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Contemporary art

Anti-Utopias / Sabin Bors - EXTRA!, October 2012

EXTRA!, October 2012: Anti-Utopias / Sabin Borş

Anti-Utopias contemporary art platform

Interview by Vasi Hîrdo for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

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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  • Carsten Nicolai - Unidisplay

    “The installation unidisplay offers an examination of semiotics and the laws of perception. The work operates with a number of modules of different visual effects that interfere with the viewers’ perception, through optical illusion, jitter, flicker, after-image, movement, complementary colour effect, and so on. The installation unfolds against a long projection wall with two mirror walls on the side thus visually expanding like a universe. The basic visual, made up of sequences, motifs and graphic translations of various units of time measurement acts as a world clock and evokes the intertwining of time, between past, present and future. The installation is created with Derivatice’s TouchDesigner software which has been used for alva noto live performances with a triple-screen projection.” (via)

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    (via rcruzniemiec-deactivated2013020)

  • The reopening of Fabrica de Pensule / Cluj-Napoca, Romania

    The reopening of the Paintbrush Factory Fabrica de Pensule, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

    The reopening of Fabrica de Pensule / Cluj-Napoca, Romania
    October 5, 2012
    - 7-10 PM


    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)

    + Divas at Sala Studio (8 pm). Directed by Ferenc Sinkó, GroundFloor Group.

    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.

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  • Carol Gouthro: Anthozoa gouthroii “Viridis”, 2012, Terrecotta clay with underglazes and glazes, 6”h. x 10.5”w .x  6.5”d


  • Carol Gouthro: Anthozoa gouthroii “Chromatella”, 2012, Terrecotta clay with underglazes and glazes, 6”h. x 10”w .x  6”d

  • Bertozzi & Casoni: Regeneration / All Visual Arts, London

    Bertozzi Casoni Regeneration exhibition, All Visual Arts, London

    Bertozzi & Casoni: Regeneration / All Visual Arts, London
    October 13 - November 10, 2012

    Private view: October 12, 7-9 pm.

    All Visual Arts are proud to present Regeneration, a unique installation from Italian artists Bertozzi & Casoni. The artists are acclaimed for their delicate depictions of a culture in decay, deftly rendered in fragile ceramic clay. Their latest work Regeneration queries the hierarchy of aesthetics, revealing the beauty in the neglected and discarded ephemera of our seamless culture. The pieces compel the viewer to confront the visceral decay of contemporary society, to expose the cracks between the artifice of the world we are presented with and to explore what lies within these fissures. With this imaginative approach to their practice, Bertozzi and Casoni align the traditional with the experimental, and allow us to construct our own narrative around their evocative scenes.

    Bertozzi and Casoni manipulate the indistinction between the real and the simulacrum in their work, an obsession for detail which evokes the Decadent taste for imitation and crafted artifice as superior to the natural. In fabricating these visually and emotionally compelling still-lifes, the artists engage the viewer in deeper themes of impermanence and mortality. Through rendering the abject and overlooked in such exquisite detail, Bertozzi and Casoni signal the return of the repressed, the avoidance of our own mortality. In one piece in which the memento mori is explicitly rendered, an ox skull is dominated by a vivid monitor lizard, symbolic of both death and rebirth in its habitat across Asia and Australia. In the antonymously titled DisGRACE, vibrant blooms sprout from the polluted detritus of a decadent and avaricious society, a scene of nature triumphing over the excesses of hyper-capitalism.

    Regeneration contemplates the possibility of change through rebirth, rediscovery and reappropriation, manipulating earth into elegant and fragile structures. In one piece, a cluster of butterflies flock to raise the severed head of a deer from an ornamental platter, recalling the Renaissance representations of John the Baptist or Holofernes. In a similar echo of classical scenes, and dominating the Regeneration is the serene image of a silverback gorilla resting in the Buddhist lotus position on a bed of discarded mattresses. A roe deer lies prone across its body, while wrens and goldcrests commune around the pair. The piece is an evocation of symbolic power, from the visceral confrontation of our Darwinian descendent dying out in front of our eyes, to the shift between the viewer and sculpture, object and subject as we find ourselves caught in the compassionate gaze of the animals. Our own mortality is inscribed in the tableaux where urban structures, religion and the animal world collide to reveal the grace in disgrace which Bertozzi and Casoni seek to capture.

