Patricia Sannit: Double Cylinder, 2011, 6”x7”x6”, cast, carved and incised found and reclaimed clays, slip and stain
Patricia Sannit: Hemisphere 1198, 2008, 8”x12”x12”, cast, carved and incised found and reclaimed clays, slip and stain
“The basic elements in my work are the materials: clay and glaze. I enjoy engaging in expressive ceramic experiments that test the boundaries of material and form.
I often take my point of departure in nature’s principles and regularities of form. This results in strange inscrutable sculptural growths and large wild and amorphous nature abstractions that may be both lush and melancholic with an expression of beauty in both growth and decay.” Bente Skjøttgaard
“Bente Skjøttgaard is a ceramist: she was born in 1961. In much the same manner as a runner or an existential philosopher, she is cultivating her material, which is clay overcoated with an application of glaze. She is a master of her field and she is “inside” the clay in the sense that she is challenging herself each and every time she creates a new work. The glazed pieces are constantly becoming larger and more voluminous, with interiors consisting of complicated constructions, as is the case inside a person or an animal, a prehistoric creature or another biological phenomenon. And the beauty cannot be mistaken. It is a kind of primeval nature, but accordingly a nature that is created both from within and from without, in the course of a protracted reciprocal interplay.” Excerpt from “Elements in white”, a text By Erik Steffensen - Professor at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen.
/ Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two
Ceramics Now Magazine: You are a very young ceramic artist. When did you discover the potential of this medium? Did school have an important role in directing you on this path?
Ruth Power: Like most artists. makers or craftspeople, I have been interested in art and working with my hands from a very young age. I had a fairly basic art education in secondary school in Ireland (largely based on 2-dimensional drawing work) - quite the antithesis of what we do in third level education. However, I decided that I wanted to attend the National College of Art and Design (Dublin) from a fairly young age and my art teachers in school encouraged me to do so.
The college has a great system, by which everybody does a Core Year in their primary year (four years in total). From here, the student embarks on their first steps towards their professional formation as artists, designers and educators. The student has the opportunity to sample the diverse courses the college has to offer and in turn, discover where their strengths, weaknesses and passions lie.
Many people (such as myself when I began) have no idea what department they wish to pursue when they enter, so this system works really well. Throughout the year, I did a lot of 3D making and intricate work with wire and found objects, so I decided to go into the Ceramics, Glass and Metals Department, specializing in metals. However, when I entered the department I fell in love with ceramics and its diversity. I knew nothing about the material, glazing or mold-making. The only experience I had with clay was when I made a pinch pot in 1993 for Mother’s Day. I painted in neon pink and yellow (which was in vogue at the time!) with ‘Ruth Power, Age 5’ scrawled into the base. I was in instant awe of the abundance of potential of the material, and the infinite amount of creative and scientific exploration that could be done with this ancient medium. Thus, it was only until I was in my second year of college that I discovered the potential of ceramics.
Breasts (Cephalophilia), 2011, 48cm wide x 42cm long x 14cm deep; porcelain, LED light, cord, plug, wooden box with black paint and flocked interior (Black and white image) - View her works
Your works are debating subjects like censorship, mainstream pornography or sexual repression: did you choose these topics in the hunt for controversy?
I have identified with being a feminist for many years now and these subjects have been of huge importance to me. I had researched and discussed those topics for quite some time before merging them into my artwork, when I was in Third/Fourth Year. I wrote my thesis on a very similar subject (how pornography is influencing mainstream trends). In Second Year, we focused on skills and techniques and thus, did not get the chance to incorporate much of our own expression. It wasn’t until Third Year that we were taking on self directed projects and had the opportunity to entirely immerse ourselves into our own fully developed concepts.
To me personally, the work is not controversial; it is dealing with issues that I believe need to be addressed urgently and discussed more openly. Its just that sexual politics and pornography are not usually deliberated, and the naked body is still taboo in our culture. Moreover, because I have had a considerable interest in such topics for quite some time, any of the initial ‘shock’ factor had been lost on me a long time ago. So, for me, the work was never really controversial (especially since I have an open attitude towards sex, sexuality and the body). It was bringing to light issues that I believe need to be confronted, issues that affect me personally.
/ Read the full interview in Ceramics Now - Issue Two
Ceramics Now Magazine: You are presenting yourself as a sculptor even though you have a BFA in Ceramics. What are you currently working on?
Jenni Ward: Although I’ve been educated in all aspects of ceramics; pottery, functional hand-building or sculpture, I’ve chosen to focus on abstract sculptural ceramics. I feel that if I say I’m a ceramicist, people either don’t know what I’m talking about or they assume I throw pots, so I feel that introducing myself as a sculptor who works with clay is a more precise description of the work I create. Right now I’m working with organic forms that have holes cut into them and those forms have other ceramics pieces that are trapped inside. This process of trapping forms has manifested itself into multiple series of work. I’m conceptually playing with the balance between trapping and protecting an object and simultaneously exploring abstract ways to express that in clay.
Nest Series IV, 2010, ceramic & high temperature, wire, 12” x 10” 8” - View her works
What triggered the passion for ceramics in you?
I have always worked with clay, my parents still have the first coil pot I made as a kid and I just never stopped working with clay. I was lucky enough to of had an in depth ceramics program in my high school. That exposure gave me the experience to explore clay and know that it was going to be my focus at the university level. I also really love the process of working with clay; each stage that you go through from a soft malleable material to a fired finished piece offers the chance that everything can go wrong at any step in the process. Having the ability to balance control over the clay and letting what happens happen is always a battle for me that I’m very attracted to. I’m constantly learning new techniques or possibilities with clay whether it’s through taking a workshop or seeing another artist at work. Clay is a very basic, primitive material that can be used in such varied and technological ways; it’s a constant learning process.
