Two internationally important shows provided me with context for the start.
One ceramic orientated, the other one focused on modern international art helped me position myself between these two and bring plenty of inspirations.
Hands on volunteering, helping create papier-mâché and UV reactive rocks for Jennifer Taylor’s twilight sci-fi landscape used for her theatrical performances.
Replying to alluring email from G39 about volunteering opportunity, Morgan and I appeared in a fun and dynamic workshops creating masses of light rocks using cardboard, bubble-wrap and covering them with PVA and tissue paper. These were then covered in carpet glue so that the Daz washing powder would stick on them making them reactive to the UV light as part of multimedia ‘Silent Beach’ exhibition and performance.
We’ve soon been allocated to help with covering a large wooden skeleton with chicken wire and stuffing it with some waste paper so to create the base for small grotto, or large hollowed rock for performers to emerge from.
This encounter was so good not just by discovering the work of Jennifer Taylor who is essentially being birthed by inorganic rocks, basically rendering them alive, but by sculpting a landscape using completely different materials and techniques than I would use normally.
I realised how extremely important it is not to be stuck in clay when exploring ideas and philosophies, that are not just about the material.
In some cases I could scale up and explore ideas without extreme effort and time spend nurturing the clay; incorporating other materials in final installation as a narrative support for objects in clay. Performance could also be an important aspect in activating the installation and objects within, rendering them more alive, or dead.
Undergoing immersive week extending my skills in sculpting, hand building, collaborating, performing and story telling.
Learning how to reclaim dry blocks of clay with no plaster, and in limited time was quite challenging. Arising to smashing the clay into almost powder with heavy tools, and after saturating it with limited amounts of water, building arches to let the sloppy clay dry.
However, accustoming myself with this new, locally dug clay was easier. I really enjoyed its unique colour as well as the groggy and rather sticky texture, even though it did not record the texture of my hand, which I normally try to keep.
Set with the task of creating a kiln based on a country and its stories/folklore, I started drafting ideas and searching for stories in Slovak/Slavic mythologies. I came up with some designs based on ‘Morena’ – goddess of Winter whose effigy is burned and thrown into a stream to welcome the Spring. However, its basic story didn’t really interest me, with obvious but messy symbolisms such as female fertility, rebirth, coldness, evil and beauty, burning witches, etc.
I was wondering, that there must be a folk story for every fairy common creature and natural phenomena, over the many years and geographies of human existence.
My first search trial was snails, as I like them and could relate to their slow and quiet exploration of the world.
Within Christian traditions they are perceived as evil, symbols of the deadly sin of sloth, laziness and apathy.
However, in Aztec stories snail is representing the moon, its shell the cycles of moon and is considered humble and respectful. Moreover, it has very interesting and different back story to the moon’s creation. I was instantly captured, and felt I could retell the story to others, with the kiln supporting the theatrical presentation perfectly.
I sketched multiple designs of snail like object with circular features representing the moon. At the end I stayed with fairy simple in detail but still challenging enough shape for me.
I felt I could really develop my aesthetics in hand building and sculpting, experimenting with this semi abstract form with emphasis on empty space and more organic, uneven surface. The red slip allowed me to separate the circle – moon and shell from the base, whilst white slip brushes added a bit more movement and clay dots another voids.
As a side project we had to construct a stackable camping set, but missing a collaborative element in the residency, I teamed up with Morgan. To allow us to focus on our kilns and produce something good in such a short time, we stripped down the stackable element to the basic and pumped up the fun element. Our fun ‘Camp’-ing Picknic Set included one big serving/salad bowl with decoration imitating weaved basket, and limp wristed hands as handles. Inside the bowl could fit: 2 smaller and 2 bigger plates with penis pattern decoration and illustrations of me and Morgan; 2 high heel leg wine glasses; double bum bowl, and 2 sets of cutlery in shape of hands, penises and lips with lipstick.
Exploring France through the few trip we had was a rich experience.
With very camp and opulent, gilded Italian tea set from a car boot sale, giving us more inspirations for the Camp Camping Set and its decoration that awaited.
The cliff-side town with a whole church cut into the rockside, and small well shrines in a potter’s studio was a captivating example of slow growth and transformation: through inorganic – chiseling out the pillars, walls and features of the church, or waters eroding voids and channels into the rock; to organic – moss and mold growing on the faces of rock walls from the trickling of water and moisture present, and various plants finding any sunny surfaces to plant their roots.
It was fun to find many snails, some in crazy, almost surreal forms, in various art and souvenir shops.
Appropriation of Penguin Books’ design and its symbolical use within art.
The distinctive, horizontal blocks of colour and text within as a cover design of Penguin’s paperbacks, proved so iconic that its appropriation on a simple utilitarian ceramic mug became highly popular merchandise.
