Temporality, Mortality and Familiarity

I have been researching a selection of artists that use unfired clay in their practice as part of my research module. I chose this as an area of research following my visit to Fragile at the National Museum of Wales where I encountered two works composed of unfired clay. I mentioned these in an earlier post but the two works were Future History of Ornament 2015 by Phoebe Cummings and Case 1995 by Paul Astbury. These works posed many questions for me, in particular their temporal nature. Working as a dealer where provenance, preservation and conservation are common concerns amongst collectors these two works are mortal in their form. Cummings work is intended to last the length of the exhibition and the lifetime of Astbury's Case is unknown. with the smallest of changes occurring in the acrylic cases. Following a tutorial with Peter I discussed this shift in my context from that which references Geological forms and processes to one which references temporal processes and meta physical questions relating to existence and mortality. Looking back at the images in my studio space and some of the experimental works I had made I started to see them differently. I had created a selection of  forms that could  demonstrate a temporal process. This in turn bought up questions about  forms and objects to explore with a series of practical tasks;

Explore the point at which a form becomes an object that is recognisable. Introduce anathema into the work.  Subvert the audience experience with Punk approaches. Refer to Dawn Youll's subversion of the recognisable. The following quote from Youll's website illustrates the point succinctly.

“There is a certain feeling of familiarity that a glazed, ceramic object can evoke. In a traditional form ceramic has the ability to represent an ‘elsewhere’ in a familiar domestic setting and I am interested in the shift of consciousness (whether it be a memory or a notion) that it can cause. Because the familiar allows us to make sense of our environment, I gather glimpses of it and literally lay them on the table, individual elements recorded as ceramic objects, as an investigation into how we view and interact with our surroundings.”

Explore the relationships between the form and material, does the form occupy the material or does the material occupy the form.

Use materials to demonstrate temporal processes, using form, additions, firings, elements.

Explore cause and effect of these temporalities e.g. Volcanic pyroclastic flows enclosing a car, Nagle's sculptural works with a topography and a shape enclosed, sitting on, emerging, sinking into the topography, again subverting the viewer experience.


A few samples of work by Dawn Youll, although they are less concerned with temporal concepts they exhibit the familiar/unfamiliar borders very well and have been compared to Ron Nagle.


Another artist who sits in a similar camp of playing with familiarity is Richard Slee. I have long been an admirer of his work. I like the methods of construction, clean and smooth, almost Disney in some ways. His work illustrates ideas of utility and function but they are subverted into almost comedic forms. I watched a video on the V & A website where he discusses Corral Dish, an insightful talk on form and function plus a other influences thrown into the mix. What struck me about this is the free flowing ideas in his work, there is no one narrative as such. This dish/non dish was created with the idea that people place things on a table which need to be contained but not in a vessel that needs to hold or offered but corraled. His choices for form are related to his visual experiences as a climber and are clearly evident on the sloping concave sides. The textures applied were done with crumpled foil and constructed using hand-building.

Also on the sight was an interview with Grayson Perry talking about Slee. In his discussion Perry talks about Slee making the transition into fine art with a ceramics background. Its an interesting discourse and one I come across constantly in the field of ceramics. The mention of ceramics on gallery websites is very sparse and Perry talks about positioning oneself as a ceramic artist in a broader art world.

UncategorizedDean Coates