Ryan Blackwell was born and raised in Indiana — receiving a BA in Studio Art from DePauw University in 2009. Expecting to graduate from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in the spring of 2013 with an MFA, Ryan intends to move to Brooklyn and continue his journey as an emerging artist.
“My practice is rooted in material investigation. I find my work in a consistent state of flux. Processes change and evolve, imagery comes and goes. This minute I’m steeped in symbolism, say, through the repetition of thousands of dustpans, while the other I’m firmly rooted in geometric abstraction.
My fluid framework reflects my experience of American culture—a place where I navigate free choice and inherent socio-political and economic constraints. Through symbols and materials of domesticity my works find some continuity. It is my intention to create works that, in relation to each other, seem as dichotomous as they are connected. Although materials and processes may seem disparate, they find connection through aesthetics and systematic repetition. It is through a controlled failure of my materials and systems that I find consistency. But of course, inconsistency is always present.” Ryan Blackwell
As a contemporary artist with extensive knowledge in the field of ceramics, can you share with us a significant experience for your career?
There is no doubt that growing up in a family of artists had a major influence on my life and artistic career. The chance to develop myself in an artistic environment, to be in contact with different genres of art, cultivated my taste for diversity. As a defining experience, I can say that the time spent in the ceramics studio during high school was the most interesting for me. In that period, the studio was an experimentation lab and I was encouraged by my teacher, Judita Crăciun, to discover new things, and so I gathered knowledge that further helped me build my artistic identity. A similar stage was during doctoral studies when I had the opportunity to reshape and enrich my knowledge and vision regarding ceramic art.
What inspires you and how do you start a new project?
New projects usually occur after reflecting on certain subjects, items or concepts that caught my attention and which I want to integrate into the work. Other ceramic projects come as a response to a challenging and interesting thematic for a special event or exhibition. What I particularly like is to closely observe plants, animals and insects, and to study their surfaces with a special attention to the countless details, drawings, textures or structures. The miniature elements extracted from the vegetal and animal world are translated into my work through a personal alphabet of shapes. Besides this, in my work I often use details and anatomical fragments as inspiration. In some works, these fragments lose their original identity and transform into volumetric expressions and complex reliefs.
There is a visible preoccupation for texture in your work; how do you make it and how important is texture and surface for the message you want to send?
The decorative elements are completing the volumes and have an equal importance for the ensemble, the details becoming in this context a work by its own. The texture makes the work more pretentious and transforms it into an object that requires more time and close inspection in order to be discovered. The structures are completing the volumes with nature inspired shapes, vegetal and zoomorphic elements. These graphic traces, reliefs or applied elements on the works’ surface are growing together with the shape. Some of the reliefs are taking form in the process of constructing the work by pressing the material on textured surfaces, and other work surfaces are transferred by imprinting, cutting and etching, or by applying mixed glazes to the surface. It is a big pleasure for me to collect in my kit of tools items that can help me later on with my work. This kit, made over the years, consists of lots of items that are indeed a small treasure - a chest with instruments out of the ordinary and tools made by me for the purpose to obtain new textures and more complex patterns.
In 2010 you held a conference in Paris on the topic of Romanian contemporary ceramics. In this context, what can you say about the context of Romanian ceramics? Do ceramist artists have opportunities in Romania?
The presentation of Romanian contemporary ceramics was part of a larger project together with a Romanian contemporary ceramics exhibition with Cristina Popescu Russu as curator. The exhibition, held at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Paris, was one of the most important events for the Romanian contemporary ceramics in the recent years, being included in the program of the 44th General Assembly of the International Academy of Ceramics (International Academy of Ceramics - ICA). Fourteen artists attended the exhibition but 46 Romanian ceramists were promoted through the materials presented throughout the ICA events. Following this exhibition, new contacts were established between artists.
The visibility of Romanian contemporary ceramics, both nationally and internationally, plays an important role in creating a professional, competitive and creative-stimulating environment which can generate exchanges between renowned and emerging artists, and arise new opportunities for collaborations. Following the records of contemporary ceramists from different generations, with a very original vision in this field, we can notice big differences in the thematic approach, style and forming of ceramic material. The various concerns of the artists for materiality, color, scale or accuracy, and the simplicity of shape are building the identity of Romanian ceramic art. An overview of Romanian contemporary ceramics makes us notice the multimedialism, the interdisciplinary dimension of it, and the new forms and ways of artistic expression generated by new materials, techniques and technologies.
1. “Natural Great Piece” is an intricate, intimate, communal performance in the medium of clay. Like a dance or a concert, it is more overtly bound to time than most sculptural artwork, and it ends dissolved into the past.
2. Cybele Rowe and Lauren Ari make a large and detailed clay sculpture. It emerges from an improvisational score fed by their combined 60 years of art making experience. Passersby are invited to create self-portraits in clay to be incorporated into the artwork. Its surfaces become covered with these figures, which are painted with underglaze.
At a certain point, the construction is complete. Its size is such that it can easily conceal a large adult from view. The words of Tibetan lama Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche are carved into the unfired clay: Rest in natural great peace this exhausted mind, Beaten helpless by karma and neurotic thoughts Like the relentless fury of the pounding waves In the infinite ocean of samsara. Rest in natural great peace.
A brief performance marks the culmination of the process. Then the Natural Great Piece is dismantled.
3. Rowe and Ari first manifested “Natural Great Piece” at the 2nd Ceramics Annual of America in San Francisco, October 5-9, 2011. They were joined by singer Bridget O’Keeffe and dancer Juliet Lin. In addition, roughly 250 fellow artists, ceramics aficionados, art students, and visitors contributed small figurative moments to the sculpture.
Circumnavigating its concave exterior or squatting in its embrace, you could see a red dragon, a female figure growing from yellow coral, a gnome pouring a jug of water over a balcony, a bloody ghoul, a colony of barnacles, a waiter bringing a head on a tray, a cluster of pink faces on a blue man’s torso, and countless more visual poems and paragraphs.
The chaotic and fascinating fresco captured the essence of the eternal cycle of birth, differentiation, suffering, death and rebirth—in short, samsara. Yet as varied as the details were, all came together in the single, curved wall. Reminiscent of both cave and womb, it described approximately three quarters of a circle and measured about 3m in circumference, 2.5m in height at its apex, and 900 kg in weight.
4. There is no reason to believe that “Natural Great Piece” has a quintessential appearance. Rowe notes, for example, that the moisture in the air at Fort Mason, which sits on a pier above San Francisco Bay, forced her to build a stockier wall. One wing of the sculpture even threatened to collapse on Saturday, calling for quick reinforcement. In a drier clime, the taller shape could easily emerge given Rowe’s gift for stretching the proportions of clay.
For another example, because the venue was a ceramic conference, many participants were artists themselves. Rowe and Ari conceive of this work having an expression in a space where most passersby would not have artistic training. It would yield something quite different and perhaps more compelling to Ari, who says, “The point is that art is for everyone. Everyone gets to express. For me, it’s very powerful to invite people to art making in a way that makes them say yes to the process.”
5. “How do you fire it?” is the number one FAQ. The answer is simple, but few can hear it without questioning further. “So you’re not going to save it?” “Then what are you going to do with it?” “Are you going to take it apart and then fire it?”
You have to have compassion toward these reactions because it’s clear that great effort has gone into building this mother cave. The structural ingenuity, the input of so many people, even the cost of the clay—surely it must be saved.
But when a saxophonist stops blowing, or a monk rises from a meditation of pure surrender, or a trick pilot pivots a plane like a beached fish in midair and then recovers, nobody questions why the transcendent emergence has to end. Nobody asks the pilot, “How will you save that moment?” And even fired clay is only a pause in this fluid reality. (The second most common question is asked by people who have given Rowe and Ari their clay self-portrait: “Where is the piece I contributed?”)
6. Last summer, Ari and Rowe got together at Rowe’s studio in the hills southeast of L.A. Together, they built two small structures to explore the way their languages combine. They also painted two large drop cloths in prismatic colors to serve as a foundation for the sculpture. Their daughters, Galatea and Mirabai, fast friends, played together while their mothers worked.
The artists first met the previous year at the First Ceramics Annual, but even before that, Ari had seen Rowe’s work and recognized a kindred spirit. “When I saw [it], I thought to myself, ‘If I were to make something big, I’d want it to look like that.”
Rowe had also been instantly attracted to Ari’s work, and had actually set one of Ari’s images as her computer’s desktop graphic before the two ever met.