    It seems appropriate that the duo push their material to its limits and question the possibility of representation in their work at every turn. Their liberal accumulation and compilation of cultural references is evident in the playful amalgamation of objects in a work where a swordfish’s head juts from a guitar case; the shapes tessellating the natural with the cultural. Their curiosity and playful approach to objects creates a process of continual experimentation and discovery, freeing themselves from convention and the stereotypes of the ornamental and domestic associated with the ceramic medium, and producing unexpected moments of pathos and humour through their synthesis of past and present, nature and artifice. The artists subvert the established rules about the perception of applied arts through inverting the symbolic power of their traditional medium, exceeding the inherent conservativism of ceramics to sculpt fantastic and grotesque scenes that liberate both the artist and viewer’s imagination.

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  • Anna Von Mertens - Portraits

    "Odd avenues of knowledge and inquiry interest me. I research further and uncover phenomena in isolated fields of study that mirror information about my own private world. I then translate this empirical data into a subjective version to reflect the parallels I see.

    I have tracked how energy is dispersed in a nuclear explosion and how energy is stored in a cell; exposed hidden topographies (of the human body, of the ocean floor); contrasted migration routes of birds to the migration routes of humans; and shown the stars exactly as seen above violent moments in American history.

    These patterns reveal to me aspects of our existence, whether it is how we experience time and face the infinite - embedded in that is our own mortality - or how the boundary of the body is presented to others versus how it is felt internally.

    I use the stitch to follow these trails, tracing the paths with my fingers. The dotted line of hand-stitching is a marker of uncertainty, a way of exploring. The time invested in making the work, allowing for contemplation and internalizing, becomes a part of how the work is viewed.

    I see all of these elements as a form of mapping, reflecting the need to get my own bearings in this vast universe.” Anna Von Mertens (via)

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  • James Hoff: I’m Already a Has-Been exhibition / VI, VII, Oslo
    August 31 — December 5, 2012

    For his first exhibition at VI, VII, American artist, writer and editor James Hoff presents two groups of paintings based around language, and abstraction as a culture-bound illness.

    One set of paintings tries to imagine a visual counterpart for syndromes that enter language through specific geographic contexts as the outcome of locally existing phenomena and paranoia—Nigerian ‘Brain Fag’ syndrome for example—formulating abstraction as a cultural malady that is linguistically spread.

    A second set of works is based on drawings found at stationary stores in cities like Oslo and New York, casually and communally scribbled onto notepads when customers were testing their pens.

    In these works, the scratch pad functions as a surrogate for abstraction illustrating the collective pathos of the community from which they were born. All of this, of course, goes back to Freud and can be traced through the Dadaist affinity with automatic writing and the very imperfect science of twentieth century gestalt theory which used mark-making as a way to determine cognitive skills, sanity and mental health.

    In preparing this exhibition, the artist chose to include new works not previously addressed in this press release. The works were composed by means of flocking the areas left exposed after a first-pass tearing away at the shrink wrap around pre-fabricated canvases, freezing with small colored fibers set into wet paint, the exact moment the canvas is about to be freed to be painted on. In this sense each of these partially flocked works is a still life, soft to the touch, that documents the innate and every everyday activity of unwrapping a package. (via Contemporary Art Daily)

    Images courtesy of VI, VII, Oslo. Photos by Jon Benjamin Tallerås.

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  • Francesco Ardini: Porcelain Skin, 2012, Porcelain mixed with paper, Organic reagent, Plastic structure with tie rods, 1300°C


  • Ellen Schön: Vortex, 2012, Smoke-fired clay, 13” x 20” x 20”


  • Ellen Schön: Open-mouthed Totem, 2011, Stoneware, 19” x 5” x 4”

  • Francesco Ardini: Porcelain Skin, 2012, Porcelain mixed with paper, Organic reagent, Plastic structure with tie rods, 1300°C

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