Each year,The National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, UK selects work by the very best of the current year’s graduates from art colleges and universities all over the UK, and gives them the opportunity of exhibitingat the NCCD.
This year’s show explores the theme of function in objects. A range of high quality, visually striking artworks created by 18 specially selected graduates are on display. They demonstrate a diverse range of skills from fashion and jewellery to ceramics and automata.
Class of 2013 will be open to the public until Sunday 19 January 2014 everyday excluding Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day from 10am to 5pm (3pm Christmas Eve).
Ceramicists exhibiting in Class of 2013:
Luke Bishop, Rongorongo: Forgotten Function 5, 2013, Porcelain and stoneware with latex additions, maximum H46 cm. Photo by Scott Murray.
Luke Bishop HE Diploma in Fine and Applied Arts in Ceramics CityLit / London Metropolitan University
Rongorongo; Forgotten Function is an exploration rooted in the language of function where both memory and meaning are lost. False lids, multiple spouts (some obstructed, some fixed, others detachable), curiously and illogically-placed holes and tubes intentionally disturb the recognized and accepted grammar and syntax of function, causing the viewer and potential user to experience a disruption in the affordance towards the object.
In much the same way that an object excavated from the archaeological record only reveals to us a portion of its story, the meaning and uses of these vessels can never be completely recovered and known. Because the link between craft and everyday use has been permitted to slowly slip away from our collective experience, we are left with what we can only interpret but never fully explain. Function is forgotten.
Luke’s work seeks to invite the viewer to wonder at these curious vessels, and to provoke us to awaken to the process of cultural richness being lost. Its creative corollary, however, is that such richness can endure when care is taken to preserve meaning, ritual, skill and knowledge?
Zoe Clare, Invading Forms #4, #5, #6, #7, 2013, Porcelain, 56x61 / 34x48 / 17x30 / 30x60 cm. Photo by Scott Murray.
Zoe Clare BA (Hons) Ceramic Design Central Saint Martins - University of Arts London
Zoe is an artist who works predominantly with ceramic. She creates sculptures that are visually absorbing, rich in layers, texture and integral repetitive patterns. Zoe is influenced by the natural world around her and the discoveries made during her travels. The natural world, often overlooked, provides her with rich visual resources, which she then interprets and uses as a vessel to convey commentary and observations.
The ‘Invading Forms’ series explores the effects and conservational issues of invasive, non-native plants and their effects on the bio diversity of South Africa’s endangered environment. The sculptures are a metaphor for the conservational issues and endangered biodiversity we are facing today.
The sculptures, created in porcelain, take on the aggressive character of the invasive plants and become an invading form, growing organically and intrusively, absorbing anything and everything that is in its path. These structural forms are concerned with internal and external spaces and holds remnants of the extinct plants it has devoured inside for spectators to see. Sections of the invading forms are open, allowing the insides to be examined. Within are surprising textures and glazes depicting the exotic nature of the diminishing South African fauna and flora.
Jade Crompton, Bubble vases, Ceramics, slip cast, semi porcelain, Pieces between 23x24 cm. Photo by John James Clare.
Jade Crompton BA (Hons) Design Liverpool Hope University
Combining traditional plaster mould making techniques with the modern techniques of 3D design, Jade uses prototypes and digital model making to create unique moulds for slip casting. Jade enjoys taking natural forms and applying structure and pattern using digital software, giving an organic and manmade appearance to her work. Overall her work is intended to be both aesthetically pleasing and functional.
Her current work focuses on casting plaster moulds from 3D printed models and layering laser cut pieces of perspex, this process allows Jade to produce more detailed and precise designs. The works are inspired by the layers found in natural formations such as lava, rock and ice.
Instead of using glazes or coloured slips which Jade finds too unpredictable, she uses airbrushed layers of under glaze which leaves a even matte coverage. She also adds a layer of clear glaze to the inside of her pieces which renders them waterproof.
Ruth Harrison (Porcelain, 2013, Photos by Scott Murray) Green Gradiant Strip / Red Gradiant Strip, 200x95 mm. Blue Disk with Orange Inlay / Yellow Disk with Blue Inlay / Green Disk with Red Inlay, 130x95 mm.
Ruth Harrison BA (Hons) Ceramics Plymouth College of Arts
Ruth Harrison uses porcelain to create sculptural forms using repeated elements. She is interested in symmetry and the idea of taking one shape and multiplying it many times over or around a cylinder. Her work evokes the childhood memory of running a hand or stick along a fence.
Ruth chooses to use porcelain due to its white body when fired to 1260°c. Porcelain also works very well with coloured stain which she uses for some of her collections. Ruth draws the attention of the viewer to a section or strip of the finished piece using colour, texture or pattern which is added to the piece as it is being made. Each disk is hand cut using a cookie cutter from 3mm thick slabs of porcelain which are then cut in half, sponged, scored, slipped and attached to a slip-cast cylinder.
Betty Woodman: CONTRO VERSIES CONTRO VERSIA / Gallery Diet, Miami
Betty Woodman: CONTRO VERSIES CONTRO VERSIA / Gallery Diet, Miami an inaccurate history of painting and ceramics December 2, 2013 - January 1, 2014
Gallery Diet is delighted to announce a solo exhibition of new works by Betty Woodman: CONTRO VERSIES CONTRO VERSIA an inaccurate history of painting and ceramics. The exhibition, which opens December 2nd, 2013, gathers a body of 2D and 3D works produced over the past two years that continue Woodman’s evolving relationship with painting, the vase, and the history of ceramics. Over the past several years, the resurgence in ceramics, craft aesthetic, and abstraction has led audiences to earlier generations of practitioners. Often credited as the “godmother of American ceramics,” Woodman is considered one of the pioneers in bringing the vase out of the craft world and into the realm of high art. As Peter Schjeldahl wrote of Woodman’s solo exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, “she is beyond original, all the way to sui generis. She has been well known in art circles since the 1970s, when her work was associated (incorrectly but advantageously, given the art world’s chronic disdain for anything that smacks of ‘craft’) with a briefly fashionable movement called Pattern and Decoration.” Since 1948, when she entered Alfred University’s ceramics program, Woodman has been pushing the boundaries of sculpture and form. This will be her second exhibition at Gallery Diet in Miami, Florida. Her work “Aztec Vase,” recently acquired by the Pérez Art Museum Miami, is also part of the inaugural permanent collections exhibition at the PAMM.
Born in 1930, Betty Woodman is an American artist living and working between New York City and Antella, Italy. Her work is represented by numerous galleries around the world including Gallery Diet, Salon 94, Francesca Pia, and Isabella Bortolozzi. Her works are part of prestigious public and private collections such as The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Denver Art Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art New York, National Gallery of Art, and the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Most recently her large scale installation Alessandro’s Room was exhibited as part of Unlimited in Art Basel 2013.
As a Danish ceramic artist, do you consider the living climate an important influence in your work?
I think it’s fair to say that my works have a certain Nordic nature component. Danish nature is not wild and magnificent – more one that offers quiet experiences: a misty morning over the ploughed fields; an old, dead tree; rainy weather that starts as dark streaks on the horizon; the weather clearing up after rain. Danish weather is changeable and often a cold, clammy affair, but this makes one more keenly aware of the light and small shifts in nuance.