“So when we met, we quickly started talking about collaboration,” Ari relates. “We had similar energy and ideas.” Over the year, these ideas coalesced, leading them to Fort Mason on October 5, 2011, where they spread the canvases, poured a ring of sand for a base, and began to grow the artwork from the ground up.
You are a young ceramist who had started her artistic endeavor early on, during college. How did you discover the passion for ceramics?
I guess it was while working. From one work to another you get new ideas; you get excited, you make things. I remember that at the beginning, in high school, I was fascinated to discover how a crude glaze that was a washy orange became dark green after the firing. When you are applying glazes, a significant part of the process is a mental/ imaginative one. While you are mixing and combining them, you need to imagine their true colors, revealed by the firing process.
What message or feeling do you wish to convey to the viewer through your works? Is the goal of your artistic process one of searching and experimenting?
Absolutely! It’s an experiment which starts from the early stages of the work, and includes the viewer’s reaction to the finished piece. The message is open to various interpretations, depending on the power of understanding and interiority of the viewer. It is important for me to create a starting point for a debate.
The refinement and elegance of your works are the result of the techniques that you employ, together with the subtle interventions on the shape. Tell us more about the creative process of your works.
There isn’t anything new or unusual to it. First of all there is the idea. For me it’s important to know if what I’m going to produce is suitable to be made from ceramic material, that the idea will be best expressed with this medium. Then I carefully choose the material, so that it matches and supports my idea. Most of the time, I prefer white clays or sandstone. The majority of my works are composed of more than one piece, so I usually make plaster molds, in which I press the paste, and then I interfere with the form, depending on what I want to do. When I made the ceramic boats (No Direction Home, 2010), I had to do various tests, including testing the paper’s reaction with the ceramic slip. It had to be not too glossy, but neither too rough or to absorb much water. Furthermore, it is essential to know where and when you should stop.
Oriana Pelladi, The dowry, 2011, Stoneware, White glaze, Wooden pillow.
In 2010 you was an artist in residence at Fule International Ceramic Art Museum (FLICAM), Fuping, China. What was the result of this residence?
China is a fascinating country. I lived within a culture with a rich and vast history, one that relates significantly to ceramics. The residence at Fuping has been perfect for me. First of all, I was taken out of the daily context in which I live, away from the little mundane things that interfere with the work. I had my time, I could think and create. I could choose freely from several types of ceramic paste, with high plasticity, provided by the local ceramic factory. It was incredibly nice to work there. Beside this, I experienced working in a studio together with other Romanian and also foreign artists from all over the world - from different generations and with different points of view. It was challenging in terms of creativity, which is a good experience. The residence in which I took part ended with the opening of the Museum of Eastern Europe. Over several years, numerous residences amounted to the creation of the International Museum of Contemporary Ceramics; the museum was composed of several pavilions representing different countries or areas: Scandinavia, America, Australia, Asia, etc. It was a wonderful project, and I was lucky to be part of it. There are many events which deserve to be mentioned. It was captivating. China inspires you.
Your body of work consists in reinterpretations in stoneware and porcelain of everyday objects. What sparked your interest for ceramics?
Firstly, an attraction toward the household objects led me to ceramic. I am deeply fascinated by clay and the gesture of the hand cupping the bowl. Beyond the objects, my interest for this art was aroused by a strong link with the origin of humankind, the ancestral tradition of making household objects out of that universal and natural clay. Finally, meeting with ceramists and contemplating their work was a strong incentive to become part of that story.
The refinement and suaveness of your ceramic pieces are given by your attention to detail. Tell us about your educational background and other related experiences.
I had numerous trainings in France and Belgium with ceramists, during which I learned, observed and appreciated the simplicity of the gesture of the first movement. Permanently, I think of the first gestures man performed in order to create a clay or stoneware object. I love the primitive aspect of this job whose rules have not changed for thousands of years.
How did the architecture of the North of France and the austere aesthetic of the Flemish still-life affected your work?
I am of Flemish origins, I have always lived in the North of France. I don’t believe in plain inspiration, it comes through our environment and culture. In my region and in the near Belgium country more particularly, the black color is omnipresent: in my ancestors clothes, in the colors of the walls, in Flemish paintings. When I walk around cities like Amsterdam or Gand, or along the enbankment in Anvers Harbor, or wandering in Bruxelles, what strikes me is the simplicity and efficiency of architecture, either XVIth century and ultra-contemporary. Streamlined shapes, huge openings to catch maximum light in spite of often grey skies. My country is also a landscape of industrial wasteland. Former silos, unused steel factories, traces of a bygone industry in which concrete and rusty steel beams are the ghosts of that prosperous era.
The monochrome compositions that you create give the viewer a subtle remembrance of the object design of the 60’s. Why did you choose not to use color in your works?
Color makes no sense to me, for me it takes too much space and leaves no room for subtlety and details. You need to have a poetic mind to be moved by the grey sea of the North, by the dull skies of Flanders. Grey and black change according to the light, they are not permanent, thus the object has several lives in one day. I am particularly interested in the numerous shades of grey that light can enhance in a monochrome composition, depending on the clay, its closeness to an immaculate porcelain and the way pieces are laid out. I have been influenced and inspired by Morandi, but also by urban wastelands, steel compression ready for recycling, odds and ends piled up at the back of an old scottish shop.
By accident! When I was in high school I studied painting and I believed that nothing could rise to its value; that painting is part of my soul and the only way of expression for me as an artist. But this had changed when in university I have met ceramics, felt in loved and couldn’t separate since. This is mainly due to my professor, Ernest Budeş, the person which showed us all the ways of expressing through this medium, using clay, stoneware, earthenware or porcelain, each with its specific techniques. He taught us that ceramics is made with a lot of patience, dedication and most of all, love. He also educated us to love what we do because an object made with all these “ingredients” cannot be otherwise than good: it lives, vibrates, transmits.
Is ceramics for you an opportunity for introspection?
Art in general is an opportunity for introspection. Ceramics is a material that allows many possibilities of transposing artistic ideas, therefore can be both two-dimensional (decorative tiles, painting, graphic, photography) and three-dimensional (sculpture, installation). In conclusion, clay has a wide range of artistic expressions that can help you translate almost any idea. Unlike other mediums, ceramics implies using all the primordial elements -earth, water, air, fire- to get the final result; this gives you a lot to think about. To give shape to earth you need water, to dry it you need air, but then, giving it to fire (and I say giving because from this point the fire detains most of the control and often is the best adviser and critic that reveals your mistakes and never forgives them) for objectification, fixing, vitrifying, finality.
Tell us more about your creative process. Is there a balance between concept and execution?
The important thing is to have the idea; the rest will follow naturally. When you master the ceramic techniques, you automatically consider the idea in connection with the execution possibilities; it is like the relation thought – word – grammar. You own the concept, the idea, the thought, and can transpose them using a grammatical structure. The same is with ceramics: you visualize the whole process to the ending, and you start to work, meanwhile transposing your thoughts.
It may happen to change the idea in the process – mainly because the difference of time between thought and action is longer than in other artistic media - for example in painting everything happens almost simultaneously (thought, gesture, action and result) but in ceramics, the execution time is slower and the mind begins to work - the reason why changes can occur in the initial idea but also in technique. Usually, I try not to diverge too far from the main idea, but I have to be very careful because if I let myself flow in experiments, I can easily derail and fail to reach the destination, in other words to what I wanted to convey. Ceramics doesn’t give you much opportunity to step back in the process, instead it forces you to take it again from beginning.
Aniela Ovadiuc, The book, 2011, Stoneware, Metalic oxides, 15 x 38 x 3 cm.
The book is a recurrent element in your creation. What are the origins of this passion?
During Master degree studies I had as research the theme of the Library (Bookcase), concluding that it is the sum of human preoccupations. If Schopenhauer names the book “the paper memory of mankind”, my work “The Library” (Bookcase) wants to put in light the human – library relationship. The library has the meaning of a book depository where the books reflect the man himself. To understand this I had to ask myself: What is a library? - A book depository; What is the book? - The memory of mankind in the shape of words, images and signs; What are the words? - Language, signs, symbols, gesture. And still, what is the library? – Is purely a human product, which stores all its history and emphasizes the development path, all thoughts, feelings and human desires. All these are in the Universal Library, and man carries it with himself all the way. The library and the man go together, have a common, inseparable route, like a carried and projected shadow. So from now on, I remained faithful to this theme, because it is very complex and inexhaustible, because we are in constant motion and evolution, but especially because the book as an art object is as Daniela Frumuşeanu said - “an exhibition itself!”
