Image was so important in cultivation since beginning of agricultural practices. Sharing information about certain plants and their care, uses as well as symbolic properties, it helped develop our image of the natural world within our minds.
I should look at recording clay growth in similar illustrations, my sketchbook becoming a herbarium.
In a sense ceramic is another form of herbarium, with deep tradition especially in maiolica, to depict and record plants on the surface of ceramic objects. Particularly medicinal jars, containing powerful natural remedies, whose content was labelled by its in-glaze decoration with pictures or words.
I’m trying to reflect on this tradition in my own use of maiolica. Focusing more on the essence of growth, protrusions and patterns rather than the visual representation of nature. The brushstrokes, so essential and visible in in-glaze process will be a vital element in construction of the decoration.
Regarding colours I will not orthodoxy stick to the traditional strong cobalt blue, cloudy copper green, antimony and lead yellow (for which I was unsuccessful), manganese purple (also couldn’t achieve that) and others. Using simple stains proved as the most logical option, with great variety of shades available by mixing them with some oxides, especially Rutile.
Multiplying found plant matter.
In theory plaster can provide perfect conditions for growth, at least when it’s setting, being so moist and warm in the process.
I made simple 3 parts mould of a small stick to test my skills and the final result.
Surprisingly the dried yellow lichen rejuvenated and become bright green after the first part pour and leaving it be for a few days.
It’s another bonus that the mould produces good casts with only little fettling needed and some lichen missing from some parts.
I’ll try to cast and hight fire it in porcelain if I can get delicate, almost translucent sticks, looking perhaps more artificial, less natural and organic than my terracotta sculpture.
Ideally I would like to cast much bigger stick, a whole log!
Lectures on ‘Curation’ by John Clarkson as well as recent “Corridor Crit” session provided me with enough food for thought about how I should present my work, and begin with a more concrete plan for the final assessment.
I’ve became quite fond of our curation sessions, probably for the plentiful examples in sculptures, or by building on questions from our Wunderkammer Field project last year.
Constantin Brancusi’s sculptural work from the first half of the 20th century plays with the presence of a plinth. Questioning where does a sculpture end and plinth begin, are plinths removing sculptures from the real life? Plinths or frames are perargons in an exhibition space, a by-product of a painting or sculpture, the thing beside a work, neither the artwork or the regular world.
I think that is why I was so fond of placing my work on block of polystyrene, to remove them from the table and the real world, detaching them from the natural just slightly.
It was visible in our group ‘corridor’ critique when the viewers were rather confused about where they could be, in what kind of setting. The tiny patch of artificial grass might point them to some outdoors, but the elevation of the plinths detached any link.
It was similar to the two slightly different ways of displaying Jacob Epstein’s Rock Drill, suddenly the man and machine doesn’t seem that threatening to our world – Earth and humanity.
These questions bought me back to my attempts to construct a pergola from polystyrene, and realised how similar plinths and pergolas are. Supporting the plants to the hight, being perargons, but slightly more: giving structure and form to the main attraction of foliage and flowering, like Brancusi’s plinths, they are somehow part of the exhibit.
Is the root system plinth and secondary part of a tree, or the ground and soil just surface? Plinths and context provide sustenance to objects, connected to the institution’s power, country’s history, or viewer’s perspective?
I intend to raise some of my pieces by a simple wooden structure, resembling climbing frames for plants, and conventional plinths.
The rest of the work might need to be displayed just on the floor, or some kind of low plinths, almost like a vegetable patch raised by wooden walls.
I’m still not sure about using artificial turf. Or anything else.
Sources of the images:
Tools have become an important aspect of bridging horticultural practice with ceramic and artistic practice. It is so essential that I have to consider them being present in the final exhibition setup.
The fundamental tool that I began to work with, other than my hands, are the pruning shears or secateurs which work perfectly on leather-hard clay, despite its £1 quality, that doesn’t satisfy any actual pruning.
They produce an intensive cut, dragging the clay along and revealing the dark interior when I cut a swelling of the surface.
From last year’s successful experience in aluminium casting, I wanted to create my own tools that could be used in more mark making, or open new possibilities for further cultivation.
I made few tools in black and white polystyrene ready to be set in sand and cast, if I’m fast enough even before Easter. Unfortunately, the blue foam which is stronger and easier for more precise shapes is not suitable for the casting process, so I have to fight with even more polystyrene.
At least polystyrene does have much more organic quality, seemingly built as a collection of individual cells.
I will attempt to attach ceramic handles to them, for the comfort when holding, but also to visually and materially tied everything together.