. We feature exclusive interviews with world-renowned ceramic artists, high quality images with their works and news from the ceramic field. The first printed issue of Ceramics Now will be published next month (Winter 2011-2012), and will contain more than 40 interviews with ceramic artists.
We think it’s an amazing opportunity for artists to be featured and to be promoted in Ceramics Now. We have a strong presence online and we are trying hard to enter the top contemporary ceramics magazines in the world.
Ceramics Now Magazine: You are one of the most assiduous ceramic artists in the world, with hundreds of exhibitions over more than thirty years. Why did you choose this career path?
Arthur Gonzalez: If by career path you mean, “why did I choose to be an artist?” I was one of those guys who always knew that they wanted to be an artist. I honestly cannot remember a time that I did not draw. I remember drawing in kindergarten. I took my first oil painting class with my mother at age 7. I identified with being an artist my whole life so the path was “written on the wall” so to speak. Also, times were different thirty years ago when I graduated from UC Davis. The word “career” was subject to interpretation. I remember that all I wanted to do once I graduated was to do whatever I needed to do to keep making art without needing to work a “regular” job. This was a huge factor, because if one wants to make art their whole life they need to be creative in terms of how to do that. As a consequence, I learned how to make a career instead of only making a lot of things.
When did you realize that ceramic art was important for you?
My relationship with ceramics has always been a double-edged sword, because I originally didn’t identify with ceramics or sculpture. In the beginning, I used clay to make a better painting!
My formal undergraduate art education at American River College in Sacramento and later California State University was as a photo-realist painter, this was the art movement of the time and all my teachers were photo-realists. I, although formally trained with all the exactitude and precision of a realist, was extremely frustrated. I wanted my paintings to be more expressionistic, spontaneous and “rule breaking”, but the training and dictum of “painting the right way” was so hardwired that I needed to change the very physicality of the painting’s object-ness. I realized that when addressing the white geometric canvas, specifically when the paintbrush approached the edge of the canvas, my gestures would be stilted and choked. I was too intimidated by its rigidity. I remember thinking that if I was too influenced by the edge, then I needed to change that edge.
Meanwhile, at California State University, at the opposite side of campus from the painting lab, was the ceramic department. Two of the professors there were Peter Vandenberge and Robert Brady, both were UC Davis alumni and former students of Robert Arneson. It was by watching them make their clay sculpture and witnessing the ways that they both treated the clay as a mud that did their bidding, that first attracted me to it. This was an epiphanous moment. I remember thinking that clay was the perfect replacement for canvas on stretcher bars. Upon returning to my studio, I slung a number of clay slabs and stretched them on the floor and then fired them, resulting in “bisque canvases” of non-geometric shapes, like a stack of so many pancakes. Then, using oil paint, I reacted to the silhouette of the shape by painting-in imagery that would co-relate to the swells and dips of the randomly shaped ceramic slabs. In my eyes, clay was a remedy not a historical material. Ironically, I later dispassionately applied to graduate school at UC Davis to study ceramics sculpture under Robert Arneson knowing that I was competing against real ceramic artists who knew more about clay than slinging slabs, which literally was all I knew! It was those first experiments with oil paintings on ceramic slabs that got me into graduate school. My education of clay as a material didn’t start until my time with Robert Arneson. The one thing that I loved about clay was how I now could make things that could distance me from the confines of oil on canvas and, as a result, lifting the weight of the ‘History of Painting’ off my shoulders. When I thought of ceramics, I didn’t see “History” or “Tradition” or “right and wrong”. In fact, I didn’t even think of it as “ceramics”, I thought of it as clay that you made hard. To me the material was only material, and because I came to it through the back door it represented to me to be absolute freedom, a kind of sanctuary from the rules of painting and, as a result, pure invention.
Ceramics Now Magazine: You’re a very prolific artist, with lots of exhibitions, lectures and workshops being held in the last years. How do you find the time needed for all of this? Do you also teach?