Your work have been described as highly experimental. From the slip-cast rigorous design to the hand-built structures, you have been experimenting different body of works over the years. How do you find yourself shifting subjects and manners? Is it a continuous change?
I have never personally felt that I undertook dramatic shifts. I see my work as an on-going development, where one thing leads to the next. I will never completely finish – fortunately. While working, new ideas emerge that have to be tested. One could say that the experiments themselves ask the next questions. Ceramics has so many possibilities, and I like challenging the material and myself.
Portrait of Bente Skjøttgaard, 2010, Photo: Ole Akhøj
What influences and inspires you the most in your creation? How would you describe your current body of work?
With my background as a ceramist I nearly always have my point of departure in an idea to do with material or form. This can, for example, be new form expressions achieved by special compositions, or through cuts or glazing experiments that result in strange surfaces and textures. I often gain inspiration from nature’s formal principles and phenomena. Work takes place systematically and always on the premises of the ceramic material, but the investigations often develop into something that is reminiscent of large, amorphous nature-abstractions, with plenty of glaze. The fantastic thing about clay is that what is nature’s own material can constantly be transformed into something new and relevant.
Delicacy and sensitivity are two powerful characteristics of your work. How much do you rely on intuition and how much on unpredictability?
I make use of both in my work. Ceramics has an innate unpredictability, especially because it is out of one’s hands during the firing at high temperatures. This unpredictability is a challenging co-partner and opponent. All the time, one gets something more or less intentional for free, and from there one has to decide if and how it can be used. My intuition has probably been honed by many years’ experience of this process.
Besides a very playful approach in manipulating clay, you ingeniously use colors and assets of glazes in your work. Tell us more about the importance of color and its use in your creations.
Previously, I was mainly interested in the ability of glazes to interact and behave differently, according to the thicknesses involved. At my ‘Interglacial Period’ exhibition in Galleri Nørby in 2005, it was mainly green/turquoise, because copper is very good at producing that sort of thing. Then came the exhibition ‘Elements in White’ at Galerie Maria Lund in Paris in 2008, where I almost washed the slate clean and experimented with various textures within white glaze. It was not until the more recent works ‘Clouds’ that I seriously explored selecting more precise colours. Here I have thought more in psychedelic colours, the colours of the sky, sunrise, violet, pink and yellow. It has been interesting to include these more ‘un-ceramic’ colours.
You are one of the initiators and directors of the Copenhagen Ceramics platform. How did this project start? Tell us more about the objectives of this new Danish movement.
The project Copenhagen Ceramics has been implemented by the ceramic artists Steen Ipsen, Bente Skjøttgaard and Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl, based on having noted that there was no longer any exhibition venue in Copenhagen where the best of the great diversity of ceramic expression existing in Denmark could be shown and experienced ‘live’. Another important aspect of the project is the Internet platform www.copenhagenceramics.com, which we wish to use to disseminate knowledge of Danish ceramics internationally. We have planned the 10 exhibitions for 2012: 4 solo exhibitions, 5 two-man exhibitions and a single group exhibition with six of the best ceramic artists from the younger generation. The individual artists have been selected and linked together in new constellations that enable completely new artistic facets in all of them to emerge – also among those already more established.
Why did you choose the vessel as the central element of your art? Was there a transition from functional vessels to sculptural ones?
I have been working in ceramics continually since 1980. There have been periods when I have moved away from the vessel, but really it has been at the core of my work for most of the time since then. I do not make functional pots, but rather use the vessel as a subject - to give meaning and form to an expression. For a long time now I have realized that my overriding interest is making new coloured clay forms. This seems for me to be the essence of pottery- to make shapes which occupy and contain space and to decorate those shapes. By decorate, I mean to paint slip or glaze, to draw, to make image or line across the skin of the clay.
Ken Eastman: For all we know, 2010, Stoneware with painted coloured slips and oxides, 43x31x37 cm.
Does your creative process start from a certain image in your mind, or do you seek for inspiration as you progress?
I have always made things - at first out of Lego and wood and for a long time now, using clay. Working on how to approach creating, so that I can go to work every day and explore shape and colour and move forwards, is always hard. The breadth of ceramic possibilities means that to make any progress it is necessary to build up some strict limitations. I use writing and drawing to approach the spirit of a piece of work, but I do not draw an ‘architectural plan’ of the piece that I am about to make: ideas that work in two dimensions are often different from those that are successful in three dimensions. Also, if I knew exactly what I was going to make before I started work in clay, there would be little room left for the play and invention that is an essential part of creative work. A large part of the reason for making is to see things which I have never seen before - to build something which I am excited about and wish to show and share with others. So I try not to plan anything except roughly how to proceed within my imposed limitations.
Tell us about the slab building technique that you use. What are the challenges that you encounter and the skills that it requires?
I roll out slabs of white stoneware clay by hand with a wooden rolling pin. Most of the rolling is bashing the clay flat and the rolling smoothens the material towards the end of the process. From the moment I start rolling out slabs I have to start making decisions - not what the piece will look like, which will in time become clear, but the details - how wide, how long, how thin or thick the slab, choices which determine shape. The objects which I make are clearly defined, they have drawn ground plans, smooth walls and clear edges, but this resolution emerges slowly. There are certain curves and curlings which a thin slab can manage better than a thicker one, but sometimes it’s the soft fatness of a rim or the weight of a piece which is more important.
Colour is an important part of your work. How do you see the interaction between colour and volume?
As soon as possible in the making process, I begin to make marks on the surface with coloured slips and oxides, whilst the clay is still quite wet. I paint on numerous layers of colour, firing the work repeatedly. I apply it in response to three dimensional form and it is in this way I paint the surface in order to explore and make sense of what I have made. I don’t know what colour I want a piece to be until I find it by working - building up layers of colour can often feel more like a stripping away to reveal what was meant. I am interested in the relationship between colour, the illusionistic space of a surface and actual space. This relationship is a complex one - as well as inhabiting the 2 dimensional space on a curving plane of clay, colour can, in a sense fill the actual 3 dimensional space of the vessel itself. Glen Brown in writing about my work said that colour becomes “volumetric, contained, like real space itself, by the vessel walls rather than merely carried on them: it becomes a fundamental content of the work rather than a superficial aspect of it.”
Today’s contemporary art puts a lot of emphasis on dynamics and interactivity. In this context, what is the merit of an art work that encourages contemplation as an aesthetic experience?
Being a static artwork does not exempt it from being dynamic or profound. Art work which is three dimensional demands that the viewer moves around the work and becomes involved in order to experience it and to contemplate it, which is of course a truly dynamic and interactive experience.
I was in college taking painting classes and I wanted to learn sculpture. One day I stopped by the sculpture lab to ask the instructor if I could audit the class. She agreed and handed me a piece of clay. I was amazed at the work of the students. A retired engineer was making intriguing ceramic sculptures. The forms were powerful and provocative. At that moment I thought of how versatile and expressive clay could be to express both powerful and delicate ideas. It was, for me, the medium of infinite possibilities. Immediately my brain had an explosion of ideas. I fell in love. I realized I could create 3D from some ideas of my paintings. In fact, I ended up sculpting so many pieces during the class that The Art Department awarded me a grant to do a whole semester and also the first solo show ever done by a student in the college.
