A night of thinking. I feel I’ve wasted most of the the last month and time is running out. Less than 3 months remain before I need to commit to my MA body of work.
Context: I started the course to develop a practice that would somehow develop my interest in portraiture and figures. In February I changed focus to abstract sculpture. How do I move forwards? What holds my interest? From Earth and Fire and Aberystwyth, two artists stand out for me – Sabine Classen and Anabeli Diaz.
Sabine creates beautiful, flowing forms that begin with the body. Her knotted forms are generated by human gesture, human movement – eversion and inversion, inside and outside. We did her dance in her demo, creating the sign for infinity. The Celtic knot also signifies infinity (as per the last post, she’s inspired by the Celtic knot). Her work resonates with her on a spiritual level, connecting with ancient symbolism, with the physicality of human experience. It occurred to me watching her that her sculptures are the equivalent of prehistoric hand prints that accompany cave paintings, set in motion and captured in 3D. Her conscious use of concave and convex form (she explores convex and concave elements withing the basic knot form to create unique works) also interests me. It’s similar to what I saw in Tony Cragg’s work. I’ve been looking at artists who use convex/concave in a more obvious way. I must reconsider this and apply it in a more subtle way.
Anabeli’s large female figure resonated with me. Of course, I was originally interested in the figure and portraiture. I watched her work for some time, learning about her method and the nature of clay. She told me she began to work on a monumental scale in response to a cavernous space she was commissioned to work in. The mention of space further piqued my interest, as it’s one of my ‘things’. I’m always aware of how space is being and has been utilised, bodily space and our connection to others, past and present, through shared space.
I was interested to learn how she has appropriated the monumental form as an affirmation of her own life and self-value. This work is a self portrait, an expression of her psychological and spiritual self, strong and vital. I understand that representing herself in this way has helped her deal with the insecurities and self-doubts we all have.
I didn’t discuss her skulls, but these, too, are an affirmation of life. On her Pinterest page she says ‘My sculls are about the lust for life, in spite of bad conditions. They deal with the fighting spirit that never abandons us, the deep instinct of survival there is with us to our last breath.’
Clearly for both women making sculpture is a life enhancing and life affirming experience. Both take the body as a starting point. Sabine transforms physical movement into a 3D sign that oscillates between the symbolic and indexical. Anabeli expresses ‘lust for life’ as a 3D sign that sits between representational and symbolic.
What does this mean for me?
For all the ceramics I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks that are inspired by natural form, rocks formations, landscapes, not one has figured in these last two posts. I’ve also seen works inspired by microscopic images – not a mention either. Mmmmmm.
Most of the works I’ve related to are inspired by human experience and/or the human body. Even the abstract sculptural forms have taken the body as their starting point. When I wrote my first Literature Review, I had a preconceived idea that my work would be figurative and missed entirely the fact that the body could be the inspiration for abstract sculptural form. Although I found some things of academic interest, I didn’t find much I related to within figurative ceramics in my Literature Review. With the exception of Anabeli’s work, I haven’t connected with any representational sculptural work based on the human figure in any of the shows, exhibitions and fairs I’ve been to since.
The other works that resonate with me are the abstract sculptural forms of Halima Cassell and James Oughtibridge, about whom I’ve already written at length. I like the play of light and shadow on the surface, defining the forms and creating movement around their pieces.
Oh, and I was surprised to find I liked the illustrated vessel forms of Emilie Taylor. I’m not generally a fan of picture stories on pots – sorry Grayson. Emilie’s a practicing art therapist as well as a ceramic artist, who is interested in people existing in transitional states, who often inhabit the forgotten spaces society has abandoned. She combines mimetic images of people with symbolism – symbolic colour (orange to signify heat, summer and the rave scene, black clay and white slip to signify winter), and pattern (her gran’s wallpaper pattern to draw attention to outside/inside, how we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors).
The images are based on her own teenage experience of how she and her friends used to appropriate abandoned spaces between country and town, between childhood and adulthood, for their own space. She worked from photos to recreate what they used to do there. Apart from finding them aesthetically pleasing, I now realise I related to them because of the connection between lived experience and physical space. They reference Tony Cragg’s concept of sculptural objects as chimeras, the infinite number of forms that exist between the forms that that are already in the world.
Recurring themes: the body, lived experience, space, movement, transition, light and shade, concave/convex
It’s clear from the last post and this one, that making holey patterns in pod forms with some vague connection to Rob Kesseler isn’t going to sustain my interest. A couple more pods to iron out technical issues and then what?
Take a non-figurative form, explore it and subvert it. The double bowl, perhaps, as I’ve already made a start.
Themes: transition, movement, light and shade, space, concave/convex
Question: What happens if……?
Make sculptural forms abstracted from the human form/movement/ in some way. I have already made an attempt at this in my 6 week foray into ceramics 26 years ago, so it’s an area of interest. This was my first attempt at modelling, which I loved immediately. Then a 12 piece mould – learnt a lot about moulds making that. Then a press moulded series, a couple refined, in warm spring/summer colours, one fragmented, in Egon Schiele autumnal colours. I ran out of time for winter. I now only have summer.
One of a series based on the body
Themes: the body, transition, maybe movement, space, light and shade, concave/convex
Question: How to represent the essential nature of……?
My idea for a site-specific installation. I’ve discounted this one because it’s not practical and I wouldn’t end up with objects. On the plus side it would have covered all the themes and given chance for what Matthew called ‘real research’. Hey ho!
I give the figure a whirl. Explore possibilities for representing the figure.
Themes: the body, lived experience, space, movement, transition, light and shade, concave/convex
I’m going to go and play with my colours now and let this percolate for a while.
5 hours later, and well percolated
In all this thinking, I haven’t considered the dynamic of our MA group. Matthew is already doing the figure, albeit the fragmented figure, and Jason is making abstract sculpture based on the body – bones to be precise. So that means options 2 and 3 are off. Leaves option 1 ‘Take a non-figurative form, explore it and subvert it.’ I’m happy with that.
I’m going to use the double bowl form to investigate the process, simply because I’ve already made one – and altered its form:
My original double bowl
Sue has since started making double bowls, but they are so different to even my original piece that it won’t matter. Once I’ve started morphing the form even further, the two will bear no relation to each other.
I’ve done a couple of drawings and I’m excited to see the forms that will emerge – and to discover how I will make them! I’m reminded of a video featuring Enric Mestre where he is looking through his sketchbook to find his next project, and decides on one that will be the most challenging. Exploring the double bowl won’t be a spiritual experience, but it will be an interesting challenge.