In Grayson’s Perry “The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal” (2012), a monumental piece of tapestry from his series, he is using these mugs as a social class symbol, and the movement through classes.
“On the table is a still life demonstrating the cultural bounty of his affluent lifestyle”. Together with the French press, car keys with Damien Hirst like skull keychain, local organic jam, fresh vegetables on the Guardian newspapers or the raw wood table they are all placed on, they are the symbols, the style-creators of aspirational middle classes.
They represent an aspiration for wealth of knowledge as well as monetary wealth, success and domestic nostalgia.
Douglas Coupland is another artist, and novelist appropriating the Penguin Books in his collages, and text based visual art, blurring the boundaries of art and literature.
This collage of “Jet Boy Jet Girl”, a song name stuck as vinyl stencils onto Penguin Book titles such as “Two Adolescents” by Alberto Moravia.
The punk song by Elton Motello about 15 years old boy’s lust and sexual relationship with an older man adds another complexity to the bluring of bounderies.
The ‘correct’ place for people within their social class or sexuality is challenged, and the nature and freedom of movement between them explored.
If I want it or not, appropriating the Penguin Books or the Penguin Donkey in my work will have significant impact on the context it carries.
Visiting the Ken Stradling collection and choosing our catalysts for our projects.
My eyes were drawn to a small 1963’s book case on 4 legs, filled with orange book-spines.
The extraordinary story of this small piece of furniture took me on a journey through the world wars, revolution in book publishing, architecture and all the ambitious ideas of modernism.
The ISOKON manufactured and designed by Ernest Race in the 1963 – ISOKON PENGUIN DONKEY MARK 2, displayed within the Ken Stradling collection was the starting point for me.
The father of the original Penguin Donkey was Egon Riss. As a Bauhaus-educated architect from Vienna, relocated to the UK, he started to experiment with new exploration within plywood bending and its possibilities.
His purpose build piece of furniture was commissioned by then very new, but a very rapidly successful paperback publisher Penguin Books. They revolutionised the easy of consuming our books and made it available to masses; by having best classical and modern works of literature produced in small, portable and cheap paperback format.
The new purpose build holder needed to reflect the easy and new way of reading; the books being close, always available within an arm’s reach from a chair, compare to conventional storage of great library like bookshelves.
The Donkey was manufactured using thin birch plywood, which became unavailable due to the outbreak of the Second World War, and all the plywood was directed for war purposes.
With only 100 pieces manufactured, the production ceased to halt.
ISOKON tried to revive the forgotten and never manufactured in a larger scale design by commissioning Ernest Race to create a modern version of this highly functional piece of furniture. The form changing drastically, loosing its early modernist curves for cold and sharp minimalists angles. The top is flattened to serve another function, as a coffee/side table, but still keeping its middle gap for magazines and newspapers.
This object caught my interest most from the Ken Stradling collection because of its minimal, functional design, purpose built for another object, as well as the white neutral colours giving prominence to the bright colour sleeves and ideas of display and containment.
However, it is the original curvy design and the story surrounding it and its makers and processes that I want to expand on.
In 2003 The Donkey saw another redesign by Shin and Tomoko Azumi, bringing back the curves, but still keeping some of the right angles. I feel it’s a nice fusion of the two designs, bringing extra functionality by the side handles and completely closing the top to function as a small table.
Summer project exploring and finding different forms of collection.
Freddie transforms the craft of knitting and textiles into conceptual art where her peculiar life-sized bodies challenge the notion of normality and conformity.
“She uses knitting to explore pertinent contemporary issues of the domestic, gender and the human condition, more recently exploring and expressing intimate feelings of sadness, fear and loss.”
Freddie captures my interest not only in her peculiar and fun wool sculptures, but her eccentric and playful personality.
I wish I could express this side of my character in my work more too.
Freddie’s work is full of bright colour with vivid narrative and context.
It’s highly figurative as her concerns cycle around the human condition, domesticity and gender; an issues I’m mostly interested to explore.
Her project ‘Knitted Homes of Crime’ depicts a number of wool houses where a female killer would have lived or committed their crimes.
It plays beautifully on the ideas of domesticity: with the domestic aspect of textiles and activity of knitting, the container – house and femininity associated with housewives; but destroys it with the narrative and context where safety,certainty of containment is exchange with danger, uncertainty and rejection.
This juxtaposition and contradiction is the way I tried to lead my work and context, and still add as much process learning and exploration of clay and ceramics as possible.
I also used textiles as my starting medium, but then translated it into ceramic and played with the functionality of a tea-set, a very domestic object, and used it to narrate and express feelings of containment, or rather its absence.