Besides ceramic art, you have also created paintings and murals in order to express your inner universe. How does working in three dimensions change your creative process? Do the processes differ a lot between these mediums?
When I work in 3D, the process of creativity is more fluent, very spontaneous and I can communicate with feelings that I didn’t know I possessed until I felt them in my hands. I can transform them into something visual for others to see. It is a natural process, born of my subconscious. Back in my childhood, I recall helping my father in the garden and end up making objects with mud.
In my paintings, it’s me: my surroundings, my past and present, something very personal and intimate expressed through a different tactile experience. As with murals, most of them have been collaborative works I’ve done with students at schools. The first one I made came out of the blue. A friend asked me for ideas on what to do with a wall where the tiles had been removed. I had the idea to teach the students about mural making and the importance of recycling material to make art. That’s how the first mural was born.
You express yourself freely using clay. What are the main materials and ceramic techniques that you use?
I like to experiment, so I have been using different kind of clay, such as stoneware, low and mid-fire with glazes and oxides. When I do mixed media, especially installations, I like to integrate other materials like metal, found objects and fresh water pearls. I use handmade techniques from slab, clay relief, and impressed texture to carving.
Your past experience and your personal history seem to be an important source of inspiration for you. Tell us more about the symbolism of your work.
Maybe that’s why I work in different mediums; I am much better expressing my self visually. Sometimes an image will stay with me and I am compelled to paint or sculpt it. Much later, I will realize that these images have a much deeper significance to me, one that transcends the visual. These images become symbols of social-political issues that are at the core of my world views and concerns. For example in the ceramic chains installation, the chains remain unconnected and loose, which symbolizes the right of freedom of the individual; regardless of religion, race, country, and gender. Freedom of expression is something that we, as humans should never have to give up.
Many of your works have an intrinsic femininity. How does being a female artist influence the themes and the ideas you choose to represent?
My themes and ideas begin with personal experiences, past, present, as well as everything that surrounds me: people, places and objects. Sometimes stories interact with different characters in different circumstances. I also like to create surreal landscapes for them.
The white flowers I used in the “Warrior’s Series”, are images from my bank of memories of my father’s garden; he used to mix the flowers in the vegetable garden, which was my play yard during my childhood. “After Chaos”, a woman sleeps peacefully. She is able to find tranquility because she is surrounded by “white warrior flowers” - deceptively frail, and yet possessing all of the strength of memories, nature and the power of womanhood. These flowers guard her as she rests before facing whatever trials the day may bring to her.
You come from Argentina, and you define yourself as a Latin American artist. How does your cultural heritage reflects in your creative experience?
My Latin American roots inform my work. I was born in Argentina, my parents were immigrants of the World War II, and so my back ground tradition at home had a strong European flavor. Even so, I grew up proud for the country that welcomed my parents and the country they taught me to love. Moreover, I am also married to a Puerto Rican man, my son was born on the island too and we spent many years there. This is yet another passage in my life, where the colors and details are reflected more in my paintings than in my ceramics. So you see, my cultural heritage is a potpourri of different tradition and experiences, and everything is reflected in my art.
A movie set, created in the style of a sixth century village, within forests and farmland, cherry blossom and azaleas, in valleys and mountains centrally located in South Korea, is the stage for this amazing Mungyeong Tea Bowl Festival. The City of Mungyeong and the South Korean government sponsor the festival, now in its eighth year, and focus on reviving Korean Tea ceremony traditions, as well as the ceramic ware made for it.
Ceramic artists (28) from all over the world were invited this year (2012) to participate in this festival, and to display their tea bowls and demonstrate their techniques, as well as to join local artists in various activities related to the traditional Tea Bowl ceremonies. Our tea bowls were available for show and sale, and some selected tea bowls were entered into a competition and are now part of the Mungyeong Tea Bowl Museum’s permanent display, alongside the local artists collection. The museum also includes a large studio and teaching center and an impressive traditional Korean Noborigama kiln.
There were many buildings filled with about 50 local masters and potters, selling traditional or modern artistically interpreted Korean wares. There were of course many buildings holding traditional tea ceremonies, for the casual afternoon sip or a more extended, fully traditional affair.
We watched artists fire a Noborigama kiln as it has been fired for thousands of years. Local clay and raw materials transformed into wares of the same timelessness as it has been done for centuries. The Mungyeong area is the center of tea bowl making in South Korea and there are many very talented masters, each with his own studio and at times a large display room and even a museum.
One such artist is Oh Soon-Taek, a self taught ceramicist who originally began his creative endeavors as a painter; he learned the nature of the medium “from the world”. Some of the most striking pieces among his collection were the very small, almost miniature tea sets, each executed with perfect craftsmanship. We were fortunate to join Oh Soon-Taek for tea ceremony on a number of occasions, to see the inherent beauty of his work as it fulfilled its function. He masters a variety of glazes and forms in his collection, leaning more to simple aesthetics, so one can admire the form and function of his meditative work, and appreciate his respect to traditional ware, in spite of the adaptation to modern life. Oh Soon-Taek makes his own clay and glazes from the nature around his house, and he built his own kiln. He sells his work only from his house and workshop and has a solo exhibition once every 10 years.
Our hosts went to a great effort to bring us to a number of potteries and kiln sites further spread through the countryside. One such visit was to the studio of Han-Bong Cheon. Our busload of international artists came upon a small, slight man of 80, stocking an enormous Noborigama kiln with the ferocity of a teenage apprentice. Han-Bong Cheon, who became an Intangible Cultural Treasure in 1996, and his daughter Kung Hee Cheon have been making tea ware at their home outside of Mungyeong for 64 years. Tea ceremony has been historically conducted by monks in the Buddhist temples, where Han-Bong Cheon learned and mastered it. Han Bong’s mission was to reintroduce to South Korea the know how of the old Koryo tea bowl tradition, that was at its peak production during the 17th century and was lost during the introduction of mass production.
He is also considered today as the artist who revived the Maksabal - “Bowl for Anything” - made for all purposes. Koreans use Maksabal as a bowl for water, soup and tea, appreciating its endless and enduring value. In addition, in order to perfect it, he traveled to Japan to learn the making of tea wares from Mr. Tokuro from Setto Mino. Han-Bong Cheon’s work masterfully explores the reserved aesthetics of Korean tea ware. His daughter Kung Hee Cheon displayed and sold both hers and her father’s wares at the festival. Her work adds a feminine touch and an additional dimension to the traditional male craft.
Another, of many, amazing places we visited was the home, studio, and gallery of Professor Tae-Keun Yoo. Professor Yoo, as we call him, teaches ceramics at the local university, and at most times was accompanied by a group of devoted young potters-students.
7 Ceramic Art Competitions and Fairs Where You Should Participate in 2014
Ceramics Now comprised a list of 7 ceramic art competitions and fairs where artists can apply to participate in 2014. Be quick, the deadlines are approaching fast!
