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”.
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.
stoic cabbage – Morris T, 2018, New Wav Clay, Frame Publisher, Amsterdam, page 74
lamp holders dimensions – http://www.urbancottageindustries.com/blog/lamp-holders-explained-lighting-101-unit-4/