Over this conclusive year, I had great opportunity to further expand and develop my visual language as a ceramic gardener/ sculptor, for which ideas began to develop in the explorative Second year.
Through thorough academic research in the form of dissertation I developed and contextualised my practice, positioning it firmly in the wider world. I acquired deep insights into art, predominantly sculpture, anthropology and archaeology, philosophy. Moreover, I could actually contribute with my synthesis of ideas and proposition of ‘ceramic horticulture’ to the wider field of art, ceramics, and philosophy. This is a proposition I’m seriously considering to develop further in a Masters degree level, either in MA Ceramics at Cardiff, MFA in Ceramics at Alfred university US, Craft – Ceramic Arts at HDK, Sweden, MA Ceramics & Glass at RCA, London or other Masters programmes in Prague, Bratislava or Oslo.
Despite how much I enjoyed my dissertation theme and wanted to dive even deeper, I really struggled with my concentration and motivation, physically only being able to do any writing/reading/thinking for about 10 minutes, before I would get agitated and drifting off with my thoughts. The extremely emotionally hard Christmas just piled on top of deadline stresses. I’m extremely thankful for the weeklong extension so I could just about finish the writing, while finding new strategies to cope with my mental state, and maximise the 10min bursts of productivity I had.
With a relatively clear direction of my ideas, supported by my contextual research and being comfortable in what my interests in ceramics and philosophy are, I could move freely through sculpture and functional objects, more designed or site-specific, and in number of different materials. I feel this free movement wasn’t disruptive as it can be sometimes, but rather each step informed the other. Such as making tools, carved in almost organic looking polystyrene and then cast in bronze, gave me ability to explore the historical beginnings of horticulture and change interactions with the world.
This excited more ideas, such as the use of supporting structures mostly made from wood, like climbing frames for beans, I could elevate and position my sculptures precisely, similarly to traditional plinths but with more flexibility (no need for flat bottom). This was partially informed by the excellent lectures on Still Life, and Curation by John Clarkson. At times hard to get around, though the questions, propositions and connections presented were actually more useful than empirical facts and figures you’re normally thought in art history/any history classes.
I’m glad I could apply these ideas to more functional objects too, challenging the everyday aesthetics. This really helped me secure my place at INCubator Space for next year, where I’m planning to develop a whole range of products, while still developing my visual language and ideas. I feel it is really what you do after university that counts in a lifelong career as an artist, so I hope I’ll not loose the drive and playfulness to come up with new ideas and advance.
The third year, if not my whole degree, was mostly an exercise to find a friend, a friend within myself. With a tendency shared with my brother to hate and dishearten ourselves, the past few months has been an immense struggle to just accept that whatever I’m doing is good enough and worthy. I had to find a healthy balance, away from constant comparisons with the best and criticising of everything I do.
This degree has given me more than any other degree ever could. A genuine friend within me, and perhaps clay too, is more than a ‘successful’ career…
Synthesis of ideas behind my latest exhibition pieces: the humble cabbage lamp and freestanding bundle of broken asparaguses.
Still Life and Materiality lectures gave me insight into the significance of these objects in history of still life painting, which I further extended by finding the works of Constance Spry, Stanley Spences, Jean Helion or Tommaso Salini.
As prompted by Claire to start using porcelain, I had a hard time adapting to its idiosyncrasies, and I couldn’t handle it the same way as I do terracotta.
Therefore, trying to adapt to the material, I started to create a very thin, simple, cabbage shaped objects, with the edges of individual grafts left un-smoothed.
With the potentiality of fired porcelain to be translucent, I left an opening at the bottom, measured to fit (taking into account up to 20% shrinking) a (E27) lamp holder.
The combination of porcelain, cabbage and light became to seem rather common but extraordinary at the same time.
The ordinariness of cabbage has been celebrated and valorised, predominantly in painting, such as by Tommason Salini in ‘Young Peasant with Flask’ – youthfulness and energy emerging from the cabbages; in abstraction by Jean Helion looking at its strange, head like shape neatly ordered on fields, or by narrative scenes painted by Stanley Spencer in ‘The Lovers (the Dustmen)’ enlightening the extraordinary in ordinary.
