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SPECIAL FEATURE: Romanian Contemporary Ceramics

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SPECIAL FEATURE: Romanian Contemporary Ceramics
Written review of Romanian contemporary ceramics through interviews with internationally-renowned and emerging Romanian artists.

In December 2011 we have witnessed the rebirth of Romanian contemporary ceramics through the opening of Galateea Gallery, Bucharest, the first gallery in Romania that promotes contemporary ceramics. The exhibition was titled “Ceramic rendez-vous”, poiting out the fact that it brought together fourteen artists from all over the country: Arina Ailincăi, Bianca Boeroiu, Cristina Bolborea, Adela Bonaţ, Vasile Cercel, Gherghina Costea, Georgiana Cozma, Marta Jakobovits, Romana Mateiaş, Aniela Ovadiuc, Monika Pădureţ, Cristina Popescu Russu, Ioana Şetran and Simona Tănăsescu.

With just two days ahead of the opening day of “Ceramic rendez-vous”, in December the 9th, 2011, Ceramics Now organized the opening day of the first Ceramics Now Exhibition in the city of Cluj-Napoca, Romania. The exhibition marked the launch of the magazine by exhibiting works of fifteen artists from eight countries. The third edition of Ceramics Now Exhibition is being held at Galateea Gallery, Bucharest, between 8-26th of November 2012, and presents the works of 22 world renowned contemporary ceramic artists, including three Romanian artists.

ROMANIAN CERAMIC ARTISTS - Read all the interviews:
Arina Ailincăi - by Vasi Hîrdo
Marta Jakobovits - by Ileana Surducan and Alexandra Mureşan
Romana Cucu Mateiaş - by Andra Baban
Aniela Ovadiuc - by Vasi Hîrdo
Oriana Pelladi - by Vasi Hîrdo
Eugenia Pop - by Alexandra Mureşan and Vasi Hîrdo
Cristina Popescu Russu - by Alexandra Mureşan
Bogdan Teodorescu - by Vasi Hîrdo

The feature is an ongoing project developed by Ceramics Now Association in collaboration with the Romanian Fine Arts Union, the University of Arts and Design Cluj-Napoca and the National University of Arts Bucharest.

Above: Oriana Pelladi, Emptiness, 2007, Ceramics, Video projection.

  • Ryan Blackwell

    Ryan Blackwell Ceramics, Featured on Ceramics Now Magazine - Contemporary ceramics

    Ryan Blackwell's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View his works

    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

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  • Romana Cucu Mateias - Artist of the month, November 2012

    ARTIST OF THE MONTH / Romanian Contemporary Ceramics, November 2012: Romana Cucu Mateiaş

    Romana Cucu Mateias - Ceramics Now Magazine, Digital Issue Two Cover

    Interview by Andra Baban for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

    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.

    [] Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two
    * Digital Issue Two will be published on December 2012

    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.

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  • 13 Ways of Looking at “Natural Great Piece” - Meditations on a performance in clay by Cybele Rowe and Lauren Ari / REVIEW

    REVIEW, November 2012:

    13 Ways of Looking at “Natural Great Piece”
    Meditations on a performance in clay by Cybele Rowe and Lauren Ari

    Review by Daniel Fleischmann for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

    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.

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  • Oriana Pelladi - Romanian ceramic artist, November 2012

    ROMANIAN CONTEMPORARY CERAMICS, November 2012: Oriana Pelladi

    Oriana Pelladi Ceramics - Romanian contemporary ceramics featured on Ceramics Now Magazine

    Interview by Vasi Hîrdo for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two
    Translation by Anca Sânpetrean

    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 Ceramics - Romanian contemporary ceramics featured on Ceramics Now Magazine
    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.

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  • Virginie Besengez - Spotlight, November 2012

    SPOTLIGHT, November 2012: Virginie Besengez

    Virginie Besengez Contemporary Ceramics - Featured on Ceramics Now Magazine

    Interview by Vasi Hîrdo for Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue Two

    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.

    Virginie Besengez Ceramics - Featured on Ceramics Now Magazine
    Virginie Besengez, Brimming Over, 2012, Stoneware and porcelain, Diam. 50 cm x H. 40 cm. - View Virginie Besengez’s works

    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.

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  • Ryan Blackwell: Spick-and-Span, 2012, Ceramic, Variable upon size of room. Each dustpan 2.25 x 2.25 x 0.25 in.

  • Ryan Blackwell: Mother’s Bad Dreams, 2011, Ceramic, Human Teeth, Resin, Metal, Wood 3 x 7 x 6 in.


