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Israeli ceramics

The Dance of Infinity

Article by Hagai Segev, 2014

“Up until two years ago, my father, Yaakov, had an agricultural mechanization workshop. Every time I visited the workshop, I found myself entranced by the power of the iron boards and the pile of black and rust colored iron pipes of different diameters, waiting to be used”, Simcha Even-Chen reminisces.

“When I saw the call for entries for the contest and exhibition at Kapfenberg, Austria, entitled “At the Moment”, I decided to use these memories of my father’s workshop. This was the birth of “A Moment Before…” a work I created in 2009, which has since led to the growth of a whole body of works”.1

Simcha Even-Chen Contemporary Ceramics

A moment before…, 2009, Mixtures of stoneware and porcelain, 11.5 x 30 x 24 cm.

The memories that awakened this body are the evolution of the artistic research Even-Chen had been immersed in during the period of 2006-2009. This group of sculptures, entitled “Illusion”, was exhibited at The Fifth Israeli Ceramics Biennale at The Eretz Israel Museum (2008), among other places, and even received the Gold Coast International Ceramic Art Award. The article that appeared in the biennale catalogue read: “Simcha Even-Chen creates arrays of objects, reminiscent of game pieces. The pieces and geometric shapes simulate complex mathematical relations, based on scientific principles of simplification, alongside an awareness of the complexity of the game”.2

In her works from the period of 2009-2010, as her research progressed, the cubic shapes and structures gained a softer sculptural presence. They were positioned on solid, dominant foundations, where the first, barely noticeable signs of a light, flowing motion began to appear. In a piece named “Triple Balance” (2010), the massiveness and relatively harsh geometry of the top object is softened somewhat by the gentle presence of the foundation, which seemingly serves as only that, but its connection suggests an integrated statement, alongside a message of contrasts. This piece was featured in important exhibitions in Italy and Korea.3

In the piece entitled “Motion” (2011), all the elements of movement and flow can for the first time, be seen in the object itself, while the pattern printed on the object surface continues to explore the geometric shape, namely, the grid, which stands out against the background of evenly hued material. This piece was awarded first prize in an exhibition in Slovenia.4

Simcha Even-Chen Contemporary Ceramic art

Motion, 2011, Mixtures of stoneware and porcelain, 25 x 46 x 25 cm.

“My decision to add the element of movement to the existing physical balance gave birth to the open, broad, flowing motions and expanded the variety of imaginary shapes”, says Even-Chen. Her intentional break-away from defined shapes gave way to a new abundance of form, organic and free. The well-defined lines of geometric shapes were unleashed, and became the flowing lines that outline the movements of a dance, in which the body of the dancer is pushed to its limit. The flowing lines move in circles, twist, constrict and expand again. They face the material’s ability to carry itself to the limits of its natural properties.

While her earlier works studied the foundations of the material, these works examine its potential to reach infinity. Even-Chen’s work tests the material’s point of collapse, asking which points need to be supported to prevent the structure from breaking down or falling. This constant fear of collapse can be seen even now, when the sculptures are fired and stable. Their fragility is present in each and every moment. Within this fragility lies a hidden power: the almost inconceivable resilience of gentleness.

All of Even-Chen’s works address the tension between that which is planned and that which is not; between the expected and the unexpected. Inside the scientific thought-process, the basis of Even-Chen’s thinking, there is also a search for an emotional balance – an important element in her life, which has now found a clear outlet. But at the same time, these works continue to manifest their scientific foundation by dealing with the existence of movement within the limitations of the material.

Even-Chen’s study of the materials she has elected to work with reveals a search for release from familiar outlines. Her dealing with organic shapes is an expression of her search for freedom within the framework of her beloved material. The conceptual framework, too, leans on that, which is known, or can be derived from accrued knowledge; or on a memory that surfaces from time to time. But this reliance is but a starting point, a jumping board towards new destinations, which may not be as familiar, but are certainly more intriguing.

Simcha Even-Chen Ceramic exhibition at Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center Tel Aviv

Balance in Motion is on through July 5, 2014, at the Benyamini Contemporary Ceramics Center, Tel Aviv.

Even-Chen’s sculptures are autonomous bodies that stand independent of narrative or objectification. They have no practical use; one can only gaze upon them and marvel at the tackling of space, sculpting and aesthetics. In this aspect, they are unique in the field of applied ceramics. Their intrinsic presence allows the viewer to disregard the personal and psychological associations and examine them as autonomous bodies, existing in a sculpting space, evoking thoughts of an object’s place in the universe and raising for discussion values that stand apart from the body of their creator, if only for a moment. This possibility offers many different levels of coping with the artistic creation: a sort of Möbius strip that leads the eye and the hand in a seemingly paradoxical trajectory that cannot exist in the real world.

These abstract qualities, the flow of curves in the ceramics, raise associations of the enormous sculptures of minimalist sculptor, Richard Serra. In his colossal, steel structures, Serra managed to formulate a refined minimalistic presence that has a profound effect on viewers who walk in their vicinity. Dwarfed by the presence of these monumental pieces, the viewer is invited to follow their outline and form sequential shapes, as he strolls between them or alongside them. The active walking and touching of the fierce metal bodies make the viewer a participant in the physical experience of sculpting.

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  • Michal Fargo: Else, 2012, Porcelain, fired models technique, fired to cone 6 electric, 30x18 cm. (white right), 24x21 cm. (white middle), 26x16 cm. (blue). Photo by Sasha Flit.


