Find a Problem, Ask a Question

It’s one thing to have the intention to make abstract ceramic sculpture, it’s quite another to actually do it. The way I see it, art is design without the functional impetus or constraints.  Design is finding a solution to a problem, or an answer to a question, so art must be the same. The difference is that art demands the problems and questions are posed by the artists themselves. This has become evident from discussions I’ve had with artists, artist talks and demonstrations. A few examples are given below:

Barnaby Barford’s problem is how mass produced ceramics can be used to make a unique artwork. He explores the questions he asks himself about life.

Barnaby Barford: David Gill Gallery
Barnaby Barford: Me Want Now

Tony Cragg’s problem is how to create unique objects that are free from the constraints of commercial industrial production. He explores the nature, limits and possibilities of his chosen material.

Tony Cragg
Tony Cragg: Points of View at YSP 2017

Sabine Classen’s problem is to create unique objects based on the Celtic Trefoil Knot.  ‘What is the relationship between inside and outside?’ and ‘how does movement find form?’ are questions that preoccupy her.

Sabine Classen
Sabine Classen at the International Ceramics Festival 2017


Forms I’ve made to date have been driven by the problem of gaining handbuliding skills and the questions, ‘can I do this?’ ‘will this work?’ and ‘can I end up with an object in one piece and of some aesthetic value?’ All very useful for learning, but not enough to sustain a ceramics practice, or even get through an MA.

I think I need to set myself a project – find a problem, ask a question – that will kick-start my making.  Making leads to making.

Both Tony Cragg and Sabine Classen have set forms as starting points.  Tony’s current work is based on the human form, especially the profile of the face. Sabine’s current work is based on the human gesture and the Celtic knot.

I have used the double bowl and the Kesseler pod as the basic form.  I’m not excited or motivated by drawings I’ve done from Kesseler’s images.  I’ve drawn them, what’s the point in making them?  Where’s the problem or the question?

I want to be uncertain of the outcome, challenged by the process, surprised by what I make.  It has to be at least as good as designing a house, remodelling an interior, creating a kitchen. This is an MA.  I’m supposed to be exploring new things, expanding my understanding, learning. Wow, I didn’t know I was going to write that.  Too much red wine?

Back to the double bowl, then. Form’s my thing.  Maybe exploring the double bowl, subverting the form, asking ‘what happens if….?’

Maybe explore this tomorrow.





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