Artists In Conversation
To explore the metaphoric potential of the work I wove points of reflection, pauses in proceedings where I could repeat salient words/phrases, and read passeges of poetry/prose prior selected to illustrate points. The audience were further encouraged to draw and write in response to this in small sketchbooks which they scanned and emailed to me after the event.
Meaning can be teased from an artwork simply by shifting the frame from which view it.Taking each of the core positions commonly used in art analysis: Semantics / Formalist / Phenomenological / historical / psychoanalytical we draw out the narrative potential of Claire Curneen's exhibition 'Passages' her first Wales based solo exhibition.
The title was not simply a convenience in grouping artists from different places, but embodied the potential of ceramics to reflect and interpret aspects of our environment, society and culture. Taking each artist in turn we set out the diversity of ways in which ceramics achieves this from geology, geography, historical lineage, material values and souvenir.
There is a close association between skin and the expression of thought, When blushing, wailing, or sweating
we can be, albeit momentarily, taken over by its conveyance of emotion before we are consciously aware of
our own feelings, what Conor describes describes as 'thinking through the skin'
The fragmented Figure
Interpreting Ceramics Issue 8
Fragmented Figure: Natasha Mayo
In this extract, Mayo describes her consideration of skin as being innately fragmented. She continues to describe the ways in which she has articulated these ideas in ceramic, in particular, the relationship between two and three dimensions and how illusion of depth rendered onto a figurative form impacts upon our experience of flesh and skin. I think the notion of fragmentation is a concern for me as a practitioner in two different ways. Firstly, my consideration of skin is not as a wholly encompassing, impermeable layer of the body but rather a membrane through which we emit and are exposed to the environment and absorb. Its fragmented in the sense that the surface of our body is a relationship between the inside and the outside rather than one whole separated thing against another, its more of a dialectic between those two things. And I think that is a significant part of fragmentation, this negotiation between whole and part, its not often black and white but a dialogue, a relationship between those two things. The second element is perception, the means by which we perceive certain qualities. My interest lies in the expression of flesh and skin, in order to evoke the very particular qualities of flesh, I need to exaggerate them, amplify them on the body in such a way that the succession of stages by which we might ordinarily experience the body flushing, the body stretching, shivering is frozen, so its focussing on that particular sensation and no other. So there is a fragmentation in the process by which we experience these works
Fragmented Figure: Frances Woodley
As the interview continues, using examples of her ceramics as illustration, Woodley further describes ways in which she has negotiated aspects of the human form and a sense of the ‘other’, from the unconscious mind to the traversing of realities. Footage includes explanation of how she has been interested in, and influenced by, Northern European painting, Surrealism and, most recently, passages in Rosalind Krauss’ ‘Bachelors’. …so it was already truncated. To then cut it up, you start to make fragments but the re-composing of those fragments then started to work so that this side was of this world; it is vertical and so therefore it becomes assertive, and this part looks away and then maybe, I didn’t realize this at the time but I am beginning to realize it now, that this may subscribe more to the sense of the abject or at least not of this world, or the other. So maybe the portrait, the self and the other comes out of this one. But this is very much an exercise, its not producing a piece of work for an exhibition, this is in a sense investigating and resolving ideas.
Fragmented Figure: Babette Martini
This extract follows Babette Martini’s explanation of the wider context and specific concerns of her practice. It is taken from footage recording her particular process of construction accompanied by her description of its significance to the expression of the work. …these are different hands I made earlier. The hands need to dry another night so I can dip them into the plaster clay mix that I’m mixing right now. Its white casting slip I use with pottery plaster and I also add this time 10% syenite to alter the consistency of the coating and all this needs to be well mixed. I hold onto the little handle inside of the hand and dip it into the plaster and after the emersion it needs to be rested. Here, these are nails hammered to a board and they have little clay balls on top, if I would rest the hand immediately on top of the table surface it would stick to it and it would be very difficult to remove. The hands are immersed several times into the plaster clay mix but not all have the same amount of layering, the more I immerse the hand into the plaster the more it will loose its definition and also the nails leave a different impact and contribute to the expression of the hand. In contrast with the other footage the clips of Sabine Heller and Christie Brown do not include interviews. Their significance lies in documenting the ways in which evidence of the process of construction left behind on the surface of the figure can be considered as contributing to its expressive value, specifically to notions of fragmentation.