  • Michal Fargo: Else, 2012, Porcelain, metal ring, fired models technique, fired to cone 6 electric, 11x7 and 13x8 cm. Photo by Mel Bergman. The second work is sold to the collection of Holon’s Design Museum.

  • Interview with Simcha Even-Chen - Recognized artist, September 2011

    Interview with Israeli ceramic artist Simcha Even-Chen - Recognized artist, September 2011

    → Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.
    → This interview is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One, Winter 2011-2012.

    Ceramics Now Magazine
    : We know that you are a successful ceramic artist and also a scientist. How do you find time and motivation for both of your jobs?

    Simcha Even-Chen: Science is a continuous stimulus for me; it has broadened my creativity thinking; it has pushed me to experiment and taught me that patience and perseverance lead to improved results. Art and science are integral parts of my life; although following both careers involved hard work (nights and weekends are dedicated to ceramics). I’m not preparing to give up one or the other. My analytical mind is well attuned to intuitive and creative possibilities; they successfully combine and complement each other.

    Ceramics Now Magazine: Your works are investigating the elements of ambiguity and dynamic of opposites, or in other means, they try to mislead the viewer. Can you tell us more about this?

    Simcha Even-Chen contemporary ceramicsI have always been fascinated by the elusive harmonies created when a precise controlled architectural element is brought together with intricate surface designs and colors to generate the complete object and induce an aesthetic as well as intellectual stimulus.  My body of work deals with construction of architectural geometrical shapes, their fragmentation, and the rapport generated when they are combined to form an assemblage. The use of the geometric design on the surface adds another dimension to each object on it own, but also has an impact on the fractures between objects in a group, as the flow of lines and shapes redefines the significance of each shape and gives a visual perception of unity and harmony to the work. The division of the body surface between white and black as well as the use of lines softens the shape. Placing the grid or lines on the edge of the shape, so that the shape flows, completely dissolves the hard lines. Viewed from different angles, surface and volume are blurred, giving an illusion of flatness.
    While the black sculptures may seem massive and heavy, their weight is light when actually lifted. Their stance appears fragile when placed on their convex side, but they are full of energy and movement. Once again, the duality of heavy-light, stability versus instability, negative and positive shapes, produce contrast between appearance and reality.
    I am starting on a new line of works dealing with balance, flow and motion. A dialogue between the inside and the outside of the object exists in each work creating flow motion in addition to the dialogue between the objects that developed through the way the objects are placed.

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  • Interview with Shamai Gibsh - Ceramic Technique, September 2011

    Interview with Israeli ceramic artist Shamai Gibsh - Ceramic Technique, September 2011

    → Subscribe to our monthly newsletter if you want to receive news and interviews with ceramic artists.
    → The interview with Shamai Gibsh is featured in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One, Winter 2011-2012.

    Ceramics Now Magazine
    : What was the starting point in your investigation with Saggar firing and Terra Sigillata painting?

    Shamai Gibsh: Terra sigillata painting intrigued my imagination when I was a teenager.  At first, I saw Venetian vases decorated with black and white figures and later with color painting, as part of the history and heritage of the eastern Mediterranean board. Years later, when I was already a ceramic artists, I researched terra sigillata and the rediscovery of it in the 20th century, and started to apply it to my work. I tend not to use glazes in my work, except for exterior mural work. Thus, the use of terra sigillata over the last 15 years enabled me to reach a non shiny and a very appealing color palate, and when fired within saggar vessels in the presence of organic materials or smoked firing, appears to have exiting results. I fire within a saggar, which is an enclosed clay vessel that holds the specific organic material, to get the desired results. Over the years I have used many forms of organic materials like saw dust, salt Marché, pine needles, various seeds and fruits. These days, I mainly use pine needles collected from two forests; one in the Carmel mountains and the other one close to my studio.

    Installation “Stelae 2011”, 235x213x55 cm. Stoneware, Terra sigillata, Saggar firing.


    Tell us more about the process of constructing your works. Does it take much time, do you have to make many preparations?

    The manual part of my work: wheel throwing, hand building murals and sculpting occupy a large part of my time. However, these come after an idea has been formed following considerable thoughts, planning and designing. Naturally, I am influenced by my roots, the immediate cultural and social environment and by the exposure to anything that touches us as human beings. Therefore, yes, it is a lengthy process.

    My preference of the use of sagaar firing also contributes to the prolonged preparatory phase in my work. Bone-dried vessels, made out of white stoneware clay, are covered with three layers of terra sigillata, occasionally decorated with copper cuttings and bisque fired to cone 06. Metal soluble are also used for decoration, and the objects are inserted into clay vessels (saggars) which are just a bit larger than the fired object, and filled up with organic materials, mostly pine needles, pretreated with different oxides. I fire in reduction to around 1000C.

    Preparation of murals varies. At times terra sigilata is applied in different layers on a plaster board in a reverse pattern, followed by a thin layer of liquid clay. When in a leather-hard state, the board is lifted and cut into tiles, bisque fired and only than saggar fired. In other instances, tiles are painted with terra sigiillata, applied with layers of various copper cutting and even painted with oxides and metal solubles, bisque fired and saggar fired.

    Read More

  • Simcha Even-Chen: Rhythmus - details

  • Simcha Even-Chen: Steady State

  • Simcha Even-Chen: Square Variation

  • Simcha Even-Chen: Square Enigma

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