Marie Torbensdatter Hermann exhibition / Galerie Nec, Paris
Marie Torbensdatter Hermann exhibition / Galerie Nec, Paris October 26 - November 24, 2012
"The work reflects on some kind of strange family of domestic objects, they are bound together by a form of action, something undefinable but with a hint of a purpose. As if they are there for one very specific reason, each with a small specific individual function, but on their own they are un-significant, it is as a group how they become useful and self-sufficient. It is in the choice of grouping certain objects with each other and in the spacing of them, that they come into existence. I also see a big part of my practice as an arranger. Someone arranges objects and creates small details, small shots taken from a lager scenario. As if we have the time line in constant flux, I make the decision on where to cut out one image and create that as a memory of what ones was, before it moved on to become something else." Marie T. Hermann
“Looking around Marie T. 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. As is true of most potters, even those working in the manner of installation artists, daily use is constantly at issue for her – either as a haunting presence or a conspicuous absence. The inclusion of two plates, one sunk into its shelf and the other just emerging, gratifies our expectations on this score, even as the closing off of vases at the mouth refuses it.
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.
Pippy Houldsworth Gallery is delighted to present young New York artist Francesca DiMattio’s first solo exhibition in Europe from 10 October to 17 November 2012, and her first showing in London since her large scale canvases were seen in Saatchi Gallery’s Abstract America in 2009. Bloemenhouder and Kandelaar offers us the opportunity to see DiMattio’s vibrant and painterly sculptures standing on their own, showing the vitality and eccentricity of the large-scale ceramic pieces she has been developing over the past two years.
DiMattio’s paintings have often made reference to feminine craft techniques such as sewing, weaving or quilt making. In an attempt to shift the assumption that these crafts are most often delicate or small-scale domestic creations, she scales them up and uses a rougher, more masculine hand. Keeping with an interest in domestic craft, it is fitting that her sculptures are formed from ceramic. Using a material deeply ingrained in rules, craft and history, she turns it on its head by irreverently pulling from its history and pairing extravagant reference with crude slabs marked by fingers and punch marks.
In this exhibition, DiMattio investigates the history of porcelain to examine the ways in which visual iconography moves through culture. She looks at how porcelain’s visual history is one of copies, fakes and re-makes; how a revered technique such as the blue and white design found on a Ming Vase was copied by the English, Dutch and French, morphing and changing slightly through each iteration, and can now be found on a kitsch object in a gift shop. Like her paintings, the sculptures here juxtapose conflicting historical references, from 18th century English Wedgwood, French Rococo and Ming Dynasty to kitsch animal figurines. These are grafted objects, fusing disparate elements into a curious new whole. Each piece is made completely as one, rather than from found forms put together after the firing. The different passages affect one another, with glaze from one element interrupting, transforming and connecting multiple facets of the same sculpture.
DiMattio’s new work incorporates bases and handles of various forms, from gilded heaps of clay to delicately sculpted adorning flowers. Bases of piled up clay are reminiscent of Chris Ofili’s elephant dung, whilst a slumping torso-like coil pot seems on the verge of collapse. Debris made by sculpting animalia has been collected and put on the adjacent surface, creating a rough texture made of dust, chunks and trimmings, and elements in high gloss sit next to bright matte colour. DiMattio creates unstable and shifting objects that are a combination of various logics of taste. In Cuvette à Tombeau, one moment the china-painted landscape is beautiful and the bright rough-textured yellow feels broken, crude or flawed, and on a second look, the texture becomes vibrant and rich, whilst the landscape becomes something you might find in a thrift shop. The changeability of taste is heightened and examined through DiMattio’s uncanny pairings that ask the viewer to look closely at and interrogate these new abstract and de-hierarchised forms.
The Open West 2012 Award Winners exhibition / Gardens Gallery, Cheltenham, UK
The Open West 2012 Award Winners exhibition / Gardens Gallery, Cheltenham, UK November 15-20, 2012
Private view: Thursday, November 15, 6 pm.
Artists: James P. Graham, Haruka Miyamoto, Koji Shiraya.
Following the open west’s acclaimed exhibition at Gloucester Cathedral earlier this year, curators Lyn Cluer Coleman and Sarah Goodwin are now presenting an exhibition of the three award winners, James P Graham (University of Gloucestershire Award) Haruka Miyamoto (Ecotricity Award) and Koji Shiraya (Curators Award). This year’s award winning artists are connected by their concerns for the environment, showing acute awareness of the origins of the materials they use, from base metals to volcanic rock, leather, waste rubber and plastic, porcelain and feldspar.
James P Graham lives and works in Italy and London and exhibits internationally. Originally trained in film and photography, James’ recent sculptural work is informed by landscape and nature. His new sculpture, Golden Cage, coming to Cheltenham directly from the Chelsea Physic Garden, uses volcanic rocks from the active crater on Stromboli, which have been wound and suspended with gold thread. The work “symbolises man’s attempts to imprison and control nature,” (CNN, Eco Solutions, 20.7.12).
Haruka Miyamoto lives and works in London. Her training is in textiles (recently graduated from Chelsea College of Art & Design) and she works as a fashion, shoe and product designer as well as an artist. “The idea of my work is based on lifecycles in nature. I rescue materials from the bin and give them a second life, so they don’t end up in landfill. The impact that humans have on nature can be devastating. The dodo, which became extinct due to human activities, is a symbol of extinction.” Haruka showed in British-ish, the best of the UAL design graduates at the V&A for London Design Festival, and auctioned her work ‘Extraordinary Rubbish’ in the Faberge Egg Hunt 2011.
Koji Shiraya who works in London and is soon to return to Japan, is an artist who completed his MA in Ceramics and Glass in 2010 at the Royal College of Art. His work After the Dream shown in the darkened crypt at Gloucester Cathedral captured an intriguing ambiguity, using porcelain spheres as metaphors for the mind, and its Gardens Gallery setting will stimulate a new language. In his sculpture Trinary 2011 all of the samples in the jars are filled with some of the main components of the earth’s crust. Koji has shown work at Einfall: Beyond Spontaneity at the Freud Museum and at Designers & Makers at Somerset House.
Applications for the open west 2013 will be received from December. See theopenwest.org.uk for full details.
Caroline Andrin and Francois Ruegg / Puls Ceramics, Brussels
Caroline Andrin and Francois Ruegg / Puls Ceramics, Brussels October 13 - November 17, 2012
Caroline Andrin Swiss ceramist Caroline Andrin maintains her studio in Brussels as well as holding the Ceramics Department chair at La Cambre. Widely traveled and exhibited, this is her second Puls exhibition. Andrin has entitled this series of work Skin Game.
Much of Andrin’s art has been inspired by the examination of the intimate relationship that we have with the objects in our everyday environment, objects that we wear or use. Throughout her career, Andrin’s work has developed from one object to the next, sometimes by taking into consideration the function of the original object and sometimes by a larger context. She has been inspired by the principle that every form hides another form within it and that through a process of her own using clay, both the inside and the outside of an object can be made visible.
The title of this series is particularly apt. It asks many questions. Skin: what is it, when and where do we encounter it, and what deeper consequences does it hold for us as individuals and our values. We seldom pause to remember that the skin of a mammal—and specifically humans—is the largest organ in the body. As for game, is it the mere entertainment of stalking and bringing back a trophy to hang on a wall or the hides that kept our prehistoric ancestors alive through the Ice Ages?
The series consists of an ensemble of Trophies and Accessories. Game here of course assumes its double meaning, referring to play as well as hunting.
Andrin pits our visual perception against our sense of touch. She has captured the visual qualities of skin and then assaults the innate coordination of our sense with entirely the wrong texture. The work certainly has the look but not feel. She is challenging the very essence of the materiality we expect.
Each Trophy originates from a pair of leather gloves. The gloves are turned inside out, cut up and sewn back together in order to make a mold into which clay is poured. This process involves the casting of clay slip. Traditionally clay is cast in plaster molds. Since 1996 however, she has used material for molds that leave a trace on the final object. This is a verification of the idea that one form contains another.
The manipulation of the original object (the leather glove) creates an imaginary bestiary which speaks of the skin. Andrin examines our emotional relationship with objects and in this case, all that the objects represent.
