I have been particularity inspired by the words of an artist (Joesph Beuys) and a craftsperson (Tim Parry-Williams) on this journey.
‘practice being a key indicator of signs of knowledge and concept, translated through the language of process’ (Parry-Williams, 2007).
‘The transition from one state to another, the passage from chaotic energy through action to organised form: These are the invisible processes that are most difficult to convey in a visual form. The hand and the mind that guide the pencil or arrange the material must be in tune with the forces being expressed.’ (Joseph Beuys cited in Tisdall, 2011: 71)
Both provide a practice based methodology and regard the process of making an important factor, indicating knowledge and skill. Without conveying the process of making, this knowledge cannot be interpreted by others.
In an effort to capture the process of making, I have begun to extend my knowledge of wheel throwing. The differences between each tea bowl, denote the individuality of each piece (unlike the repeated, regular works made through slip casting). The process is explicit here. My knowledge is translated through the language of process (Parry-Williams, 2007), but is it yet a language worth sharing?
Fernando Casasempere is a Chilean ceramic artist, now living in London.
His exhibition A Death at the Parafin Gallery, highlights how we are destroying the planet. Many titles of the exhibited work make links to this notion: geology, tectonic etc.
What was useful?
Casasempere lives and works by his attitude to recycling, reusing as much ceramic matter as possible. He even goes so far as to exhibit some of it.
Process. Casasempere makes the process part of the work itself. Something I have been researching of late too. Does this make the work better?
When talking about his works where modular versions were required, he stated that the quality of one was pointless when compared with the total.
Out of the four qualities a tea bowl should possess, purity is the one quality that is significantly less subjective – particularly when considering glaze and decoration.
White is the signifier of purity and virtue in many cultures – particularly in China where the lotus flower connects these qualities with white also.
Image resourced from The Gallery of China
But can other colours or shades be pure? Many ‘good’ tea bowls are decorated in more than one colour. So how can they possess the quality of purity with impure decoration?
Of course the subjectivity of the meaning of purity is still quite vast. Therefoe it needs much further investigation. In an attempt to initiate this I have begun to use colour glazes.
The following image depicts the use of pure black – the contrast of white – to help better understand and pinpoint what purity means for this investigation.
I had a chat with Artist Nao Matsunaga recently. We got to talking about the ceramic culture of Japan, China and the U.K.
Through the discussion we engaged with the handmade objects and industry of each culture, but also of the mass produced wares; the ‘Made in China’ aspect that comes with globalisation. Even the mug I’m drinking from when writing this, despite originating from a Bath based company, was produced in China.
But mugs, bowls and plates are the only ceramic objects we experience on a daily basis. Some we may not interact with immediately, but they are there, making our lives a little bit easier.
Since this discussion with Nao I have been consciously looking out for modular (mass produced, normally slip cast) ceramic objects that are functional, but not immediate to us. Whilst in London, I observed these ceramic insulators on the Tube.
As it turns out, there are an incredible amount of ceramic insulators in all different shapes and sizes. In fact I’ve become a little obsessed. These screen shots from a google image search demonstrate the breadth of uses modular ceramics has in industry, essential in our modern daily lives.
What I like about these objects is just how essential, yet how unnoticed they are. When viewed singularly they could almost be a post modern sculpture, maybe oriental in shape and style, perhaps phallic even? Some insulators have been glazed with colour. The colour of the glaze in nonessential to its role, so why? Camouflage?
My interest has been ignited and these objects need further investigation.