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

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

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→ 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.

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Simcha Even-Chen

Simcha Even-Chen's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View her works

In my recent works I use ceramic sculptures to investigate the elements of ambiguity and dynamic of opposites.  Ambiguity is express by the contrast between appearance and reality. Looking at the precise shapes that enclose and contain space gives the impression of solid and massive bodies when they are in fact, surprisingly light and delicate.
The dynamic of opposite is express in a way that juxtaposes the precise and controlled building and graphic design of the ceramic work the unpredictable firing technique of “Naked Raku”.
In these works I’m dealing with issues such as tensions between polarities, with fragmentation and constructions and with illusions. These concepts are guidelines for my treatment of space in the context of surface-volume relationships. The division of the body surface between white and black, as well as the use of lines softens the shape, simultaneously placing the grid or lines on the edge of the shape, so that they follow the shape, completely dissolve the hard lines. Viewing from different angles, surface and volume are blurred, giving an illusion of flatness.
This idea is strengthened and extended by working with pairs or creating a composition of a few units, where new volumes and planes are achieved by way of the lines or grid are virtually joined; the ratio of parts to the whole is changing and two and three dimensions are played against each other in a sophisticated manner.

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Shamai Gibsh

Shamai Gibsh's profile on Ceramics Now Magazine - View his works

Owner of a Cramic Studio in Jaffa, Israel, Shamai Gibsh’s activities include wheel throwing, hand building and sculpturing.
My ceramic works are focused on esthetic designs. Techniques include: Saggar firings of objects covered with terra sigillata and terra sigillata printing, reduction, Raku and oxidation.

I get inspiration from my environment and surrounding. Jaffa, an 10,000 years old port city a part of Tel-Aviv  in Israel - a very old and full of history with its colors and textures, unique architecture and multinational has a big influence on me.
Typically  I burnish and cover with terra sigilata, at times I use copper and soluble salts (Metal chlorides like silver, gold, cobalt), and saggar fired inside clay vessels with organic materials typically pine needles.

For the last 11 years I’ve worked every summer at the Harvard ceramic Studio. My sculptural work an been inspired by the life in israel, the political situation in Israel, as well as my recent traveling to China and Korea. There I took a path of a single 3 dimensional object instead of using multiple objects like in my “wall” Aestela exhibition. Each one of these sculpture represents a wall-barrier.

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