“Plainness and stoicism: these are familiar ideas in relation to cabbage.”
Inspired and enamoured by 17th century Dutch still life flower paintings, Constance Spry exploited the liveness and humble interests of vegetation, natural light and colours. Her flower designs were revolutionary, in the terms of contrasting the fashion of formal arrangements. Constance’s designs were overall simple, striving to find the best way to express the intrinsic beauty of flowers. However, Constance considered all organic materials to be eligible for use in her designs, which resulted in tomatoes, lichens, artichokes, rhubarb leaves, all manner of fruits and berries, as well as vegetables, weeds and wildflowers along with the commercial offerings to be used in her work.
Constance played her part in the democratisation of taste and style, appreciating natural qualities and improvisation.
“applying her improvisational creative genius to all aspects of home making, did more to bring good design and beauty into the lives of ordinary people than many a serious industrial designer, famous for one “iconic” and unaffordable chair.”
Asparagus has been also celebrated in still life painting for its many symbolic meanings. However, in some cases the main focal point has been its interesting aesthetics alone. Especially in Manet’s single white asparagus on white marble, almost merging together, painted so freely, and purely for the pleasure that “although still, it is, at the same time, lively”.
Adriaen Coorte, Still Life with Asparagus, Cherries and a Butterfly, c. 1693-95 Paper on panel Private collection, Switzerland
Adriaen Coorte, A bundle of Asparagus, 1703 Paper on canvas The Fitzwilliam, Cambridge
A. Coorte, Still Life with Asparagus and Spray of Red-Currants, c. 1696 Paper on cardboard Pieter C.W.M. Dreesmann Collection
François Habert, Kitchen Bench with Carp, c. 1645-1651 Oil on canvas Hessiches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt
Louise Moillon, Still Life with a Basket of Fruit and a Bunch of Asparagus, 1630 Oil on panel The Art Institute of Chicago
Giovanna Garzoni, Plate of Asparagus with Carnations and a Grasshopper, undated Gouache on vellum Private collection, Italy
My asparagus sculpture is in a sense processed as all the asparagus in still life paintings. Cut and bound together by a human, but contrary to its laying position, the clay asparagus is standing upright, still with potentiality to grow and break free.
Casting the little twigs in porcelain has been a good choice, giving it very different feel compare to the original wood, or even just earthenware slip. They feel so strong, smooth, with natural shine to them. Firing them in reduction made them even more magical with beautiful eggshell grey/blue colour. Tied together in bundle they have qualities close to classical paintings of white asparagus, with just more untamed energy.
The bronze tools came out of the sand mould perfectly, with only two shapes not being fully cast. However, they take a lot of processing to do. From cutting them off of the channels with grinder, then removing any imperfections with powerful dremels and roughly polishing them.
To make them look more prehistoric, as if dug from the ground after thousands of years, I could use some patinas to make them look darker, aged. However, I have not had that much time to spare before the final deadline, so I left the stuck burned sand in crevasses instead.
Positioned in the large, plane glass window they seemed strangely familiar. A handheld garden trowel, not so pristine and utilitarian as in a Poundshop. Textured as if diseased or slightly decomposed, next to an axe head and behind your own reflection in the glass, similar to a museum experience.
The groupings reconcile into evolution.
Horticultural tools – harvested produce – cultivated vessels?
It has been quite significant for me to make these, not only to test my glaze recipe, application, colours, brushstrokes and patterns. I could also test some ideas smaller scale, mostly through the decoration but also how they move, and how they could leak.
Leak liquids like the teapot, but also themselves through long protrusions. Spilling, or searching for a new source? Giving or taking? Living or dying?
It was great to challenge myself on the wheel again, and applying my ideas either through hand altering or just the in-glaze decoration. With colour, its layering, or sgraffiting through the glazes.
Some thought on completion of beetroot and radish sculptures on climbing frames.
The beetroot shape has been my first large scale sculpture attempted, and it has been quite challenging. It ended up rather collapsed or shrivelled rather then plump root, but I could relate to that after just finishing dissertation.