  • Ryan Blackwell: Raccoon Skulls with Human Incisor Implants, 2011, Ceramic, Gold Luster, Glaze, Single Skull - 4 x 3 x 2 in.

  • Ceramics Now Magazine has some treats for you! Our new package for digital subscriptions + Digital Issue One for FREE. Check our offers below.

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  • SPECIAL FEATURE: Keiko Gallery - Japanese artists

    Keiko Gallery - Special feature on Japanese artists - Ceramics Now Magazine

    SPECIAL FEATURE: Keiko Gallery - Japanese artists, October 2011

    In partnership with Keiko Gallery
    Written review of “Keiko Gallery” through interviews with represented Japanese artists who work in ceramics, lacquer, textiles and jewelry.

    Keiko Gallery is one of the most appreciated art galleries in the United States that focuses on Japanese art, from ceramics to the innovative lacquer art, textiles, jewelry and painting. Founded in 2003 in Boston, MA, the gallery organized numerous exhibitions of world-recognized Japanese artists.

    The special feature includes interviews with 10 artists represented by Keiko Gallery, and lots of images with their works. We took this opportunity because we want to introduce the Japanese contemporary art and craft to a larger audience around the world. It is an excellent chance for our readers to learn more from Japanese artists, to see how they think and how they imagine their works.

    KEIKO GALLERY - JAPANESE ARTISTS
    View images / Read all the interviews:
    Niisato Akio, Ceramics - View his works
    Kawabata Kentaro, Ceramics - View his works
    Takeuchi Kouzo, Ceramics - View his works
    Hayashi Shigeki, Ceramics - View his works
    Tanoue Shinya, Ceramics - View his works
    Fujita Toshiaki, Lacquer art - View his works
    Murata Yoshihiko, Lacquer art - View his works
    Jorie Johnson, Textiles - View her works
    Takeda Asayo, Textiles - View her works
    Mariko Husain, Jewelry - View her works

    The feature was presented on Ceramics Now in October 2011, and was published in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One. Keiko Gallery has now closed its physical space in Boston and it is relocating all the activity online. The new email address is keikogallery@gmail.com

    Above: Kentaro Kawabata, SOOS: Cao-Col, 2012, Porcelain, Silver, 25 x 18 x 40 cm.

  • SPECIAL FEATURE: Overthrown: Clay Without Limits (Denver Art Museum)

    Overthrown: Clay Without Limits special feature for The Denver Art Museum - Ceramics Now

    SPECIAL FEATURE: Overthrown: Clay Without Limits, July 2011

    In partnership with The Denver Art Museum
    Written review of “Overthrown: Clay Without Limits” exhibition at The Denver Art Museum through interviews with exhibiting artists and the curator.

    The twenty-five artists in Overthrown: Clay Without Limits took on adventurous challenges to make the works in this exhibition. Most were made especially for Overthrown and many are in direct dialogue with our dynamic Daniel Libeskind-designed architecture; they move beyond the pedestal to the wall, the floor, and even the ceiling. A few extend beyond the Anschutz Gallery, across the entire museum complex. They break boundaries that are physical, technological, conceptual, and spatial.

    Working in all scales, from architecturally expansive to almost impossibly small, the artists in Overthrown employ twenty-first-century technology hand-in-hand with standard modeling and molding techniques. They use digital cameras, computers, laser cutters, 3-D printers, and computer-controlled mills along with more traditional tools.

    Some push the forms of functional objects. Others push the limits of fragility. They take risks that draw on material chemistry and maverick kiln techniques. Some of their works include not only clay, but also found objects such as metal, plastic, and abandoned industrial materials. Overthrowing our expectations of ceramic art—its size, its context, its methods, and its meaning—these artists show us new ways of using this versatile and timeless material.

    OVERTHROWN: CLAY WITHOUT LIMITS
    View images / Read all the interviews:
    Gwen F. Chanzit, Curator
    Katie Caron and Martha Russo
    John Roloff
    Clare Twomey
    Paul Sacaridiz
    Linda Sormin
    Del Harrow
    Mia Mulvey
    Benjamin DeMott

    The feature was presented on Ceramics Now in July 2011, and was published in Ceramics Now Magazine - Issue One. The “Overthrown: Clay Without Limits" exhibition was on view at The Denver Art Museum June 11 through September 18, 2011.

    Above: Linda Sormin, Mine (i hear him unclip me / blood runs cold), 2010–11. Glazed ceramic; souvenir kitsch; and studio remnants from Tim Berg, Gerit Grimm, Nathan Craven, Robyn Gray, and Ted Yoon. Photo by Jeff Wells.

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