Tim Rowan: New Works / Cavin-Morris Gallery, New York, NY
April 5 - May 12, 2012
Opening Reception: Thursday, April 5th, 6-8 pm.
The American sculptor Tim Rowan’s personal quietude belies the depth and activity of his process. He allows his work to be his voice but sometimes this leaves much to the perceptions of the viewer. The work often depends on the viewer not only to intellectually grasp it but to intuit it as well. The Japanese aesthetic of Yugen or mysterious essence is an important part of his presentation. This work not only occupies gallery space but it also has a placement in the context of his studio and land. When you see his work in its birthplace you realize you are standing in the presence of one of the world’s great Poets of Place.
Tim Rowan’s work does not refer directly to the history of traditional Western ceramics. Of course aspects of all ceramic sculpture processes are universal but his work does not travel to us out of an evolution of Western form and surface techniques. By this token they barely travel out of Japanese form either, though there are parts of the process that refer to it obliquely; firing technique and flame markings for example. But his cups are not chawan, and his sculpture does not quote Bizen form. His urns are not mizusashi. If there are any references at all to the work of his teacher, Ryuichi Kakurezaki, they come from Rowan’s responding to that work despite the Japanese legacy that work comes from. When you look closely at Tim Rowan’s abstract pieces the implications of his freeform place in history come home to roost. You can compare his colors perhaps, his textures perhaps, his melted ash perhaps, but his forms are his alone. They are not utilitarian objects trying to break free from tradition. They are however, utilitarian to the eye and the soul, used in aesthetic contemplation and the cerebral and ephemeral pleasures therein. He is saying new things in an ancient language.
I am not sure I would label Rowan as anything but a Contemporary Artist. His expansion to found and shaped stone forms extend his ceramic vocabulary. He is a Minimalist but that is more a description of his affect than of any philosophical viewpoint. The tension in his pieces is not minimal. His work covers power with a veneer of control and calm; a dangerous directed power. It seethes. The spikes on his cups or in his bowls, the cracking and splitting of his geode-like forms whether ceramic or metal, reveal mineral turmoil and convey a universe that can be ominous and/or aggressive even in its quietest moments. He creates a geological ethnography with objects that have resonances beyond the membrane of our ordinary aesthetic recognition.
“The environment is in a delicate balance between well-being and decline. For a healthy society, we must be responsive to the fact that all of our activities affect the Earth. My sculptures express the beauty of nature and the tension created by man’s manipulation of our environment. I use the beauty of form to increase the viewer’s emotional connection with nature. This connection to nature can expand one person’s, and ultimately our society’s compassion for the natural world.
Historically we have manipulated plants by gathering seeds, grafting limbs, and controlling pollination of plants with traits we find favorable. These qualities were gradually developed over countless generations. What is different about our more recent modification of plants is the far-reaching selection of traits from organisms that would not be accessible without genetic engineering. For instance, splicing a fish gene with a strawberry to make the strawberry more resistant to cold could not occur if not for techniques developed by scientists. This kind of manipulation is dramatically different from our prior system of plant selection and has potentially profound effects on the Earth.
I use manufactured elements in my work to create a tension meant to bring about a consciousness within the viewer, to open a dialogue about contemporary society’s association with nature. This discussion can raise awareness of the danger that our current situation poses. A lack of responsibility and stewardship for the Earth creates many problems for the planet, among them degradation of our basic life support systems, as reflected in the loss of biodiversity, increased toxicity of our food systems, inefficient use of natural resources and global climate change. I hope that my art will encourage viewers to educate themselves and become increasingly proactive in assuring a sustainable future.” Steve Belz
Steve Belz: Assisted Nucleation (detail), 2011, Low fire ceramic, washes, glaze, rubber cord and steel fastener, 20H x 30W x 10D inches
Steve Belz: Pulse (detail), 2011, Ceramic, glaze, bronze and powder coating, 9H x 14W x 10D inches
Steve Belz: G.E.M. Genetics X Environment X Management, 2011, Low fire ceramic, washes, glazes, slips and resin, 9H x 17W x 12D inches
“My work is strongly political and inspired by the invention of Japanese tentacle pornography.
It all began when I typed in ‘tentacle’ to Google Images. 90% of the images that showed up consisted of violent tentacle porn. Tentacle porn has been around for centuries, but only became hugely popular in 1980, when a Japanese animator named Maeda wanted to make an erotic anime called Urotsuki. However, at the time, Japanese law forbade anatomically explicit pornographic drawings. Illustrators were always looking for ways to get around the law, so, instead of depicting an erect penis, Maeda depicted brutal tentacles.
Moreover, it was illegal to show couples taking part in sex where the man penetrates the woman with his penis for mutual pleasure, but it was perfectly legal to show tentacle rape. This contradiction of censorship fascinated me. The restrictions on the latter substantially caused the former: the return of the repressed as huge, aggressive tentacles…and this is what I found to be most fascinating.
Thus, the tentacles in my work symbolize sexual repression. I am very worried about contemporary sexuality, with women still derogated for acting sexual and mainstream pornography becoming more and more brutal. I pay a lot of attention to the media, which further influences my work. I use casts of my own body parts to express how this state of deformed sexuality is affecting me.” Ruth Power
Ruth Power: Two faces (Cephalophilia), 2011, 33cm wide x 34cm long x 14cm deep; porcelain, LED light, cord, plug, wooden box with black paint and flocked interior (Black and white image)
Ruth Power: Stomach (Cephalophilia), 2011, 48cm wide x 42cm long x 14cm deep; porcelain, LED light, cord, plug, wooden box with black paint and flocked interior