Fragmented Figure: Jill Bryars
Jill Bryers here interprets the notion of fragmentation in relation to her practice. In the interview, she continues to describe her ceramic figures and in particular, their sense of an emerging form influenced by children’s drawings, illustrations, their simplicity and anthropomorphic properties. The fragmentation of the figure in how I interpret this is more to do with what is missing and there is certain crudeness to making a figure perfect and actually rendering and producing and presenting a complete figure, which would be too obvious and it would be lacking in anything meaningful to me. Though having said that, there is something quite neat and tidy and nice and straight forward and something that appeals to me when I can actually represent and produce and make a part of the figure or represent the head or arm and that to me is very pleasing but to actually put them together to make something perfect is just slightly pointless. This probably makes is sound faintly ridiculous in describing that because I’m doing it but putting too much information for the viewer or representing it too fully is not the point, I'm more interested in what is missing. And also there are things that you can do that are more powerful, and more interesting for me. I don’t want to just make the figure and there it is, I what to show, to express a little more.
Fragmented Figure: Claire Curneen
In this extract, Claire Curneen describes the underlying subject of her ceramic figures, their evolving themes and influences, which are inextricably linked to notions of fragmentation. She continues to explain the process by which she develops her work, from sketchbooks to consideration of construction methods and ceramic materials and their relation to this subject matter. With the figurative work, the works in the studio, some of the works with the trees, they move on from that signature piece of the white standing figure which is something I suppose I’m more known for in 97/98, and there still very much about a similar thing, about the same thing, they have a vulnerability, their about a fragile nature but they are less autobiographical, they are less about me so much! I think that through working with the figure and the referencing material which has arisen over 99/2000 which is specific of the Pierro della Francesca and the Serano images, is the nature of the subject matter and that connection to what is happening, what event is being portrayed, which at the same time has very much a universal language, a universal nature. But in terms of the content of what I’m exploring, things like the St Sebastian figure, which is a figure which is quite well known, I use that to play with ideas of the body, about the flesh as opposed to just the skin of it, how the arrow hits the surface and the time involved in terms of how the gold trickles down the surface, it relates to a time element when the arrow hits. I’m just very drawn to the narrative and the story so I use that as a way to translate ideas about the human condition, about life/death, about connections to our questions on mortality, and issues that are too much to deal with sometimes, but I have this urge to be drawn to them
In Conversation Between Dawn Youll, Lowri Davies and Natasha Mayo about the Exhibition 'Placement' 2011
PLACEMENT at Oriel Davies Gallery - Fife Contemporary Arts, Scotland 2011 Stephen Bird, Claire Curneen, Lowri Davies, Ken Eastman, Nick Evans, Laura Ford, Anne Gibbs, David Shrigely, Cecile Johnson Soliz, Conor Wilson & Dawn Youll. Featuring contemporary ceramic objects by artists with connections to Wales and Scotland, this original and compelling exhibition explores the narrative possibilities of ceramics through material, form, history, image and context. From the outset this ambitious collaborative project, devised by Oriel Davies Gallery and Fife Contemporary Art & Craft (FCA&C), focused on producing a combined visual art and craft project. Links between Scotland and Wales were a useful departure point and the strength and diversity of ceramic practice suggested the way forward. An innovative ceramic artist based in each country was invited to bring their expertise and passion to the project. Having never met each other previously, ceramicists, Lowri Davies, (Wales) and Dawn Youll, (Scotland), responded enthusiastically to the invitation and embarked on co-curating the exhibition. The notion of place and placement conceived collectively by Davies and Youll, highlights important associations in the field of ceramics concerning location, geography, ritual, commemoration and the souvenir. Each artist-curator was drawn immediately to the work of Laura Ford who uses the ceramic ornament as a means to connect with audiences. This language exploring common themes in Ford’s sculptural practice led Davies and Youll to push borders between artistic practices and to research artists who use and reference clay in a multitude of ways. Works range from Nick Evans’ extraordinary, potent and sculptural totems, marking the idea of ritual and fundamental roots of human existence to the earthy, uprooted terracotta trees by Claire Curneen, hung in stasis and precariously offering the potential for growth through golden roots and branches. Tracing the journey of life is played out and presented through many works, objects which offer stories and connections about our past and present, our environment or even the constructed landscape, assembled and formed in the mind. This exhibition offers an exciting and alternative perspective to ceramics, inviting both artists and audiences to reconsider and reposition their understanding, engagement and relationship with ceramics. A full colour publication accompanies this exhibition and includes an interview between Dr Natasha Mayo, artist and lecturer, Cardiff School of Art& Design and the co-curators. Further information and press images: contact Alex Boyd Jones , Curator on 01686 625041, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org