Jason Hackett: Eclipse, 2010, Ceramic, 14” x 9” x 5”
Anat Shiftan: Stilled Life / Vessels Gallery, Boston, USA
May 4 – May 27, 2012
Vessels Gallery is pleased to present Stilled Life, a solo exhibition of the new ceramic work of Anat Shiftan. Born in Israel, and with a degree from Hebrew University in English Literature and Philosophy, Shiftan received her MFA in Ceramics from the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Design. In 2003, the artist joined the faculty at the State University of New York at New Paltz, School of Fine and Performing Arts, where she finds teaching essential to her creative process. She has participated in group exhibitions both nationally and internationally and was featured in the 3rd, 4th and 5th Biennale for Israeli Ceramicsas well as in the 4th Annual Jingdezhen Contemporary International Ceramics Exhibition, in Jingdezhen, China.
Shiftan is philosophically absorbed by nature and itsre-creation in art. She writes, “Looking at nature is a springboard for my artistic expression…” She is drawn in by the beauty of nature, the fluctuation between its symmetry and imbalance, its order and disarray. More importantly, however, she has become fascinated by the “packaging” of this nature as an art object throughout history. Shiftan is captivated by the human engagement with nature,by man’s desire to artistically capture what has been seen, andfinally by the process of doing it. This conversion from outside to inside, is just as much part of the subject matter as the clay itself.The artist works primarily in porcelain, and her pieces are markedly delicate and alluring, sometimes with sharp edges and coarse surfaces which may invite the viewer to look but not to touch.
Stilled Life continues Shiftan’s exploration of this dual role: nature in its own setting and nature domesticated. In her own words: “I contemplate the role of nature in artistic history, and I wonder if it is at all accessible to us today as a reality.”
/ 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.
“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
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
Ruth Power: Neck / shoulder (Cephalophilia), 2011, 43cm wide x 37cm long x 14cm deep; porcelain, LED light, cord, plug, wooden box with black paint and flocked interior.
Ruth Power: Vulva 1 (Cephalophilia), 2010, 43cm wide x 37cm long x 14cm deep; 2011, porcelain, LED light, cord, wooden box with black paint and flocked interior (Black and white image)
Ruth Power: Vulva 1 (Cephalophilia), 2010, 43cm wide x 37cm long x 14cm deep; 2011, porcelain, LED light, cord, plug, wooden box with black paint and flocked interior
Ruth Power: Breast (Cephalophilia), 2010, 33cm wide x 34cm long x 14cm deep; porcelain, LED light, cord, plug, wooden box with black paint and flocked interior
Ruth Power: Masks (Cephalophilia), 2011, porcelain, wooden box with black paint and flocked interior.