Francois Ruegg Francois Ruegg is an award winning Swiss ceramist exhibited at Puls for the first time. Ruegg intentionally uses allegory to color the figurative presence of his objects and their complex allusions. He plays with our innermost expectations, our stereotypes, and sends us on strange trains of thought. Ruegg deliberately leads us astray as he challenges our internalized landmarks and creates confusion in our perceptions. This is work that provokes, destabilizes, and opens up only enough to give up a few clues to understanding.
Smart Clothes Gallery and its founder Paul Bridgewater are pleased to present “The Talking Cure,” by Melissa Stern, a multi-media art exhibition integrating sculpture, original contemporary literature, and audio technology.
The Talking Cure, takes its name from Sigmund Freud’s original description of psychoanalysis. The exhibition consists of twelve mixed material sculptures by Melissa Stern, each accompanied by an interactive audio track created by a literary collaborator. Stern asked twelve writers- poets, novelists, screenwriters, and playwrights- to each chose a sculpture to which they relate most intimately. Each has written his or her imagined monologue of the goings on in the sculpture’s mind. The written work was then transformed into audio recordings by actors. A QR tag accompanies each sculpture. When the viewer points a Smartphone, Blackberry or iPhone reading device at the QR tag it triggers audio to hear the inner voice of the sculpture.
"I have long been fascinated by what goes on in people’s minds when they look at art," said Stern. "What stories do they tell themselves? What emotions and memories are triggered?" In this project we will have a chance to hear what others think goes on in the minds of these sculptural people. Viewers will also have the opportunity to record their own imagined interior monologue for each sculpture.
The exhibition will also feature twelve drawings to accompany the sculptures. These pieces address psychological states and experiences in a non- narrative, image based way. They are the dreams that accompany the sculptures.
Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art is delighted to present a solo exhibition of works by painter, sculptor and performance artist Jannis Kounellis from 28 November 2012 to 24 February 2013 (Private View, 27 November 2012).
Considered a protagonist of Arte Povera, an art movement that emerged in Italy during the 1960s, Kounellis embarked on his artistic career by creating some of the most radical art works of the time. Often combining the inanimate and animate, he boldly incorporated things such as propane torches, plants and animals as integral if not vital parts of his works. He also introduced the notion of performance within works of art, something that to this day continues to inspire artists around the world. In all these works Kounellis drew from his deep knowledge of and sensitivity to cultures of the past and his own heritage, in itself a spirited discussion between collective and personal experiences.
The exhibition at Parasol unit aims to consider Kounellis’s early works from the 1960s, 70s and 80s and his own response to them from today’s standpoint, which often culminates in a more recent and spontaneous work. This juxtaposition of works of art from the different decades should thus engender an arena for discussion. On show will be works, such as Untitled (Carboniera), 1967; Untitled (steel plate and braid),1969, on loan from Centre George Pompidou, Musée national d’art; Metamorphosis, 1984, and Untitled, 1977, an electric train moving on steel plates installed around one of the pillars of the Parasol unit gallery.
Born in 1936 in Piraeus, Greece, Kounellis moved to Rome in 1956, where he still lives and works. In recent years, Kounellis has had numerous solo exhibitions internationally, including, among others, at Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 2007; National Centre for Contemporary Art, Moscow, 2011; Today Art Museum, Beijing, 2011; and Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens, 2012.
Pippy Houldsworth Gallery is delighted to present a new commission for The Box by New York based Swiss artist Olaf Breuning. Breuning is known for his diverse and humorous explorations of the relationship between art, life and contemporary culture. Working across film, photography, sculpture and drawing, Breuning investigates the absurd and the surreal, creating perpetual punch lines and endless drama resulting from an instinctive relationship with language and materials. Here, Breuning creates a new installation for The Box, translating a new stick drawing into a precarious miniature metal sculpture. The Box is a micro project space consisting of a floating white cube set inside a black vertical opening. It is a unique architectural space through which the gallery facilitates new projects with important emerging and established artists. Previous commissions include Ai Weiwei, Martha Rosler, Ruth Claxton and Daniel Arsham.
Breuning’s solo exhibitions include the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Chisenhale Gallery, London; Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich; Centre d’Art Contemporain, La Chapelle de Geneteil, Mayenne; Kunstmuseum, Lucerne; and the New Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Group shows include Museum of Contemporary Art, Kraków (MACAK); Saatchi Gallery, London; FLAG Art Foundation, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami; The Power Plant, Toronto; CCA Wattis Institute, San Francisco; 54th Venice Biennale; MoMA PS1, New York; MoMA, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and S.M.A.K, Gent, Belgium. His work is represented in collections including Fonds National d’Art Contemporain; Grafische Sammlung des Museums für Gestaltung, Zürich; Kunsthalle Hamburg; Louisiana Museum, Copenhagen; Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris; UBS Collection and Saatchi Collection, London.
Above: Olaf Breuning, Smoke Bombs 2, 2011, C-print (1/6), 120 x 150 cm.
Anne Tophøj and Marianne Nielsen: Elitist Folklore / Copenhagen Ceramics
Anne Tophøj and Marianne Nielsen: Elitist Folklore / Copenhagen Ceramics October 25 – November 17, 2012
Artist talk: Saturday, October 27, at 2 pm.
The dish, the plate, the table and the flower. These common everyday objects and the most beloved iconic shapes from nature are framing in the lives of most people. For their shared exhibition at Copenhagen Ceramics Marianne Nielsen and Anne Tophøj are investigating why and how we value these universal expressions of culture and nature. But what is elitist folklore? What does it look like from their point of view?
Marianne Nielsen occupies a very special position in Danish Ceramics. She takes interest, in an almost nerdy way, in the role of nature in our culture. In recent years her work often has concluded in definite renderings of natural subjects: mountains, feathers, leaves and now flowers and plants. As a kind of souvenir they refer to something beyond ourselves, being continuous, universal and something which, through its authenticity, contains an essential beauty. Yet, the representations of nature are about ourselves, since they only acquire their meaning through our very own gaze.
Marianne Nielsen articulates this: ’Flowers hold a modest position in the arts as something banal, soft, often assigned the subordinate part. For these pieces I have let the flower be on its own, allowing it to make up the entire work. The works are about what is not directly present – the references linked to flowers, both as representatives of beauty and natural souvenirs. But they also deal with that particular application that has worn down the flower-motif and turned it into a cliché.’
In a similar way Anne Tophøj is working with the values and inherent meanings of things. Either because the artifacts contain specific images or symbols that pass on a story or message, or by suggesting a particular use or way of handling.
Characteristic of her work she investigates the dish and the plate, objects that we are all very familiar with and make daily use of. As she herself puts it: “The plate and the dish are signs of human culture and how we raise ourselves above the animals; they are pivotal in all eating rituals and our daily meals. Artefacts that we all have in common – universal, banal, indispensable tools helping us to sustain life. They are beloved and treasured objects that different cultures and times have shaped endlessly for use and for ornamentation, for the table and for the wall.”
The international Ceramics Now Exhibition is an itinerary exhibition of contemporary ceramics which presents works of artists that are featured in Ceramics Now Magazine’s platforms or are invited. The exhibition reunites artists from different countries and communities, and facilitates contact between them and the public. Ceramics Now Magazine and Exhibition operate as an exchange platform between artists, galleries, museums, collectors and people passionate about art.
In the context of the globalization of arts and of rapid exchange of information, it is more and more necessary to make a serious coagulation of what is contemporary ceramics. The incorporation of many diverse subjects, working techniques and mediums in creating a ceramic object, are more and more frequent, risking if not counterbalanced, to take this domain back to crafts. The harmony between the compositional elements and concept can be realized through exercise, and this exercise is a reference point for contemporary artists. In creating a contemporary ceramic object, an equilibrium can be reached by those who feel the need to create and who create with depth. Originating either from Australia, Africa, Europe, Asia or America, practice, delicacy and accuracy are characteristics that unite them. The Ceramics Now Exhibition reunites these artists and brings their work together aiming to create an open platform between them and the public. The third edition of our main event will be held between 8-26th of November 2012, at Galateea Gallery, Bucharest, and will present the works of 22 world-renowned contemporary ceramic artists.
