Last year I managed a rare trip to a gallery (a snatched moment between lockdowns!) primarily to see the fabulous Pansy – Roy Efrat and Catrin Webster’s collaborative exhibition in the Glynn Vivian Gallery, Swansea. While there I was chuffed to spot an old piece of mine displayed in the Swansea Collection gallery.
This is a very old piece and very different from my more recent work. So much so that I have been pondering these differences in order to find the parallels and convergences as well as the more obvious divergences. The linkages are largely based on balance and tension. This early form, above, is finely balanced, a vessel poised to the point of creating tension through a sense of its precariousness. The geometry of the fine lines of inlaid stained clay reiterating that sense of a poised moment in time.
In contrast this more recent piece, made during my Masters course at UWTSD Swansea College of Art, eschews the clean lines of form and surface pattern and texture. It is no longer even a vessel, a container, in the traditional sense. But still there is that same wrestling with balance and tension, only now that poise is gone; the piece is actually beginning to tip and is in fact balancing, precariously, on warped and layered clay walls. The surface pattern and texture, created by imprinting the clay with plastic mesh, contains areas where the mesh is bunching up and areas of space where the mesh is stretched or torn echoing the warped and torn clay walls.
It’s been a very long time since I wrote a blog post! In autumn 2017 I began an MA in Fine Art – Contemporary Dialogues at UWTSD Swansea. I wanted to do this particular course as I liked the crossover and openness between different practices.
This will be the start of some updates and as usual I’m doing things out of sync by starting with my final show before going back to the beginning, more or less, of the journey of the MA.
Most of my work has been based on time – both linear and cyclical, chance, narrative and materiality. My final show From Path to Poultice comprised an installation of raw clay, logs of wood and other natural materials and a video piece that was made over the space of a year. Path was a repetitive journey along the garden path to record the changes in smashed clay over a period of a year or more. The repetitive nature of the work became ritual and as time went on I made more ritualistic pieces such as Poultice in response to this.
Cross-current: – 1. a current in a river or sea flowing across another current. 2. a conflicting tendency moving counter to the usual trend.
These two pieces – Cross-currents and Sea Passage feel in some way separate from my other work despite all the elements having been used in earlier work. The specific mix of textured black clay and smooth white paper clay and use of impressed materials to create surface pattern and texture were used in pieces such as Thorn I and II. The sea motif and use of detritus from previous makings is apparent in Sea Change I and II and Sea Bite.
So perhaps it’s the ideas behind the work that were changing and that I have further developed in my most recent work, Faultlines, making these pivotal pieces, and that is why the name Cross-currents seems so apposite.
On a different note when I exhibit Cross-currents, unless it is very strongly spot lit I think I may need to provide a torch so the interior can be seen. I have included some interior views here and if you look closely at the third one you can see signs I have a little visitor!
My work can currently be seen at Kunsthuis in the annual ceramics exhibition ‘Shades of Clay’ which features 25 UK and international ceramicists. The exhibition runs until 24th December.
“Shades of Clay’ comprises a whole breadth of clay based work from potters/ceramicists using everything from traditional hand-building techniques to the latest new technologies creating 3D printed ceramics as well as wheel-based and slip cast wares.
Kunsthuis is the Contemporary Art Gallery in Dutch House, Crayke, near York and also features Gardens and a café – I can recommend the walks around the gardens and the café’s delicious coffee and brownies amongst many other things. Kunsthuis were finalists in the White Rose Awards 2016.
If you get the chance please do make the effort to go and see it. Kunsthuis also shows paintings, prints, sculpture, jewellery and other craft-based work. The Gallery, Gardens and Café are open from 10am to 5pm Wednesday to Sunday.
Thorn l and Thorn ll are some of the final pieces I made towards the Maker in Focus exhibition at Mission Gallery. They are something of a return to the tree motif I initially envisaged as the major element within this body of work, before the sea took over.
I used cuttings from the dying hawthorn hedge in my garden (courtesy of a neighbour spraying brambles on their side!) and pressed them into the clay slabs while the clay was still relatively soft.
The forms appear largely urban/industrial but were also influenced by a thorn bush I came across some years ago that had been sculpted by the wind, and perhaps sheep and deer, into an almost perfect cuboid – just a few stray twigs straggled out of one top corner.
The use of white paper clay alludes to the lichens I found on many of the wind blown trees around the coast as well as on the old oak trees in my local park, Parc Coed Bach.
While producing this work for Maker in Focus at the Mission Gallery in Swansea, I’ve used, it turns out, several different clay bodies – two different blacks, terracotta, white earthenware, at least one earthstone, and three different paperclays. I think the most enjoyable for the actual making have been the two clays in these pieces – the white form – ‘House of Leaves’ (at least it’s a working title but really how could I resist when the book is sitting in my studio!) is made with Earthstone and the dark form ‘Sea Change II’ is Vulcan Black. Both are beautiful to work with and not so heavily grogged that they rip my hands and nails to shreds as others have. Both these pieces though have other clays and materials incorporated in them.
When starting out on this work I intended combining the urban/industrial with elements of the natural world, envisaging the main signifier as being the tree. To an extent this has happened but as time went past I found that other major signifier of the natural environment – the sea – beginning to seep into the work, evidence of my increasing concern with global warming and rising sea levels.
My worries about the loss of trees showing in the work as exactly that – by impressing hedge cuttings, leaves and seaweed into the clay and removing or burning out these things creating an absence, loss.