I’m glad it kinda resembles ugly, obscured beetroot (or brain?). Associated with Aphrodite’s magical beauty, as well as having connections to affairs of the hearth, as it appears like the organ, oozing dark red liquid too.
It deserves the highest position the wooden climbing frames gave it. Even so damaged, open and shrunken it still looks rather monumental.
Despite radishes looking similar to beetroots they are not closely related. However, due to radish’s shape, roots and bright red colour they are also associated with hearths and romantic love. With their peppery, spicier flavour maybe they should be associated more with passion.
The terracotta radish seems more defiant, almost lifting itself from the climbers and keeping its content inside.
As my technical project, which informs my Subjects, I tried to devise my own in-glaze (Maiolica or Faience), surface decoration process.
I wanted to emphasise the rich texture of my hand-build terracotta sculptures, crisscrossed with veins-like imprints of my palm. The Tin glaze allowing Iron rich terracotta undulations to show through the opaqueness, but at the same time providing a light background for bright colours to flourish on the newly formed skin of my growths.
looking for the perfect opaque
I tried 10 different transparent or white glazes from various sources, firing each at 1060C and 1160C, as well as their response to opacifiers (either Tin Oxide, Zirconium Silicate, or a combination of them).
All of the glazes were based on High Alkali Frit (or as a replacement to Ferro Frits), Lead Bisilicate, Standard Borax Frit, Calcium Borate Frit, or a combination of them.
They all performed just fine, when the firing was actually good, with only some showing common problems: forming bubbles/foaming, mainly at thicker places, or having uneven, ugly milkiness, or present cracks.
Some had interesting idiosyncrasies, such as the Morgan Hall’s Maiolica glaze where the the small addition of Lithium Carbonate brought forward bright iron oranges, through the white glaze. The very simple clear terracotta glaze combining Calcium Borate Frit (65) and Red Clay (35) had a very good fit on terracotta between the temperatures of 1100-1150 C. It produced high gloss bright terracotta, almost honey like, but with greenish tint. However, with the (slightly higher) addition of opacifiers (Tin Oxide 8 and Zirconium Silicate 6), it could only produce murky browns.
Testing first 7 glazes in 2 temperatures, as clear and as opaque.
From the tests I could combine the best performing transparent base recipe (a combination of mainly Standard Borax Frit and small addition of Calcium Borate Frit), and the best performing opacifier (an equal addition of Tin Oxide and Zirconium Silicate).
My preference was a non-Lead glaze, that can be used on functional ware and can withstand the highest range of terracotta (1150-1170). This allows the clay to reach its fullest maturity – fullest strength and rich, toasty colour.
I’ve put the fired samples under stress test too, soaking them in water for prolonged time and then drying them, either naturally or by the means of a heat gun. I also heated them high with the heat gun and then submerging in cold water, as well as scratched the glazed surface with sharp metal objects.
I wanted to test the functionality and strength of the glaze, if it would chip too easily or develop cracks. The samples withstood the stress tests marvellously, possibly because of the addition of Zirconium Silicate as opacifier, which can strengthen a glaze. However, it’s important to note that the size of the samples were quite small, so tests on larger objects with larger glazed surface area might behave slightly differently, amplifying all forces.
colour tests and tests and tests
First colour tests. Applying oxides or stains mixed either with just water, water and frit, or water and transparent base glaze. There was not much difference, so I went with the most recommended version of water and transparent base glaze, adjusting the ratios as I went along in the research project. Starting with ratios of 1:1:1 – colouring powders:transparent glaze:water to 1:3:2 and later even more water or glaze as I was adding Rutile by 1/8’s.
For faint colour effects, it was easy to thin the colour mixes with a brush and water during decorating, very much like water colours.
When starting to test in-glaze colour additions, the chosen base glaze proved not stiff enough, making brush strokes bleed and finer detail disappear in the highest range of temperatures (1150-70).
I tried to adjust the recipe and the mixture of colouring glaze, but at the end I settled with the commercial transparent glaze available in the glaze workshop as the best base, with the addition of the opacifier mix.