1. INTERNATIONAL CERAMICS COMPETITION MINO, JAPAN
The competition is the main event of the International Ceramics Festival Mino, which is held with the aim of supporting growth of the ceramics industry and the enhancement of culture through global exchange of ceramics design and culture. The first festival was held in 1986, and this will be the 10th edition. The last edition gathered 2777 entries from 57 countries. It is considered the largest event in the world entirely dedicated to contemporary ceramics. Read more
Deadline: January 10, 2014 / Dates: September 12 - October 19, 2014 Total prizes: ~ USD 130.000 / No entry fee Entry categories: Ceramics Design, Ceramic Arts
2. INTERNATIONAL CERAMICS FAIR OLDENBURG, GERMANY
Situated around the noble Schloss in the city-center of Oldenburg, the International Ceramic Fair which includes a ceramic market, presentation of professional prizes, special exhibits and artist showcases. The fair ensures that collectors and enthusiasts alike are offered an exquisite range of works from artistic creations to high-quality tableware. Based upon strict criteria a jury of professionals within the field chooses over a hundred workshops and ceramic artists to present their current work. This event attracts more than 60.000 visitors annually. Read more
Deadline: January 11, 2014 / Dates: August 2-3, 2014 Entry fee: EUR 240 (includes 3x3 meters stand)
3. CLAY? V EXHIBITION, UNITED STATES
The fifth installment of Kirkland Arts Center’s biennial contemporary ceramics exhibition, Clay? V, is juried by University of Washington, School of Art Professors Doug Jeck, Jamie Walker, and Akio Takamori. Clay? V explores the versatility of clay as a medium of artistic expression. Showcasing a range of sizes, scales, subject matter, and techniques, the artwork of this exhibition is both a testament to the enduring legacy of clay and future of the field.
Deadline: January 17, 2014 / Dates: March 21 - May 17, 2014 Entry fee: USD 25
4. WESTERWALD PRIZE 2014 - EUROPEAN CERAMICS, GERMANY Competition open only to European citizens.
The Westerwald Prize was first awarded in 1973 to present outstanding ceramic art and craft work in the framework of a competition and exhibition at the Keramikmuseum Westerwald (KMW). This remains a priority of the administration of the Westerwald region for the 13th Westerwald Prize in 2014. A further aim is to promote the dialogue between ceramics and art in the region and to support cultural exchange within Europe.
Deadline: January 19, 2014 / Dates: September 26, 2014 - February 1, 2015 Total prizes: EUR 24.000 / No entry fee Entry categories: Saltglaze (stoneware and porcelain), Design (serially produced ware), Vessel / Form / Decor, Sculpture / Installation, Talent Award (below 35 years old)
5. INTERNATIONAL BIENNIAL OF VALLAURIS, FRANCE Competition open only to European Union citizens.
Since 1966 the Town of Vallauris Golfe-Juan has organised a biennial with the aim of promoting and rewarding artistic creation in the field of ceramics. For this edition, it has been decided to use the expression ‘Contemporary Creation and Ceramic’ to stress its intention of making ceramic creation part of the world of contemporary art. The competition is intended to encourage and publicise European talents using the reputation of Vallauris, the town of ceramics, as a springboard facilitating their recognition around the world.
Yô Akiyama exhibition / ARTCOURT Gallery, Osaka, Japan
Yô Akiyama exhibition / ARTCOURT Gallery, Osaka, Japan December 3, 2013 - January 25, 2014
Yo Akiyama established his signature style of sculptural ceramic creation while still in school. His creative mind lies beneath the awareness by facing the nature and energy of clay, expressed through large scale works. We are excited to introduce Akiyama’s new works in this exhibition showcasing the roots, that is the artery of Akiyama’s powerful creation as well as Akiyama’s now as his next step in his career.
Akiyama’s early works were mysterious objects created through black pottery. His student works done in black pottery show influences from primitivism that he was interested in, modern sculptors such as Brâncuşi and Arp, and his professor Kazuo Yagi, but yet to discover his own expression or concept through clay. Those early pieces are gone; however, Akiyama recalls that he can see the presence of Akiyama that has lead to himself now. This discovery lead him to the new set of works, in which the artist re-creates his early black pottery works with his current skillsets and by revisiting his own 1970s. Akiyama titled this new challenge of regenerating or redeveloping his roots “Incubation” (or Houran no Katachi in Japanese) and introduces about 10 new pieces in this exhibition.
Akiyama developed several series of works that express the ever-changing shape of earth with unique creative challenges such as nature vs. human, birth vs. decay, internal vs. external by fusing the phenomenon of soil and thoughts on creation. The series titled “Metavoid,” which began in 2003, puts focus on an enclosed space where objects intervene and how we perceive such space. Akiyama would make a large bowl on a potter’s wheel, then reverse its inside and outside. This act brings a change in spatial relation of the bowl and the space it holds within (the void). The artist would then place this bowl in an even larger vessel – an exhibition space, the other void. Akiyama uses clay as a vehicle to explore physical shapes to his pursuit ranging from multi-layered texture in motion to human perception of space. We are introducing 5 new large scale pieces ranging from 100 cm to 180 cm from the series “Metavoid.”
Akiyama began making a series of slabs with prints of spider webs as his side work around 1993 where the artist began to depart from his signature black pottery works. The series captured the natural beauty of spider webs Akiyama found almost every morning around his home from early summer to fall. About 50 creations from this series will gather in our gallery for public viewing for the first time. They can be seen as an organic map that connects the roots and current of Akiyama’s creation.
Uku Rere: Nga Kaihanga Uku and beyond / Whangarei Art Museum, New Zeeland
Uku Rere: Nga Kaihanga Uku and beyond / Whangarei Art Museum, New Zeeland November 11, 2013 - February 16, 2014
Whangarei Art Museum is the first venue to host this ground-breaking touring exhibition after a highly successful show at Pataka Art+Museum in partnership with Toi Maori. Uku Rere features contemporary ceramics by the five principal members of Nga Kaihanga Uku: Baye Riddell, Manos Nathan, Colleen Urlich, Wi Taepa and Paerau Corneal. Both Colleen Urlich and Manos Nathan are from the Te Tai Tokerau region and this important exhibition is the first major survey of contemporary Maori ceramics and showcases the strength of Maori ceramic art in New Zealand’s contemporary art scene. The exhibition is displayed in the Younghusband Gallery and accompanied by an extensive catalogue available at the art museum.
The exhibition also features Manos Nathan’s unique sculptural work Kaitiaki, which stands to welcome visitors at the Whangarei Art Museum’s entrance. This is his largest work to date and was commissioned in 2002 by the Whangarei Art Museum with assistance from Te Waka Toi – Creative NZ Arts Council. The artist chose the concept of ‘kaitiakitanga’ as the theme of the art work, portraying both welcome and guardianship.
The exhibition coincides with Kokiri Putahi – the 7th International Gathering of Indigenous Artists, organised by Te Atinga the Contemporary Visual Arts committee of Toi Maori Aotearoa in which both Colleen Urlich and Manos Nathan are members of. Since the first gathering in 1995 the committee has worked to develop Maori contemporary art practice for both emerging and established artists working in a range of media, and next year the gathering will also coincide with the January 2014 Ngapuhi Festival in Kaikohe.