Ian Shelly: Thank you for the considering me prolific, that is an adjective that has been used before to describe not only the breadth and quantity of what I do and what I call “My” art but a diagnosis that I find most properly describes my unyielding need to make. I don’t know how to make art any other way…never have. I think that the only way to find the time to work “prolifically” is by making the best out of all the other tasks that you do. Be it exhibiting, lecturing, and teaching workshops. All of these moments and all of the moments not making provide us with a unique opportunity to think, plan and daydream. I need my time spent talking about other artists to think of how I am different. I also need my time as a Sunday afternoon mechanic fixing things around the house to remind my brain that my hands like moving this way or that. All of this activity then tells my wallet what kind of clay and glaze I need to use to keep my brain and hands satisfied. My brain still cannot keep up with my hands. The teaching that I also do is like a buffet. In some ways it provides me with necessary exercises that a growing artist needs to flourish. It also provides me with a multitude of materials and technologies to further understand the science and dexterity needed for ceramics. I find one of the most helpful aspects of teaching to be the communication development. When I started in education, I couldn’t walk a person through making a paper airplane, and now, through all of the practice I can teach all kinds of different styles of airplanes. Most importantly, I, myself, make a better airplane. This has been very helpful. Inevitably though, if you do too much, like any buffet…it isn’t healthy.
Like the system and language of chemistry, your works behave like an equation, trying to connect human relationships. Tell us about the process of constructing a new work, from sketch to firing.
This is a great question. One that I believe all artists answer differently at different times in their careers and lives. My works attempt to answer relationship equations in the final product but also in the process in which they are made. Like I say in just about every artist statement and writing I do, I see my art making and general studio process as a living, breathing, eating, growing and even more important, a mutating organism. One that is fed helpful amounts of media then distilled and filtered clumsily through screens made of new materials and techniques. Like any healthy science project, random samples are taken to ensure the highest quality of homogenization and communication. At times it is absolutely similar to a chemical equation made of compounds and bonds, but one that is never ending, moving and ultimately insolvable.
I am sure that we all do things like these in our pursuits to make art. For me, I believe it is important to keep the theme and scenarios of my project in mind. In the case of this work, the themes are systematic and a-systematic routines of study and classification. I think what you may be asking is whether or not I start with sketches and end in a fired ceramic work that installs in a viewing space. Of course I do. However, it rarely follows the paths that I see my colleagues using. Sometimes I wish it did, because I wonder if I would be more productive with someone else’s art routine. The journey that my work follows often begins with an accidental gluing of one thing to another and after a very calculated series of profanity and failures, what you see is my work…in all of it’s sticky, gooey, orb-ness.
Ceramics Now Magazine: You are a very creative artist, working with large scale installations, ceramic objects, sculptures, vessels and various drawings. When do you have time to transpose all your emotions and ideas into them?
Ian F. Thomas: Thank you. I obsess about ideas. My methodology for making, for creating, has me developing many works at the same time, not just in the beginning phases, the thought process, but also during the construction phase. Mold making, throwing, painting, welding, drawing, functional, non-functional—everything that happens, it all develops simultaneously. I enjoy working right up to, and, sometimes, past my limit. I view making work on all of these different platforms, using different materials, and incorporating as many ideas as I can ideas in the same way that I see conversations. Each day I have vastly different types of conversations with many different people; from humorous to serious, political to chit chat and minutiae. When an idea surfaces, the process may demand a particular size, finish, or material. Following the concept and its needs supersedes the necessity of conforming to a particular style or material.
As a father of two, husband and professor, it is difficult to manage time. My wife, Lori, who is not an artist, has an amazing tolerance for the creatively obsessed mind. If it were not for her support, I would never find the time to work on so many projects. Working with clay, I can take advantage of the timing/drying constraints, and toggle between works, maximizing my available studio time. I have also recently taken on an assistant, Eli Blasko, to help better manage my time so that I can focus more in the studio.
Di-analytic Variables - View Ian F. Thomas’ works Wheel-thrown, altered, hand-built, earthenware, electric fired cone 02, steel, paint, gold leaf / 38x37x30 inches, 40 lbs
How do you see this relationship between idea/intuition and the final work itself? Is it always continuous or sometimes gap comes through?
The final work is an entity all of its own. An idea starts the work and then intuition supports that idea during the development of the piece. I keep true to a cautious respect for the moment. While I’m in the process of working, my intuition may shift the work’s original intentions, or trigger a new idea(s) that can rearrange the work while I’m still in the process of making it. My idea can fluctuate as much as the physical object I’m making. Using this method, gaps occurs naturally and when that happens, I embrace that.