EXHIBITING ARTISTS: Steve Belz (USA), Gherghina Costea (Romania), Kimberly Cook (USA), Ossama Mahmoud Emam (Egypt), Nato Eristavi (Georgia), Jason Hackett (USA), Teresa and Helena Jané (Portugal), Brian Kakas (USA), Yoichiro Kamei (Japan), Kentaro Kawabata (Japan), Allison Luce (USA), Nicolae Moldovan (Romania), Akio Niisato (Japan), Heide Nonnenmacher (Germany), Szilvia Ortlieb (Austria), Barbara Schmid (Austria), Avital Sheffer (Australia), Suzanne Stumpf (USA), Kouzo Takeuchi (Japan), Shinya Tanoue (Japan), Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso (China), Gavril Zmicală (Romania).
Curator: Vasi Hîrdo Coordinator: Cristina Popescu Russu
Ceramics Now Magazine is a comprehensive and innovative publication & online art platform specialized in contemporary ceramics. Founded in 2011, the magazine celebrates the creative field of ceramics through publishing interviews, reviews and works of new and world-renowned ceramic artists, and providing information on contemporary ceramic art exhibitions.
Duet: Mark Goudy and Liza Riddle / SMAart Gallery & Studio, San Francisco
Duet: Mark Goudy and Liza Riddle / SMAart Gallery & Studio, San Francisco November 1-30, 2012
Opening Reception: November 1st, 6-10 pm.
Mark Goudy and Liza Riddle (Thundercloud studio) present a collection of their beautiful recent works. Both artists use metal salts that permeate the surface of their burnished vessels. The results are an incredible watercolor like surfaces reminiscent of galaxies, the deep ocean weathered stone, frosted glass or microorganisms.
"My approach is to combine ancient methods of stone-burnishing and earthenware firing with computer-aided shape design to produce talismans that fuse traditional and modern aesthetics. Surface markings are created by painting water-soluble metal salts on bisque-fired clay. These watercolors permeate the clay body, and become a permanent part of the surface when fired. I have a strong affinity for intricate abstract patterns, ones that can’t be fully comprehended with a single glance, an invitation to in-depth exploration." Mark Goudy
"I seek to create a work which evokes a sense of wonder and mystery, forms that beckon to be held and admired. I find delight in closely observing and then interpreting natural objects and events – weathered boulders on a mountain slope, wind ripples on a gray blue sea, complex designs on a delicate bird egg – their rhythms, patterns and forces have greatly inspired my work." Liza Riddle
SMAart Gallery & Studio was founded in September 2012 and opened its doors at 1045 Sutter Street in San Francisco.
SMAart offers gallery exhibits, studio rentals and ceramic classes. Founder Steven M Allen opened SMAart to fulfill a longtime dream of having a gallery, a place to teach art to the community, and a place to create art in a creative open environment surrounded by other inspiring artists.
We are very happy to announce the upcoming exhibition of artworks created Cynthia Lahti during her residency at the Zentrum für Keramik - Berlin. Cynthia is from Portland, Oregon, where she has been working as an artist for over 24 years. She is a mixed media artist whose work explores human emotions through the evocative power of the figure.
"My goal is to create works of art that resonate with honesty and reflect the beauty and chaos of the world. My art is influenced by human artifacts from ancient times to the present, as well as by my personal experiences and emotions. Like the varied objects I draw on for inspiration - from 1940s knitting catalogs and outsider art, to Native American cedar carvings and Degas’ sculptures of dancers - my artworks force an explanation of reality and compel viewers to connect to a larger human experience. I work in various media, including drawing, collage, and sculpture." Cynthia Lahti
The Residency for Ceramics-Berlin is located in the neighborhood of Pankow, 3 miles north of Mitte, the center of East Berlin on a spacious lot surrounded by a beautiful old garden.
The residency is designed for artists working in clay or artists with a background in ceramics who wish to undertake a clay project and it provides an opportunity for them to work in a new context, to experiment and develop new approaches and to explore another culture. The location provides a fantastic opportunity to explore a fascinating city with a thriving local art scene.
One of the major artists of the young Finnish art scene, Kim Simonsson epitomizes this new generation of artists working beyond the ideologies of the post-modernism advocates, while his work is deep-rooted in pathos. Japanese manga leave its mark on his sculptures whose empathic dimension imparts them a universal impact.
"Works by Kim Simonsson come from another world filled with children looking as doleful as well-behaved, as neat as vicious. (…) We find ourselves in stories of hybridisations and transmutations, in the land of hazy identities, sagas where beasts and beauties invert themselves, where innocence plays constantly with violence, purity and perversion, where black and white, gold and silver glaze various forms of anxiety, power struggles and child sexuality." (Elisabeth Védrenne, Connaissance des Arts, November 2009)
Simonsson was awarded the prestigious “Young Artist of the Year” award in 2004 and the Pro Arte award in 2009. During the same year, he became the first Arabia Art Department Society Guest artist and got a studio at the famous manufactory. More recently he’s been selected for a residency at the Manufactory of Sevres.
When I Woke / Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, Cwmbrân, UK
When I Woke / Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre, Cwmbrân, Wales, UK October 6 - November 18, 2012
When I Woke – an exploration of the human condition curated by Claire Curneen and Lowri Davies.
When Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre invited celebrated ceramicists Claire Curneen and Lowri Davies to curate an exhibition as part of the centre’s “Makers to Creators” series both artists relished the opportunity to expand their artistic horizons and provide a completely different perspective to their practice.
Inspired by Dylan Thomas’ poem ‘When I Woke’, the exhibition is full of questions about life, death and change. Each of the exhibitors examine the gritty questions which surround the human dilemma. The body and the figure are central to these artists and the exhibitors explore issues in relation to beauty, the visceral body, myth, folklore and tradition. The subject matter is complex and in very different ways they strive in search for something hidden or lost.
Artists: Tamsin van Essen, Sam Bakewell, James Page, Lina Peterson, Audrius Janusonis, Sophie Woodrow.
Tamsin van Essen explores the cultural obsessions with perfection and beauty. There is a tactile beauty in the objects surface and form yet they talk about the visceral decaying body which leaves us somewhat unsettled.
The visceral is also evident in Sam Bakewell and James Page’s work. Bakewell uses solid masses of clay to suggest the body, the objects are dense and immediately physical. These objects are not static forms, they are in a state of flux and are bursting with life.
James Page asks us to reassess our perception of our own bodies. His work is a celebration of the physical nature of the human body with an affirmation of our earthly connection.
Lina Peterson is a jeweller that tells a human story. Her work has a sense of the ritual, in some instances drawing inspiration from Roman artifacts. Peterson response to ancient artifacts is to ‘fill the gap’ and to put back what is missing, in turn creating a new and original narrative.
Audrius Janusonis and Sophie Woodrow use traditional figurative modes of practice. They explore a sense of place, often mythical and sometimes untangible. Janusonis is Lithuanian whose work is known across Europe but has never before been shown in UK. His figures have a strong allegorical message often referencing the texts of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. His understanding of the human form is extraordinary.
Sophie Woodrow entices us in to a strange world where the relationship between animal and human are blurred. Her figures stare out at us revealing some sinister folk story. They are reminisent of staffordshire flatbacks, domestic in scale yet subversive in nature.
Peter Morgan: All Aboard at Harrison Gallery The 2011-2012 Evelyn Shapiro Foundation Fellowship Exhibition
All Aboard includes work that Morgan made this past year, while serving as the Evelyn Shapiro Foundation Fellow. This fellowship afforded him a monthly living stipend, materials and firing stipend, free studio space, this solo exhibition and a tri-fold publication produced in support. A representational sculptor, Morgan received a BA in fine arts from Roanoke College, Salem, VA, a BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, CA and his MFA in 2005 from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Alfred NY. His work builds on a tradition in ceramics that began in the 1960’s and emerged out of California’s Bay Area. The artists working within this tradition created representational sculpture, oftentimes humorous and/or tongue in cheek, irreverent and anti-establishment, their inspiration drawn from the beat movement, Pop Art, and the then burgeoning counter culture revolution.
Morgan employs many of the practices of his Funk predecessors using word puns and humor, to create surreal narrative compositions, layered in meaning. His sculptures may grow out of a childhood memory, his love of a specific food item, history or a perplexing current event. With All Aboard, Morgan takes the viewer on a train ride like none other they’ve had. As in all his work, the train cars are skillfully and sensitively sculpted, Morgan’s interest in and love for his subject matter evident and felt.