The concurrent exhibition held in the Mair Gallery, Salon to Marae – first glimmerings of a Maori Modernism will feature works from the 1950s-1970s by artists Ralph Hotere, Clive Arlidge and Selwyn Wilson. A selection of Wilson’s early ceramics from the family’s private collection adds a unique dimension to the story of Maori ceramic artists. Selected works from Ross T Smith’s two photographic series Hemi Tuwharerangi Paraha (1998) and Stillness Falls Gradually (2000) will also be on display, adding to the significant development of Maori contemporary art practice.
Uke Rere: Nga Kaihanga Uku illuminates the strength of the contemporary Maori ceramic movement in New Zealand. From Taepa’s chunky, rugged pots full of personality to the refined elegance of Nathan’s sculptural pots, the exhibition showcases the remarkable vitality and diversity of the individual practices of the five influential artists. Over the last twenty-five years these artists have redefined and expanded ceramic art - imbuing it with indigenous concepts and a deep commitment to Maori culture.
Mud and Water exhibition / Rokeby Gallery, London December 16, 2013 - March 7, 2014
ROKEBY‘s inaugural exhibition in its new gallery space looks to the history of British studio ceramics and the Modernist rhetoric used by figures associated with the movement. Including work by a selection of British Studio Potters alongside contemporary artists working across media, the exhibition investigates a current interest in process, materiality and truthfulness to medium.
Exhibited artists: Jack Brindley, Clive Bowen, Jane Bustin, Michael Cardew, Edwin Beer Fishley, The Granchester Pottery, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Bernard Leach, Janet Leach, Kate Newby, Chris Prindl, Gideon Rubin, Nicola Tassie, Jesse Wine, Mizuyo Yamashita
Despite a recent tendency to see ceramics and the modern British art movement as separate disciplines the two are closely interwoven. The approaches of artists working in clay such as Bernard Leach, considered the father of the British studio pottery, and Michael Cardew (1) mirrored the Modernist ideas gaining currency in Britain in the early 1920’s in both painting and sculpture. Post war art in Britain drew upon - amongst other things - the tradition of the handmade. This is especially true in St Ives where Bernard Leach chose to set up his first pottery. Leach united the classical pottery traditions of Asia (2) including their taste for imperfections with those of English slipware potters to define the modernist vernacular revival.
The exhibition brings together a group of cross-generational artists all of whom are experimental in their approach. When Leach and Cardew looked to the history of slipware in Britain they were never nostalgic (3). Rather they combined pre-industrial techniques with a Modernist spirit; combining raw materials with the performative act of making and inherited forms with a simpler more direct language.
No straightforward link is suggested in bringing the artists together in this exhibition, but an inheritance of concerns and a shared interest in the handling of material and unpredictable processes can be perceived, regardless of their chosen medium. It is the principles and values of heterogeneity, destabilization and irrationality that interest them all, a questioning of the distinctions between art and craft and a concern for the physical - and especially the human body - in the making and viewing the work.
(1) Cardew was a pupil of Leach’s in St Ives from 1923-26. (2) Leach was born in Hong Kong but spent his first years in Japan. He attended the Slade, London and in 1909 arrived in Japan for a second time. (3) The earliest work in the exhibition is an earthenware slipware mug by Edwin Beer Fishley from Michael Cardew’s private collection. Cardew had a particular affinity for Edwin Beer Fishley and counted the rural potter as one of his most important influences.
With thanks to Timothy Taylor Gallery and David Bowie for loaning work to the exhibition and Simon Jones for providing exhibition furniture.
RoHYPERCLAY: Contemporary Ceramics investigates the field of ceramics, focusing on new attitudes, techniques and technologies that are being embraced by artists in the 21st century. Walter Auer, Roderick Bamford, Stephen Bird, Jacqueline Clayton, Andrea Hylands, Addison Marshall, Pip McManus and Paul Wood all ignite the imagination with the potential of clay through their work. As the prefix ‘hyper’ suggests, HYPERCLAY presents clay-based work where the medium has been amplified, extended and intensified to produce work that will delight, provoke and surprise. New technologies, the process of making, and the re-purposing of materials to create new forms are the delicate threads that bind the works in HYPERCLAY together.
A collection of 35 short videos have been produced to accompany the work in HYPERCLAY. These include interviews with the artists, curators, academics, collectors, gallerists and students. All videos are available to view through iPads in the exhibition space, offering the viewer different perspectives on the works as well as deeper, richer connections to the artists.
Roderick Bamford explores the process of additive fabrication, creating a series of ceramic sculptures using a modified rapid prototyping printer. Bamford sourced the parts for his 3D printer online, gradually building a machine that could print with clay. The result is a device that affords Bamford an expanded making process that incorporates both analogue and digital techniques.
Stephen Bird, better known for his satirical figurative ceramics, presents two works that also play at the intersection of the digital and the handmade. Wanting to reveal the sequence of events that takes place when transforming raw clay into a finished sculpture, Bird spent several intensive weeks in his studio creating the stop-frame clay animation What are you laughing at?. The work is a re-telling of the Creation Story through the lens of the post-industrial world. It also documents Bird’s making process, capturing it as performance. Similarly, I Just Don’t Believe in Ceramics elevates ceramic surface decoration from static and permanent to evolving virtual design.
New Warriors by Andrea Hylands captures the performance of material itself. Her fragile forms are the product of bone china slip poured into a mould and then removed at varying durations. This process is a balance between the spontaneity of movement and material, and the precision of the artists’ hand.
Ceramicist Walter Auer is interested in the transformation and preservation of objects through a petrifaction process that he has been experimenting with for nearly 10 years. Auer soaks discarded soft toys in watered-down clay (terra sigillata) for weeks – even months - before submitting them to a grueling firing process.
Similarly, Pip McManus is interested in transformation. Combining clay, video, sand and water, McManus has created a video work entitled Watershed 2 that engages with ideas of permanence and organic forms. In Watershed, the ancient medium of clay is effortlessly in conversation with the contemporary medium of video.
Paul Wood scours op shops, thrift stores and neighbourhood gardening centres for pre-loved ceramic objects that he then re-fires, melts and slumps to create dramatic new sculptures. For Guardians of a Goddess Wood has crafted an ode to the ornamental water features that proudly sat in the neighborhood gardens of his childhood.
"In my work, I am driven by textures, materials and non-traditional working methods.
The main subject I deal with is the thin line between imitation and interpretation - My work portraits the contrast between an urban lifestyle and a remote admiration of nature. When I work, I use the most naive and (sometimes) barbaric techniques while facing industrial materials. I try to capture a longing for authentic nature and at the same time to celebrate its progress and many benefits, and perhaps combine both emotions into one.
If I had to sum my main ambition in my work I would say that I seek authenticity that comes from a personal aesthetic perception. The fine definitions of art, craft and design seem to me unnecessary in relation to my work. While working on a piece, it is not so much a ‘narrative’ that I’m after, but rather, visibility and the abstract feelings that may be summoned by viewing the form.
As an artist I would like to think that I am a highly individual maker searching for an aesthetic vision that would be completely my own.” Michal Fargo
What made you choose ceramics as a way of expressing yourself?
Clay is as good as any other medium, it is a material with lots of possibilities but it doesn’t influence my personal perception of art. Sometimes because of its limitations in format, in height, due to the measures of my kiln I have to find other solutions than I used before, but that are technical issues. I have also used other materials like papier maché before but the outcome of my figurines would be the same.