Ceramics Now Magazine: You are a very consequent artist, having worked with ceramics all your career. Why did you embark on this journey?
Antonella Cimatti: I was born in Faenza, I studied in Faenza at the “Ballardini” Art Institute and I have been teaching at this same school for over 30 years. It has just been so natural to work with this material in this city, because it’s so well known throughout the world for its ceramics.
The techniques and subjects you are approaching are very different - paperclay, fibre optic installations and low temperature. Working with so many different materials may be difficult, how do you manage to combine them?
Well, I come from Italy, a country where the artists feel the weight of our history and ceramic traditions, but where there are also many new influences from the world of design and fashion!
In fact, in the last few years, in the design and fashion sectors there has been a notable trend regarding lightness and attention to detail, which is so incredibly in line with my way of being and working.
I believe that the greatest undertaking of the artist is that of professional maintenance. As a matter of fact, along with spontaneous creativity, you indissolubly must add an elevated professional competence regarding technique; through reading and observation, the joy of experimentation, of combining, and of moving forward.
Trame di luce (Weft of Light), detail, 2008 - View Antonella Cimatti’s works Installation with translucent porcelain paperclay, fibre optics and handbuilt flowers in glazed porcelain, temp. 1250°C. Exhibited at the 54th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennial, in the Italian Pavilion, for the Emilia Romagna Region. Photographed by Bernardo Ricci
Your attention to detail makes your paperclay works unique and pure within their shadows. Tell us about the constructing process.
I’ll tell you how you can, while having an idea in mind, transform and tame my technique. My way of working is not traditional. My objective is to create a lightness in ceramics- not only regarding weight but also visually. I need to discover the right combination of materials in order to obtain the results you see.
“I enjoy teaching, in fact I feed off of it. I would like to be teaching a lot more and making less to be completely honest. Why, you might ask, would anyone want to make less? I feel that my work needs to be restricted behind a dam so to speak so that when I release it or it breaks free, it comes out with serious intensity.”—Ian Shelly, Ceramics Now Magazine (October 2011)
In partnership with Keiko Gallery Written review of “Keiko Gallery” through interviews with represented Japanese artists who work in ceramics, lacquer, textiles and jewelry.
Keiko Gallery is one of the most appreciated art galleries in the United States that focuses on Japanese art, from ceramics to the innovative lacquer art, textiles, jewelry and painting. Founded in 2003 in Boston, MA, the gallery organized numerous exhibitions of world-recognized Japanese artists.
The special feature includes interviews with 10 artists represented by Keiko Gallery, and lots of images with their works. We took this opportunity because we want to introduce the Japanese contemporary art and craft to a larger audience around the world. It is an excellent chance for our readers to learn more from Japanese artists, to see how they think and how they imagine their works.
The feature was presented on Ceramics Now in October 2011, and was published in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One. Keiko Gallery has now closed its physical space in Boston and it is relocating all the activity online. The new email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Above: Kentaro Kawabata, SOOS: Cao-Col, 2012, Porcelain, Silver, 25 x 18 x 40 cm.
Stefano Calligaro / For not turning all my nothing into something - SABOT, Cluj-Napoca
STEFANO CALLIGARO / For not turning all my nothing into something, SABOT, Cluj-Napoca 7 October - 12 November 2011
now imagine the water it being transparent and clean not only in a glass but as a pond a river as the ocean imagine as if it were all things sounds colours your thoughts your gestures some simple shapes a bunch of photos an untold story two angles perpendicular a wooden brick the bag that’s hanging on your shoulder a nice warm summer
somehow the waves are moving aligned somehow they do
now imagine a snowball not bigger than your fist solid compact white pure watch it ten seconds and turn it feel its weight its bright-lit colours nicely shaped
keep yourself busy
stretch out your hands let fall into the water
—————————————————- Stefano Calligaro (Cividale del Friuli, 1976) is an Italian artist living and working in Rotterdam. His work revolves around intuitive and simple gestures, hermetic elements, and shapes. The outcome is usually a floating idea, an object, a note, or just a trace almost hidden to our view. Recent exhibitions include Plants, rocks and a fish inhabited pond, Wcw gallery, Hamburg; Quiet is the new loud, Hotel Mariakapel, Hoorn; Lobby, Cell project space, London; and The object of the attack, The David Roberts Art Foundation, London.