His sculptures are real and unreal, familiar yet foreign. Morgan states, “The work is an investigation and celebration of cultural mythologies. I think of my sculptures as being platonic ideals in physical form. They focus on our ideal understandings and desires of these objects in our minds, yet they often bear very little in common with the actuality of these concerns.” Jeff Guido, Artistic Director
Blue and White at Reed Smith Gallery
The field of ceramics is laden with numerous traditions of technique, material, style, and form specific to a given culture and or specific time period. Few traditions moved beyond borders or lasted through time to become significant to multiple cultures. The tradition of Blue & White is one that has; a white clay body serving as ground for blue decoration applied by hand, stenciling, or screen transfer. Islamic tin-glazed tile of the 9th century, pinyin or blue flowers drawn on 14th century Chinese porcelain pots, the narrative hand-painted Delft pots of the 16th century Dutch, to the English and American traditions of Willowware, the process of cobalt blue decoration on fine, translucent, and white porcelain is a deeply rooted tradition, crossing cultures and spanning great lengths of time.
How did your experience in working on archeological sites in Jordan and Ethiopia influenced your work?
My work in Jordan and Ethiopia profoundly changed my work. I went to Jordan between my undergraduate degree and my graduate degree. At that point, I was already serious about clay, and although my early training had a functional emphasis (the well known American potter Warren Mackenzie was a teacher and influence), I had become more interested in sculpture. But my work had little focus and I was frustrated by what I saw as the triviality of my work. It didn’t seem to have a core or substance.
Before University, I had been an exchange student in Norway and had learned a lot about history, arts and culture there, but had not put it to any good use. However, when I went to Jordan, two things happened. I traveled all over the region - into Syria and Israel, and throughout Jordan, notable the amazing Petra. I was deeply impressed by the ancient culture and the design of the buildings and tombs and the handmade objects resonated with me. I understood finally that there was a connection between people and cultures and it was in a way manifested through the visual vocabulary around me. It related to the textiles of Scandinavia and the work that I had done as a kid. The desire to create some order, through geometry, on the natural world, and on roughly hewn stone and constructions seemed universal.
My other experience there that had a huge and lasting impact on me was the excavation itself. At Ain Ghazal, working in a “square” (archeological sites are frequently divided into precise squares so as to map out the location of a find onto three points in space) and seeing how the layers of the earth marked time and culture, hiding, or harboring, the evidence of past people was exciting to me. I recognized and felt awed by all of the people who had come before me. Ain Ghazal was first settled about 7250 B.C., during the so-called Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) period. The result of our excavation was the discovery of a diverse assemblage of symbols including tokens of many shapes, animal and human figurines, modeled human skulls, “monumental” statues and mural and floor paintings. My square had a beautiful floor painting of iron oxide on plaster. During the final days of the field season, I worked to uncover the floor. As a ceramic artist, discovering a plaster floor painted with iron oxide, the same Iron oxide that I used so often in my work, was a thrill. But more significantly, as I knelt, sweeping the dust from the floor, I felt a profound sense of connection to the women who had lived there 9000 plus years before. I knew that we had shared many of the same feelings and concerns; I felt connected and understood that there was a huge chain of humanity of which I was a part. I still get goose bumps thinking of it. And that sense of our common humanity is what still informs my work today.
My subsequent adventure was in Ethiopia. I am very fortunate to have married a man who works at what is called the “Lucy” site in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Lucy is an Australopithicus afarensis, and her species populated that part of Africa between 3 and 4 million years ago. She is pat of our species ancestry. As one scans the ground for fossils, walking in the same rough wadis where our earliest ancestors walked, the sense of our history coming to surface is very powerful. It’s a beautiful place, though drier now than it was when Lucy lived there. It is very quiet and empty, and potent with history.
Patricia Sannit, Cradle, 2010, hand-built, carved and incised reclaimed clays, slip and stain, 21”x32”x12” - View Patricia’s works
You take your inspiration from nature. You are not just making a superficial observation, but you conduct a research of the things hidden to the naked eye. Tell us more about the universe you have discovered through your explorations.
I am fascinated by the natural world in its widest sense and at all levels. An interest in the nature of time - the past, present and future has led me to investigate multiverse theory and hidden dimensions - concealed worlds. From there I began to examine nature on a microscopic and nano scale. I became fascinated by the concept of the unseen and rendering it seen.
One of the subjects I investigated was that of diatoms, especially fossil diatoms. Invisible to the naked eye, beautiful and structurally complex I discovered them to bevery significanting the field of paleoclimatology - they are an important indicator of climate change.
I like to select various aspects of the natural world and then examine them on both a macroscopic and microscopic level, considering them in terms of their relationship to time and how they relate to other parts of the universe.
Intricate but also delicate, your work seems to be obtained through a very meticulous process. What materials and techniques do you use and how much time does it take to complete a new piece?
Porcelain is the clay I favor - I particularly like ‘Southern Ice White’ which was developed by the Australian ceramicist Les Blakebrough. In general, the works are handbuilt; occasionally I use slip in a free but controlled way, sometimes combining it with fine glass fibre. I like to push the material beyond its perceived boundaries. The characteristics of porcelain mean that it requires careful handling throughout the making process and control and accuracy with firing and cooling.
I often incorporate extraneous materials once the piece is fired such as metal, monofilament, fibre or horsehair. These elements add richness to the work.
A new piece can take up to two weeks to make, depending on its complexity and it can take a further week or two to construct and apply other elements. I work intuitively when I am making, drawing on my research and bringing all the experiences together.
Both science and art are a way of looking at the surrounding environment. What do you think is their meeting point? What kind of form of knowledge is art?
I often find myself working with scientists on projects and I think the two disciplines have many aspects in common. They both help us to understand the world around us. They both rely on investigation and imagination – the ‘what if?’ principle.
In 1975 you graduated Ceramics at the Nicolae Grigorescu Arts Institute in Bucharest. You have been active in this domain for over 35 years, all marked by a large number of exhibitions, as well as participations to international symposiums. How was this passion for ceramics born? Have you had any masters that marked your career?
In the Music & Fine Arts Highschool in Craiova, the teachers Şopov Cole Nicos, Ion Marineanu and Vasile Buz have inspired me a love for painting as well as for molding. I fell in love with our prehistoric ceramics and from then on I knew I would dedicate myself to this domain. In the N. Grigorescu Arts Institute in Bucharest I had the privilege of meeting remarkable teachers: Lucia Ioan Neagu, Costel Badea. I learned something from each of them, namely to learn as much arts history as possible, to investigate, to experiment and to be creative at the same time, to not plagiarize, to know that talent had no significance without daily work, and that only the well made work, the passionate one - can lead to performance. Being fascinated by the renaissance techniques in painting and by the technology of ceramics - like I was then, I used to work all day long in the Institute with the love and the exigency that have been taught to us by our professors.
The material that you most often work with is porcelain. What determines you to prefer it to all others? What are the artistic proprieties of porcelain that makes it more suitable for you than any other material?
In the ’70 and the ’80 there was collaboration between the arts institutes and the factories in the country that specialized in porcelain, tile, sandstone, glass and other materials. The students used to make their internship and their diploma works there, benefiting from what is vital for an artist: the specific materials and technologies. My love for porcelain was born there as a challenge. Only the ones who have knowledge in the technology of ceramics can comprehend how difficult it is to achieve performance when porcelain is the material of choice. It is a difficult material, hard to manage, because it has a memory and you have to know with precision the distortions, the contractions, the burning curves, when you want to obtain something in particular. Everything is fascinating about this material: the pure white, the translucence gained by the thinning of the fragments, its resonance when it is well burned, its preciousness.
You are the founder of Galateea Gallery, the only gallery in Romania dedicated to promoting contemporary Romanian ceramics. What is the Gallery’s history and what are its projects?
In 1953, the Artists Union in Romania is granted the use of the space for an exposition hall. In 1955, arh. Eugen Vernescu arranges it to host painting and sculpture expositions. Twenty years later, arh. Mircea Coradino dramatically modifies its interior and façade, and the art critiques Mihai Ispir and Mihai Drişcu titled it Galateea Gallery.
The first meeting with ceramic took place when I entered the university, as I decided to take the admission exam for the Ceramics Department. The reason for this option was the liberal reputation held by the Ceramics Department, mainly due to the young teachers of various formations, who were encouraging the free investigation subordinated to an “interdisciplinary” that at that time was quite attractive.
Because originally I had a sentimental inclination for Graphics - I was more familiar with expressing myself through lines and white / black tonal values. My way of perceiving the world and building volumes remained indebted to the graphic vision.
After graduation, due to my job as a designer at the porcelain factory in Cluj, I familiarized myself with the subtle expressivity of porcelain and its processing technology, practicing with this material for a long time, and ending up loving it.