What is for you the importance of figurative representation?
It’s the essence of my work. It wouldn’t be possible for me to make work if my thoughts and feelings are not involved. All of them have a meaning and reflect my personal view on society. It’s not necessary for the public to understand it, you can enjoy them without knowing the background, but I need to be able to make them. Some of my works have a spiritual dimension. Love, understanding and insight, the meaning of existence - of evil, the happiness of life and the tragedy of death affect us, but are by themselves invisible. You can see it as a spiritual quest in which I will not flee, but indeed want to decompose and play with. The human figure in this case is the most suitable.
Art no longer has to be “beautiful”, since the beauty of an object is derived not only from its appearance, but also from it’s concept and use. Tell us more about the aesthetic categories embodied by your work, and your motivation in choosing them.
The followers of modernism only repeat a trick, a cheap shock effect - desecrating the beauty. It has been repeated so many times and now it belongs to the popular circuit. An authentic artist is always looking for new styles, new forms to express himself and will not be guided by expectations. The emptiness of existence can contrast strongly with its beauty and vice versa. Beauty, ugliness, two sides of the same coin. It’s the perception of it that counts; something very beautiful can be experienced as ugly when you discover the essence, the inner side of it. Art exists in many layers, for those who want to see it. My work can be considered as superficially aesthetic, but the deeper meaning is of a different order. There isn’t much beauty in the emptiness of an existence as in the Sisyphus series. “L’existence précède l’essence”. Existence precedes essence. (Jean Paul Sartre)
The Human Hybrids series emphasizes a new twist of an old idea. Humans with animal characteristics have been a constant presence in many cultures since thousands of years ago. Compared to their traditional representation, what do you want to express with your works?
Indeed, one of the oldest known is an ivory sculpture, the Lion man of the Hohlenstein Stadel, Germany, a human-shaped figurine with a lion’s head, determined to be about 32,000 years old. Anthropomorphism is assigning human (behavioral) characteristics to animals. After reading an article about genetic engineering, I started on human hybrids. You can make goats, produce cobwebs or grow a human ear on the back of a mouse, etc. These techniques don’t stay within the walls of a laboratory. Since a number of years, you can find genetically manipulated fish in the aquarium trade. A familiar example is the glowfish: a gene of coral polyps was implanted in a zebrafish so that the fish has become luminous. Wherein ancient civilizations, men thought that they could get the spirit of the animal at their sides in the hunt by performing rituals, men now literally attempt to change certain qualities or appearances of people through genetic modification. Currently one is allowed to blend DNA of humans and animals and keep this hybrid alive up to 14 days, and this with the purpose to investigate the study of human bred organs for organ transplantation. There are both positive and negative elements to this evolution, but you can wonder who will eventually be the freak in the future: modified or unmodified humans. I want to start a dialogue about it with the Human Hybrids.
The objects you create realistically mimic the texture and look of wood stumps, roots and branches. What is your connection with this natural element, and why did you choose to investigate it in ceramics?
Human emergence is the overarching theme of my sculptural work; as metaphors for that I use the aging tree as well as the natural land features of the earth. My life connection with trees and land extends from childhood when I remember exploring the woods and mountains of Colorado with my older brother and friends. Today I continue my fascination and exploration with the woods and mountains here in Southern California, where I live a short walk from the local foot trails of the San Gabriel Mountains. Ceramics is the most appropriate medium for me because clay seems to know what I want and interacts with me in a very agreeable way. The characteristics and behavior of clay seems to have a common goal with me as if it wants to behave in a way that yields a pleasing result. Clay naturally takes on the characteristics of wood and earth.
David D. Gilbaugh: Racemosa, 2011, sculpted teapot, 4”(W) x 11”(H) x 8”(D), hand-built slab, B-mix stoneware paper clay with grog, cone 10 reduction, black stain brushed in crevices, water washed iron and rutile stain. Permanent collection of the American Museum of Ceramic Arts. > View more works of David Gilbaugh
In order to make your work, you use a special process called the Tectonic Method. Tell us more about this technique. How did you develop it and what are its characteristics?
The Tectonic Method is a sculptural technique that utilizes the same tectonic forces that shape and texture the surface of the earth’s crust. These forces include stretching, compressing, and twisting. I begin with an idea of the sculptural object I am going to make and the pieces that will make it up. I then cut a piece of clay from the block that is roughly in the shape of what I want. I then use specialized wire hand tools to pre-texture what will be the visible surface. Next, I “naturalize” the pre-textured clay by tossing, slamming, or dropping the clay against the table top in a way that distorts the tooling of the pre-textured surface. The textured surface is not touched by the hand or tools from then on. The result is a dramatically textured form that is very natural looking. I call this a “tectonic form.” I then use specialized techniques to join together numerous tectonic forms to create a “Tectonic Sculpture” like “The Imaginist” or “The Bearded Ghoul.”
Early in my ceramic studies I began developing The Tectonic Method when I was laying them out on the table top to stretch them out. I could see that stretching clay gave it beautiful patterns of cracks and fissures. I soon discovered that cutting the surface of the clay before stretching it resulted in natural patterns that are easy to reproduce and incorporate into sculptures. The method developed very quickly from there. Since those early experiences stretching clay I have found numerous applications by other ceramists who used stretching as a texturing technique and even a throwing tool designed to apply patterns to vessels thrown on the wheel called the “Steve’s Tool.” A bit of research reveals that stretching clay to achieve decorative textures in clay is a very old tradition. What distinguishes the Tectonic Method from other stretching methods is that it includes specialized techniques for pre-texturing the clay, numerous tossing methods for naturalizing textures, and construction methods for building large clay sculptures that can be prone to slumping to the side during firing. The Tectonic Method is a start-to-finish method of forming and constructing both small and large clay “Tectonic Sculptures.”
Many of your objects are made from paperclay. What are the paperclay’s properties and why did you choose to work with it?
Paperclay is extremely versatile clay that works well with my purposes, especially the Tectonic Method. It remains workable even when it is dry. At bone dry it can be drilled, sawed, and even rewetted. Many ceramists try paperclay and find it difficult to use so they go back to what they were doing. This is unfortunate, and I believe it is because it is the change itself that is the real challenge, not the clay. Paperclay is not difficult to work with at all; it is only different and takes getting used to. Before I began throwing with porcelain I was told it was much more difficult than stoneware to throw. However, it is not more difficult, it is only different in its properties, so the artists must be able to adapt their skills and learn new ones to work with it successfully. I also find paperclay is more economical because it can be very easily reconstituted and go from dry to plastic overnight. If a piece is broken it can be reattached even if it is dry - instead of going in the trash, and the list goes on. However, the primary reason I use it is because of the dramatic textures it produces when it is “pre-textured” and stretched.
COMMON GROUND: Craftsmanship in Ceramics, Jewellery, Basketry and Wood / Oxford Ceramics Gallery, Oxford, UK
Craftsmanship in Ceramics, Jewellery, Basketry and Wood / Oxford Ceramics Gallery, Oxford, UK December 1, 2013 - January 12, 2014
Oxford Ceramics is staging its first exhibition of contemporary applied art in December, with ceramics, wood, basketry and jewellery by some of the UK’s most distinguished artists. The exhibition celebrates the richness and diversity of their work, as well as a shared quality of fine craftsmanship. It will be on show at Oxford Ceramics Gallery until January 12, 2014.
