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.
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
“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
Opening reception with Garth Clark, New York-based critic, writer and gallerist: Thursday, March 29, 5–8 pm. Artist Talk with Turi Heisselberg Pedersen: Saturday, March 31 at 2 pm.
"I love my garden, its plants and vigorous growths. Its potency of growth that within one season can produce an enormous plant from a tiny seed. It contains such a wealth of amazing and strange shapes, textures and colours. Furthermore it is a curious mix of nature and cultivation, of something dirty or beautiful, of poetry and ugliness. Certain things bloom and grow, some go wrong, unsuccessfully. It is a world of controlled nature, which is shaped, trimmed and reworked, not unlike the world of clay" Turi Heisselberg Pedersen explains on the inspiration for her show. Her garden can be experienced at Copenhagen Ceramics from 29 March through 21 April 2012.
For the exhibition My Garden Turi Hesisselberg Pedersen has created a new series of works inspired by the patterns, textures and structures in her garden. In the process of transforming this into ceramics works, two overall themes have emerged:
Vases inspired by buds and growths On one hand you find a group of precise, simple and cultivated shapes. For example vases inspired by the tautness of swelling flower buds – formal expressions that may seem almost vulgar. Or abstract, simple vase-shapes miming the upward, rhythmic patterns of plant-growth. Both act as ceramic equivalents to the trimmed and cultivated nature of gardens and an interpretation of the underlying order.
The opposite theme renders visible the sprouting life under ground. Out of this, works in the shape of organic, bulbous forms and seed capsules emerge with coarse, expressive surfaces or fluted structures. Careless growths and root-like forms, testifying to the more unruly forces of the garden.
In her new exhibition, Turi Heisselberg Pedersen will be showing some all-new, expressive and asymmetric works, where she explores the inherent character and textural freshness of the clay. Other pieces are more typical of her and display her mastery of simplified sculptural vessels, where rhythm, lines and the interplay between forms are recurrent themes.