You have participated in many competitions and international group exhibitions. What are the most important things you have learned by taking part in these events?
For me they represent a form of self-assessment and validation of my personal approach to ceramics in a context of ongoing dialogue with other colleagues. As for the residences and symposiums, they are extremely benefic cultural exchanges for the refreshening of one’s ideas. They also bring the sense of being an ambassador of one’s own culture and historical traditions who makes a personal contribution, no matter how small, to the international artistic context. These kinds of events are especially significant for Romanian artists who have suffered, as we all know, from a period of political restrictions that had made the direct contact with the cultural world outside the Communist Bloc almost impossible.
What message or feeling do you want to convey to your viewer through your works? The portraits and the imprints that constitute your work are part of the artistic approach, or they are simply the result of a process of searching?
I find it hard to give a clear answer to this question, because it implies a number factors of which an artist is not always aware. Maybe is best to say that my works are the imprint of my inner trials and tribulations. In other words, they are a way of sensitively relating to the socio-cultural climate that surrounds me.
How the viewer can “read” my work, depends on one’s cultural heritage or current state of mind, and on other many things… but the perception with its various interpretations will always remains an open question. But oh, what joy we experience when the viewer interpretation comes close to the intended meaning, proving that our discourse is not just a monolog lost in void.
What message or emotion do you want to convey to the observer through your works? Is your artistic undertake based on a certain idea or is it more of a searching process and experimentation?
For me, this process is never conscious, programmed or preconceived. It is more of a constant experiment that is absolutely instinctive. My only guides on this path are those primal, undefined sensations generated by touching and feeling the malleable and permissive clay. Only afterwards I come to realize with wonder that a kind of actualization takes place - a humble identification, like a translation of some archaic, immemorial message. When I stop and ”read” the pieces that I created, and I analyze the way I created them, I marvel and realize that an actualization was already in me, that that translation was made through me. Good or bad, this is my path; through it I try to understand, not in a rational way, but rather through sensations and feelings, some of the facts of my existence, trying at the same time to leave some signs behind, signs that have meaning only if they are perceived by others.
Many of your works are created in raku – a technique that is not the most convenient for everybody. Why did you choose this technique? What are the advantages and disadvantages that it presents?
Raku is a technique that allows one to obtain very special and organic effects, both surprising and discreet. The expressive potential of the surface is greatly enhanced and can vary according to time and to different types of materials used in the burning – crumbled paper, sawdust, grass or dry leafs. Because of the strange appearance obtained through the ulterior reductions, the objects that are born through raku seem to me to be part of an ancient world, they appear timeless.
The process of preparing the clay for the object that will be raku fired is special and equally important to me, because this offers just as many possibilities. The preparation involving different salts, oxides, engobes or glazes, in diverse combinations gives the final piece a special and unique visual individuality. Throughout the years I tested many of these possibilities, and through numerous repetitions I tried to understand and feel the spell of prompt intervention and immediate decision. These interventions can give you the impression that you work directly with the magical proprieties of the ceramic material.
Clay is perceived by many to be a docile and easy to manipulate material, but a real ceramic artist knows its potential and limits. In your opinion, what should be the relation between an artist and the material he uses?
Clay is a material that is very open to the tactile dialog of touches, and this opening is very important to me because it creates a link to a world full of miracles and secrets. Through the material I am capable to connect with messages from ancient times. Clay seems to transport me into a different time, a different dimension. This is the reason why, whenever I find myself face to face with clay I try to reach the highest level of sincerity.
Your work evokes artificial landscapes and strange architectural agglomerations. What is your source of inspiration?
Most of my work inspired by man-made objects; something like a view of building blocks from the sky, transformer boxes out in the field, and strange formations on the roof. Recently I started to add more abstracted objects, like the connection parts of an exhaust fan, pipe or even inside a lock. I am inspired by something that is recognizable but has an uncertain function.
What technique do you use in order to achieve the monolithic, geometrical volumes that compose your work? Take us through the process of creating your work.
For most of my work I combine hand building, slip casting, and wheel thrown techniques. In terms of surface, I achieve an ultra-smooth finish by using a range of sandpaper from 200-600 grit. I then use a marble polisher to sand the surface till it is as smooth as butter. For my industrial landscape series, “The View From Above,” I leave the clay surface as it is this emphasizes the unique qualities found within a raw clay body. For my “Industrial landscape series”; I apply glazes, sometimes paint or enamel to achieve the old sanded look.
The Industrial Landscape series are exploring the mysterious relationship between how one object fits unexpectedly into another and becomes a whole new composition. Tell us more about this relationship.
The mysterious relationship between space and curiosity has always influenced my work. I think those space redefine objects and give those objects meaning. For example, when you have a simple form like a cup, the space created by the handle defines the shape of the cup, when you added a saucer to this cup, the composition has changed. It redefines the function of this cup not only by adding more meaning to it, but also increasing the tension. I believe that one object needs another object and the space in between are the main reason why I am interested in this relationship, it is also what peaks my curiosity and motivates my work.
Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso, Zeta, Industrial landscape Series, 2011, Porcelain, paint, wood, hobby paper and metal, H 13 1/4” x W 14” x D 6” View Kwok-Pong Bobby Tso’s works
You are a versatile visual artist who works in mediums such as painting, collage, video art, but also ceramics. In the process of creating a new work, do you allow yourself the freedom to change the medium of expression?
Versatility it’s not entirely a positive feature, at least not for an artist. To be consequent could be in many cases a better option. Up to this moment, my flexibility didn’t create a strong image of myself, but instead surrounded me with an aura of strangeness and ambiguity.
Changing the medium could be an important, valuable quality, mostly when you’re forced to work in difficult conditions. For example, if you don’t have your own kiln or the brightest and most refined porcelain, you have to improvise, for example to do installations of found or smashed objects. If you record the process on camera, you also have good chances of becoming a video artist or a performer. I don’t feel like it’s hard to transfer one idea between different types of media, but it is quite frustrating. I have always imagined myself doing heroic jobs, but I have to acknowledge my limitations and therefore pay attention to small or discreet things. From this point of view, things become even more ambiguous.
Are your creations the results of research processes or they are on-the-spot transpositions?
Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. Let’s say I like spontaneous ideas. I don’t bother that much with research. I’m always intrigued when someone titles his collection of exhibited images a project, evoking some ideas he is attached to. If you’re honest to yourself you will notice how clear everything is. Everything you do comes from a background. I will give you an example: some years ago I developed a project on an accidental idea. I asked two of my friends, a poet and a monk, to start an artistic collaboration, taking advantage of this multidisciplinary friendship. The monk opened a book and picked a word for a theme. The poet had to write something regarding this, and I had to paint or draw. Almost from nowhere, an idea appeared: smashing watermelons! Then I started the research, amazed by all coincidences I had found. This innocent image had a huge iconography and transgressed many cultures. It was like a revelation.
You hold functions such as curator, associate editor and columnist for different magazines, and you recently initiated a contemporary art platform titled Anti-Utopias. Since you don’t have any formal art education, how did you become interested in contemporary art?
Art has always been one of my main interests, ever since I was a kid, and though I did not follow any formal art education, I did follow an MA in philosophy and culture where some of the major topics we discussed have been Art, Institutions and Cultural Policies, The Artist’s Statute in Post-Modern Culture, or Contemporary Perspectives Upon Culture. I also follow a PhD with a thesis on the future of museums, in terms of art, policies, architecture. Throughout the years I’ve kept a close contact with art in my readings and references, and I think coming from the “outside” is actually an advantage because it allows me to view art in a broader context and integrate its discourse differently. At the same time, I am also aware of the two perils with philosophers discussing art: on the one hand, they run the risk of subsuming art to a philosophical speech; on the other hand, they can feed art with concepts that only deepen the dilemmas of contemporary art and thus contribute to its fractures. When I started Anti-Utopias, my main concern was to create a thematic platform bearing in mind these two perils precisely, but also the theoretical abundance where art in general claims itself from.
Tell us about Anti-Utopias. Why did you choose the utopian – anti-utopian motive as the theme of your project?