Ceramics are central to the exhibition, with exciting new work by Carina Ciscato and Tanya Gomez. Carina Ciscato is one of the most individual voices in the world of contemporary ceramics. Her architectural vessel forms are constructed from different thrown components, each with its own rhythm and pattern of throwing rings. Her approach is largely intuitive, and her exciting, fluid forms evolve in the making.
Bold saturated colour is a trademark of Tanya Gomez’s cylindrical, flat-topped pots. Recently, however, she has introduced an altogether more restrained palette of celadon, white and coal black. The smooth openings of her coloured pieces have been replaced by a sharp, torn gash, adding an immediacy and edge to her work.
Wood as an art form has been enjoying something of a renaissance in recent years, and exhibitor Jim Partridge - renowned internationally for his serene, beautifully crafted work - is one of its most compelling exponents. His spherical bowls and open vessels are carved from oak, then scorched and polished to a rich, deep black or washed in matt white. The striking studio furniture made by Partridge and Liz Walmsley is also represented in the show - minimal yet monumental, with a quiet, strong presence.
Irish wood turner Liam Flynn makes smooth, rounded vessels in which the character and grain of the wood is integral to the design of the piece. He works mainly in Irish oak, often ebonised, with fine detailing: his bowls may be footed, fluted or double rimmed, with a gently undulating profile.
Wendy Ramshaw CBE is acknowledged as one of the greatest jewellery designers of our time, whose work is represented in some 70 public collections worldwide. She is best known for her signature ring sets, which she displays on elegant, tapered stands. These are, in her own words, “both a sculptural object and a collection of rings”, which can be worn singly or in different combinations to suit the wearer.
Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago (UIMA) presents the exhibition Ceramics / Glass. This exhibit focuses on the medium of ceramic or glass in contemporary art – mediums that require high temperatures, special tools, kilns and specialized studios. UIMA has selected some distinctive personal styles from numerous glass / ceramics studios in Chicago and from artists working in national and international cities.
Brent Rogers, Alex Trommler and Aaron Wolf-Boze are from Chicago, showcasing art glass that was created in Ignite Glass Studios. Ignite Glass Studios (founded 2012) is already building reputation as a ‘hot’ art glass studio in the U.S.. Eric Bladholm is from Chicago Glassworks, a state of the art glass blowing facility and artist’s studio, custom built into a former iron foundry. He will present glass works combined with various metals. Nikki Renee Anderson will present multiple piece ceramic installation and Robert Pulley will exhibit one of his larger ceramic garden sculptures. Both artists are from Chicago Sculpture International and focus on the sculptural aspect of working with ceramics. Michael Janis, an ex-Chicago artist (now Co-Director of the Washington Glass School in Washington, DC) will present fused glass with glass powder imagery. Xavier Monsalvatje lives in Spain and works in traditional ceramic techniques which reflect industrial aesthetic designs reminiscent of the works of Mexican Muralists. Yurij Musatov and Anna Lypko, both from Ukraine, are two contemporary artists working in ceramics.
Esencia 2013 by Sanserif Creatius: Japanese and Valencian Craftsmanship / Valencia, Spain
Esencia 2013 by Sanserif Creatius: Japanese and Valencian Craftsmanship / Valencia, Spain November 28, 2013 - February 28, 2014
The second edition of the Esencia project is inspired by the reflection of Japanese craftsmanship in the Valencian one and coordinated by Sanserif’s team of designers who worked together with 20 artisans from Alicante, Castellon and Valencia. The aim of this exhibition is to update the image of craftsmanship through the development of a heterogeneous universe of objects that transmit contemporary messages and meet the needs of contemporary society, by the use of traditional techniques and processes.
This investigation project, which annually turns into a travelling exhibition and was awarded in the last edition of the National Crafts Awards (Spain), has been chosen to be part of the official cultural acts to celebrate the Dual Year Spain-Japan, coinciding with the 400th anniversary of the mission of the Keicho Embassy in Europe.
Esencia 2013, which will stay in Valencia until the 28th February 2014, follows the same motto than the first edition, that is, to join the forces of craftsmanship and design in order to develop a collection of pieces where we find a hybridization of Japanese and Valencian tradition. The main objective is to make new products that bring additional values to the consumer, include new languages and fit in with new technologies, while having commercial viability.
The exhibition will show from jewellery to kitchenware, fashion accessories and decoration, all paying homage to the creativity of the craftsmanship of both cultures, in collaboration with different national organizations, like the Spanish Foundation for the Innovation in Crafts (Fundesarte), the Valencian Regional Government –through the Directorate-General of Trade and Consumption- the Gild of Tailors and Couturiers, the Gild of Master Confectioners of Valencia, and artisans of recognised standing like Juan Carlos Iñesta, Sara Sorribes, Marifé Navarro or José Marín, among others.
Actually, a selection of products from the exhibition will be included in the exclusive collections of Sibarita Shop, the first shop of the Arts and Crafts Centre of the Valencian Community. A place to buy pieces such us the olive oil clock Moments by Sara Sorribes and Sanserif Creatius, that had a honourable mention in the 2013 Tortona Design Week; the sheet music peg Score-clip by Sanserif Creatius, present at the Mussikmese 2013 in Frankfurt, among others.
Susanne Silvertant / Terra Delft Gallery, Delft, the Netherlands
Susanne Silvertant / Terra Delft Gallery, Delft, the Netherlands November 30 - December 31, 2013
Connection is one of the most important themes of Susanne Silvertant’s work. Art is a language for her. With her art she tries to communicate and show who she is. This vision is enhanced by scratching signs in some of her pieces. Signs refer to language that cannot be understood instantly. This is the most intense way of expressing herself.
Inspiration she gets in the beauty of rugged nature, a garden, a landscape or the structure, atmosphere and colour of a city. During her travels in Spain and Portugal, Susanne was inspired by in the architecture of ancient civilizations, translating it into her own free way into contemporary and personal designs. In her pieces, Susanne tries to reproduce this layeredness and erosion caused by the passage of time.
Susanne has restricted herself to the raku technique. Since then, this has determined the character of her work to a great extent. Besides her characteristic box shapes, she also makes objects constructed from separate parts. If an object consists of several parts, these must all come out of the kiln intact. If one part breaks, the entire object must be made all over again. Risk, unpredictability and chance are very close in Susanne’s work.
From 2007 onwards she has added sparkling elements of self-cast glass. The clay seems to form itself around the glass. Weathered glass, found along the coastline, served as the inspiration for this development. By melting the glass in fine sand, Susanne succeeds in approximating this weathered look very closely.
The combination of ceramics with copper foil or wire cast in glass, resulting in a visual continuity of the separate elements, enhances the layeredness of her pieces. She adds details from nature to her pieces, for instance a twig, a bud or a beautifully weathered tree trunk, imprinting it into porcelain or glass and incorporating it in her pieces. This way she emphasizes the organic nature of her work.
Artists are using traditional techniques to create not craft, but objects of self-expression that are very much a type of sculpture that can change space itself. Such artists are pushing the boundaries of their respective mediums to new heights, using new techniques and materials that have not been used before.