The commercial clear glaze provides just the perfect surface and firing range to use flexibly (from 1000-1160C but survives slight over-firing too).
Having the base glaze and colour mixture finalised, I could start looking for materials and mixtures creating a range of colours.
I started with the traditional oxides used to produce a number of colours throughout the history of in-glaze.
Cobalt Oxide (also Carbonate) for blues, Chrome Oxide for greens, Copper Oxide for blue-greens, Manganese Oxide for browns to purples, Iron Oxide for red-browns, Rutile for rusty orange, and the combination of Lead and Antimony for Naples yellow.
yellows, marigold to oranges
The search for the traditional Naples Yellow has been, unfortunately unsuccessful. I tried various rations of Lead Sesquisilicate or Lead Bisilicate with Antimony but only achieved faint yellows on a bubbly surface. This could be due to the lack of Lead in the opaque background glaze with which Antimony normally reacts with to create the colour, or just by me consistently missing the ratios.
For the oranges I tried mixtures of Vanadium (O4), Rutile (O7), with tiny additions of Cobalt and Chrome oxides, or mixtures of Synthetic Iron Oxide, Titanium Dioxide and Manganese (O9, O9b).
Non of them were really satisfactory, not even pure Orange stain for its un-toned bright colour (O6). However, using small amounts of Rutile as addition to the stain was the perfect way to control the colour, creating a gradient to more gentle and warmer tones.
Rutile proved useful as addition to yellow stains to find the interesting colour ranges between yellow and orange.
Furthermore, diluting the stains and Rutile in the opaque glaze produced beautiful pastel versions of any colour.
lavender to purples
Manganese Oxide is traditionally used to produce plum purples to browns, however I haven’t achieved any good colour here either, perhaps the lack of Lead has a role here too.
The P10 and P10b was the closest I could come to plum purple made up of Manganese Carbonate and small additions of Cobalt Carbonate.
With 1/8 additions of Rutile the Manganese/Cobalt purple as well as purple and lavender stains turned beautiful blue grey, but any larger additions of Rutile turned the samples towards browns.
For the first time I also tried to add 1/8 of Red Iron Oxide, instead of Rutile. As Rutile is impure version of Iron Oxide, the effect was just the same but amplified, making the samples turn to orange browns with smaller additions than Rutile. Continue reading Technical write up on in-glaze
Applying for INC Space and the Woo Foundation Painting and Sculpture Prize 2018. Producing artist Curriculum Vitae and creating my artist statement for 2 distinctive purposes. Gathering best images and information.
Artist statement for Fine Art competition, using the WHY, HOW, WHAT tip:
I believe all materials should be considered alive and vital. Through attentive human intervention, material can be cultivated into forms that are not dominated by pure human will, but are collaboratively shaped by the world and its forces too. Clay borders the organic and the inorganic. It is one of the most physically sympathetic materials, making it an ideal substrate to mutually grow.
Through my work I adopt the role of a ‘ceramic gardener’ tending to clay as a living medium. Employing the metaphor of a gardener is important to me because it enables me to forefront the unpredictable and vital dimensions of clay. This method of making allows me to strike a balance between organic and artificial, the real and imagined, outdoor and domestic, human and more-than-human.
During the process of hand building I press clay into my palm, transferring lines and folds which imply veins that seek to nourish the sculpture. The sculptures are adorned with tin glaze and colourful marks that explore the essence of growth in botanical illustrations. I also utilise specifically made gardening tools to extend the narrative of cultivation; cast in bronze, they refer to the beginnings of human agriculture, as well as the first cultivation of minerals and metals.
The final works explore ideas about our interaction with the world and our role within nature.
8 images needed for the Fine Art competition:
Unfortunately, I was only able to provide images of work in progress, or tests and sketchbook pages. The quality of the photographs is not best either due to my lack of skills in studio photography. However, at least it is something.
Art Curriculum Vitae: including my artist statement, with lists showing my education, exhibitions and other projects I was part of, as well as part-time and volunteering jobs.
Can be seen at: About page