In spite of all the discourses on contemporary art, I think it is still trapped in a false attempt to surpass its own modernity. The artistic discourse still tries to dissect its own foundation and remains somehow captive inside artificial constructions, based on imitation. I am equally circumspect whether discourses crediting the derivative modernities can indeed not only resurrect, but actually redeem the project of modernity. These modernities are based on alter-constructions that complete the same project, though they construct on the margins of modernity. We relate to the same referent, and hope our alter-construction will indeed rescue notions and practices. Art is caught in this paradox: on the one hand, it has to constantly shift its aims outside the marges, because when you construct on the marge, the marge itself becomes a center; on the other hand, art contributes to a global process of territorialization, precisely in this movement it needs to operate. It’s like an expanding fissure that deepens the faults. And it is along this fissure that one can understand the exposure of art, in what this fissure draws ahead, but especially in what it leaves behind, not only as a trace, but in that which remains. Art is this rest, this remnant. Art is reversion. And I think this is one of the ideas and concepts that I need to develop further, this idea of art being a reversion.
When I started this project I knew I was placing its theoretical horizon under two major discursive pressures. The first one is this unsuccessful attempt to give an answer to an utopia other than by formulating another utopia, and the second is the use of the prefix “anti-“ itself, which does indeed bestir a number of critical reflexes and exercises. Obviously, there is no exit from utopia, and the more we seek to counter this statement, the more we end up in utopias of the refusal or in the utopias of some alter-constructions. From my perspective, anti-utopias don’t claim themselves from a refusal or a counter-position, nor are they the expression of a cultural, historical, or political transgression. They do not fall into the metaphysical discourse where anti- would refer to a sort of anti-metaphysics, and I don’t see them being shaped as a means of counteracting either. For me, anti- should refer to a state of exposure, to a certain openness which is not only affirmative but also all-embracing, definitive, and which can be understood on multiple levels: over-exposure, exposure to the certitude of death, exposure to a certain risk and impossibility, exposure to its own tragedy, etc. It is an exposure not only to the unpredictable, but also to a subtending dread defining art and life itself – a fear of dying, the interruption of breath. And though this discourse may seem to bear away from the current artistic discourse, I still think it is this dread that art is running away from. And this can be seen in all its diversity, separations, counter-currents, and reconsiderations. Not lastly, I think that the insistence upon difference/differences cannot account for the current state of things any longer, but only perpetuates the discursive and political impossibilities. From one utopia to another. I think art and society are on the verge of a more radical transformation, for which it has no name yet, a transformation we cannot fully appropriate right now.
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In memoriam Eugenia Pop Eugenia Pop lived and worked in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, where she graduated from the Ceramics Department of “Ion Andreescu” Arts Institute in 1971. Over the course of 40 years, she had exhibited in many countries and has been awarded for her career by the Romanian Government (Order of Cultural Merit) and the Fine Arts Union.
Two days after our meeting in February, Eugenia Pop went to the Copăceni alms house, near Turda, to read in peace a book by Zhi Gang Sha. She wanted to learn how to communicate better with her guardian angel. She told us that the spirit must be cleaned more frequently.
We thank Jeni Pop from our hearts and promise to carry her optimism out in the world.
Interview by Alexandra Mureşan and Vasi Hîrdo for Ceramics Now Magazine, Issue Two February 2012
How did the fascination for ceramics started?
I graduated Ceramics at the Fine Arts Highschool in Cluj. In the twelfth grade I had an excessive curiosity to do work as much as possible, that’s why I chose ceramics. I was a colleague with Arina Ailincăi for 6 years. We were also six in the department. Our personalities were very different, and they remained the same. A sculptor inoculated me the idea of versions. He gave me a theme, a ceramic piece in an architectural environment. After a few sketches, he told me to do more versions. I didn’t like the idea – why make more versions when the first one was good enough? But, if the master told me, I had to do it. I did lots of versions and sketches, from bad to worse. He chose from the first two, and I remained very sad because I worked so hard on so many. After a while, the seed sprouted in my mind. I was at a Communist party meeting, and I got very bored. I had my sketchbook at me and I was doing all sorts of sketches and drawings. The expression was changing with little diversity if terms of form. I showed the sketches to my professor. It remained my method over the years.
Now I stopped doing more versions on a theme. I read books, for example those written by Rudolf Steiner, and I make illustrations on the pages. When reading a book twice, the images speak to me a lot more and I feel the text very differently when it’s illustrated, just like a plastic commentary.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
I broke up with the illustrative image of the exterior form. I adhered to the archetypal forms, which are interior forms of the soul, forms that kids use when drawing, but also used in the antic culture.
Mihai Oroveanu said “Look how monumental your works are,” even if they were very small. Dan Hăliucă said the contrary: “That’s how it should be – plenty and small.” I used this thing with plenty and small a lot, because that’s how the image of the soul is. The soul is very capacious. From it’s ampleness you can make plenty and small.
A moment of crystallization appeared when I found my personality – when I said that this is how I want to express myself. It was the humanity theme, the man. The mother man, the old man, the child man. Mother Earth. These are themes that I feel I synthesized. When I was young, my mother used to call me “little golden thorn” – she couldn’t tell me that I was not right, but I was also very determined. I was telling the truth.
Eugenia Pop, Mother Earth, 1985, Soft porcelain
What is your dearest part in elaborating a new work?
Each part has its own magic. The first one is sketching the idea and choosing the right drawing, then follows the modeling and making the negative. After that, the fascination of the firing starts. It is like when a mother gives birth – she doesn’t know how the child will look like or what color his eyes will be. It is just like that after the firing, when you remain charmed by an object, and you say to yourself that this is mine! – its color has changed and it shrank. After you inspect it for a while, you adopt it or not. Sometimes you have to say I’m sorry – this is not mine.
A first-ever exhibition of a mid-century movement of German ceramics, known as relief-porzellan, debuts at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. Entitled: In Relief: German Op-Art Ceramics, 1955-75” the exhibition opens on September 28 and runs through January 27, 2013. Both the exhibition and reception are open to the public.
Lawrence Gipe, UA Associate Professor of Studio Art, has been collecting mid-century German ceramics known as relief-porzellan for a number of years. Little was known about these beautiful objects until Gipe undertook to discover the history of their production. This exhibition presents his fascinating research, bringing to light the stories behind the factories and individual artists who created the objects.
"Several years ago, I became aware of this unique genre of German ceramics," says Gipe. "These mass-produced objects were made in "biscuit" porcelain – a matte-white or black finish that leaves the shape unglazed and naked, unadorned in its starkness."
Between the years of 1955-1980, more than a dozen companies were producing the Relief-Porzellan ceramics, mostly vases. Artisans, working in small Bavarian towns, created hundreds of designs, both geometric and organic. Some of the ceramic objects were stamped on the bottoms with the name of the designer and the trademark of the company that produced them. Gipe’s visit to an archive in Selb, Germany, the venerable Rosenthal and Co., offered a trove of journals and files, revealing artists and providing attributions to previously anonymous pieces.
Research for the UAMA exhibition, In Relief: German Op-Art Ceramics, was made possible by a grant from the International Affairs Department at the University of Arizona. The University of Arizona Museum of Art includes more than 6,000 artworks in its permanent collection created by artists from the 14th through the 21st centuries. UAMA is one of only twelve museums in Arizona accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) and one of only 750 museums of the 16,000 museums nationwide with this highest award for excellence in the museum field.
Contemporary art exhibitions: SABOT / Paul Branca – L’origine de l’espace privée Plan B / Alexandra Croitoru – Do not forget you are an artist! Peleş Empire / Original/Copy III Lateral Art Space / Adrian Sabău – In-lined Baziş / Bandi Saşa – Persona non grătar Baril / Constantin Flondor – Sifting AltArt / Time’s Up (AT) – Unattended Luggage Intact Space / Fake it! Limited Edition Etaj III, corridor / Ana Adam – Drawings open studio / Istvan Cîmpan (first floow) open studio / George Crîngaşu (SABOT Residence Space, forth floor)
The exhibitions are part of the Contemporary Art Factory project organized by The Paintbrush Factory (Fabrica de Pensule) and financed by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund (AFCN).
Fabrica de Pensule / The Paintbrush Factory is a collective space for contemporary arts in Cluj, Romania. The project started at the beginning of 2009, as an independent initiative to bring together ideas, events and projects of cultural organizations, galleries, producers and independent artists in Cluj and as a reaction to the local lack of production and exhibition spaces in the city.
The artists, galleries and organizations – active in the fields of theater, contemporary dance, visual arts, arts in public space, music – are jointly engaged into delivering relevant cultural content, both for the artistic community and the wide audience. Besides artist studios and production spaces, Fabrica de Pensule also hosts events of local and international partners. It acts as a major player in cultural and urban policies in the Romanian context.