Yet when one takes a step back and views today’s world of contemporary art, it is widely seen that concepts are allowed to run free, whilst the importance of technique and actual artistry are left behind and abandoned. Throughout art history, one can consistently observe an element of craftsmanship in fine art, from the statues of Greece to the frescoes of Italy, from the ink paintings of China to the folding painted screens of Japan. Even in expressionist and abstract painting, the works of Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Pollock, Rothko, Bacon and Freud were instilled with an element of technique as a priori. Craftsmanship was a given, but was not the sole emphasis. Technique was simply needed to realise the form of self-expression that they envisioned in their mind’s eye. Technique was not a starting point, but was a necessary means to an end. Likewise, I find that the artists affiliated with Yufuku are not technique-oriented artists, even though many of them are renowned for their technical prowess. Rather, for artists such as Shigekazu Nagae and Ken Mihara, the technique is simply a requirement needed for them to create the clay sculptures that they wish to manifest. Technique, again, is a given, and is only a means to an end.
If taken in this light, I find that the term craft or the Romanized Japanese word Kogei (synonymous with craft) is gravely inadequate in fully expressing what these contemporary Japanese artists are actually creating. Their works are not craft works, and they are not craft artists. Instead, they are emancipating their art from the fetters of language and from the limitations imposed by the element of categorisation. Such is the progressive moment in today’s Japan. I call them the Keisho-Ha (the School of Form), and can be also expressed as a New Materialism, wherein technique and material are chosen specifically to create sculptural works imbued with self-expression. This is, in a sense, a Return to Innocence, or a revival of artistry within art.
Today’s Japan is a world where craft does indeed exist vibrantly, and craft is very much alive and well in the likes of the Traditional Art Crafts Exhibition and the Living National Treasure System, along with potters and makers of mass-produced vessels for everyday life. But one cannot continue to categorise the makers of everyday utilitarian tea cups and bowls with the same terminology and language as artists wielding the very same techniques to create works that are worlds apart from these everyday objects. A different expressive process is taking place, and the Japanese are at a loss for properly contemplating and understanding this new movement. To lazily lump everything together as craft or kogei was simply out of convenience, an excuse for the Japanese to stop thinking about the subject that was so obviously unique to their culture, and is so vastly different from traditional Western connotations and demarcations of art and craft.
"The limits of our language are the limits of our world." Yet if such is true, then why not expand the boundaries of our language and properly express what is happening in our world today? Such is the importance of language and ontology.
The artists assembled in this exhibition are a representation of this new movement in today’s Japan, a movement that Yufuku finds its lifework and reason for existence. This is art. And they are the Keisho-ha. Such is a true return to innocence, an emancipation of art for the sake of art. Wahei Aoyama, Owner and Director of Yufuku Gallery
Kerry Jameson’s new sculptures have an emotional charge that is presented through a mix of narrative set pieces, tableaux and individual figures. Subjects include historical events and the exploits of folkloric and storybook characters. She derives inspiration from an equally eclectic range of sources, which include portrait paintings, the figures of British myth such as the Burryman and Wicker Man, the work of animator Ray Harryhausen, a fascination with the polychrome religious sculptures of 17th century Spain and the toy collections of the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood. She explains: ‘A work starts with a thought or feeling, an undigested experience that needs to be worked through.’
She says: ‘I want to capture life in my work, a sense of movement, the feeling of something living… a constant state of transition.’ This ambition is experienced inthe faintly disquieting feeling that one of her figures might just spring into action. It is also apparent in the attention she gives to keeping the material qualities of a piece ‘alive’. Dissatisfied with the seeming permanence of fired clay, she adds layers and detail through the use of other materials to create nuanced effects. In addition to the ceramic base, components of a figure can be hessian, canvas, wool, fur, wood, paint, seeds, stones and sometimes hyper-real glass eyes.
Each of the works is either an imaginative exploration of a possibility or reflects on some human idiosyncrasy. In this world part-animal/part-human characters abound. Scenes from the past are also played out, as in her battle sequence based on Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg - representing a famous military blunder of the American Civil War - thereby reflecting on how misplaced human confidence can override logic and reason. With reference to both her subject matter and approach, Jameson admits to an interest in ‘things that aren’t quite right’ and to ‘things that happen on the boundaries’, rather than on firm, fully rational ground. The predominant aesthetic is that of the uncanny – where objects or ideas are recognised as familiar and at the same time experienced as deeply strange. Words by Tessa Peters
Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday, 11:00 - 18:00 and Saturday, 11:00 - 16:00. The nearest tube stations are Barbican, Farringdon or Old Street.
Ken Mihara’s ceramics are a visual ode to his native land, Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, known as the capital of the gods; a land steeped in ancient Japanese myths and legends. The vessels are a culmination of elegant shapes, soft delicate curves, and ancient forms inspired by the surrounding land. Mihara’s striking palette of blues and dark greys intersperses with bursts of beige, gold and orange hues.
Using clay rich in iron from his native Shimane Prefecture, Mihara constructs each work through an organic creative process. Each piece is hand formed using a coil and oinch technique to create a strong linear quality. Mihara states: “I consider it my job to help the clay express its beauty”, and likewise, “clay leads, and my hands follow. I do not know what shape my work is going to end up even while I am making it.” (Ken Mihara in conversation with Nishi Keiko, An interview with artist Mihara Ken, e-yakimono.net, August 2002) His most recent series titled Kei (Mindscape) generate a sense of movement and vitality through gentle folding and bending. The vessels feature double-walled interiors that swirl and spiral similar to small galaxies. The outer walls subtly embrace a complex interior; whilst at the same time the compositional tension allows the form to unravel.
Mihara’s most revered series, Kigen (Genesis), are primordial in formation. The structures are symmetrical and balanced, which create a unique combination of subtlety and solidity. The rough, unrefined and grainy surface texture adds to the ancient ambiance. Mihara repeatedly fires the vessels at high temperatures to slowly unlock subtle and soft colours ranging from deep grey to peach to misty whites and purples. Mihara states: “The high degree of chance and serendipity in any firing is far beyond my control.” (Ken Mihara, “Mihara Ken – The power of chance”, Ceramics Art and Perception, issue 73, 2008, p84)
Ken Mihara was born in 1958 in Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, Japan. After completing his studies in 1982 with Funaki Kenji, Mihara participated in numerous exhibitions and prizes. In 2005, he received a grant from Tomo Museum to travel for 6 months throughout Italy, from Milan, then south to Florence, Rome and Sicily. Mihara has been the recipient of many prizes and awards, including the prestigious Japan Ceramic Society Award in 2008; Paramita Ceramics Competition, Paramita Museum, Japan in 2006; The Energia Art Award in 2002 and the Shizuoka Prefecture’s Cultural Encouragement Award in 2009. Mihara has exhibited internationally with SOFA New York, New York (2008), Galerie Besson, London (2010), and most recently with Joan B Mirviss Gallery, New York (2011). His works are held in public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles and The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Since 1996, he has been represented by Yufuku Gallery, Tokyo, Japan.
The Liverpool Street Gallery concomitently hosts the solo exhibition of artist Kevin Lincoln.