What is it you do? What sort of things do you make?   I use a range of media to create work that tends to have sculptural/object elements. This can explore expectations of and subversions of material, and the object subject relationship. I have an empirical background, and I’m interested in how we understand our place in the universe, in consciousness and ways of understanding. In how and why what is new becomes incorporated into our world and rapidly loses novelty, in how perceptions shifts. This brings with it questions regarding the limits of knowledge, perception, and the generation of meaning.  And in the ways in which makers intent signifies in a piece.

I’m currently exploring this in a material driven practice, experimenting with:

  • fragility limits, plasticity, durability and kinetic and evanescent states of porcelain and associations between non-classical and classical ceramic forms
  • ideas for installations ruminating on layers of understanding and on the role of makers’ meaning and intent in engaging with works of art

What is it you’ve been trying to do to make the work relevant in relation to ideas, cultural circumstances or contemporary issues?  I’m currently following Willam Kentridge’s approach to allow meaning to emerge through work. I’m using material with freedom and without specific aims, but with a vague, and initially non-directive sense of the issues I want the work to explore as it matures.  At the same time I’m reading extensively, looking at philosophical interpretations of what is is to be.

I’d characterise my past work as naïve. It was often made in response to ideas, but did not go through any significant maturation process. To quote Gerhard Richter “so an artwork emerges that may look quite good for a while – airy and colourful and new. But that will only last for a day at most. Then the real work begins – changing, eradicating, starting again, and so on, until it’s done”.

So now I’m refining and testing outcomes against what has already been made and written. As in any field of interest there is an overwhelming amount of information and content out there. For me, the work needs to ultimately respond to or reflect on, if only fleetingly, some encompassing theme. These are by definition contemporary issues, intrinsically delivered from a personal cultural background. I’m not particularly interested in otherwise exploring personal or cultural identity at this stage.

Artists that have been recommended as possibly relevant to my interests include: Jennifer Bournstein, Tom Friedman, Alicja Kwade, Hans Haacke, Simon Ingram, Richard Long, Robert Morris, Robert Smithson, Peter Robinson, Janet Cardiff, Andrea Fraser, Erno Langenberg, Francis Alijs and Robin Rhode.

As I write this I’m focusing on working with porcelain. I am reading around the raw materials used to make porcelain, its history and expectations regarding the material qualities of the wet clay and its dried unfired and fired states. I’m looking for contemporary artists (such as Alwyn O’Brien, Alberto Bustos and Carmen Ballester) using extruded porcelain and creating non-classical forms with porcelain and exploring the nature of their practice.

How do you make decisions during the course of your work? How and why do you select the materials, techniques, themes that you do?  By happy accident I found a teacher of ceramics who has guided me in the last two years as I’ve explored the making of primarily thrown earthenware. There’s an immediacy and sculptural possibility to clay that appeals to me, a vulnerability and plasticity in the making process, and a brittleness and fragility once the piece has dried. There are critical transition states the material would traditionally go through and utilitarian traditions and expectations of the material.

Early on, as a work evolves, my decisions are based on a deliberately unconscious aesthetic. At some point this bottom-up approach meets the top-down questioning of material and intent and hopefully finds a sweet spot where maturation can occur.

The concepts I want to use to catalyse the work are themes of incomprehension. When successful the work might evoke reflection on the limits of our psyche.

I’m asking more questions of the material, referring to what others have done, or are doing, and particularly discovering contemporary New Zealand art. This is a two-sided process: what have others done in addressing the concepts I’m interested in? What have others done to push the limits of the material I’m using? There’s a feedback process where one continually informs the other, until hopefully I find what looks to be a unique starting point. It may not in fact be that unique, but it works as a place where confident exploration and marriage of aesthetic and intent can begin.

Why have you created the work you exhibited and what is its history?  The three pieces I chose to exhibit during the MFA introductory week represent some of my more recent work. In simple terms, creating something that I believe in some non-trivial sense to be novel, gives me pleasure. They were developed in the context of an expanding interest in making and questioning both what art is and my responses to the work of others.

I showed one of a series of three similar ceramic sculptures entitled Plans for outdoor living. These evolved out of a desire to use terracotta slab work and an interest in the forms created by intersecting planes at various curvatures (catalysed by the monumental work of Richard Serra). In the process of doing this I envisaged roofless rooms emerging and built on that idea. By surfacing the pieces with a metallic slip, fired to give steely greys and bronze highlights, the eye was confused as to the material used.

The other pieces I showed during the introductory week were: a large circular ceramic platter with foot ring, upper surface carved with a chattering process, glazed with a white vellum gloss overlying a black slip and two pen, ink and graphite drawings of imagined topographic maps, shaded to define peaks and troughs.

The ceramic work evolved from an interest in the relationship between sculptural form and surface relief and texture as a component of functional ceramic objects. The combination of glazes emphasised the chattering (the underlying black slip readily melts into and colours the overlying white glaze in areas where the chattering has created depth, but is too thin to do so elsewhere). A gradient of colour is thus created at each chatter mark.


The topographies explore repetitive elements in drawing alongside the use of shading to create dimension. The geologically impossible nature of the topographies stimulating imaginative interpretation of the form within.

What are you trying to say in the work?  The works ask you to look deeper – look beyond the surface. They weren’t created with too much concern for a more esoteric message, and I’m cautious about imbuing them with a transient meaning post-hoc.

How is the way you are saying it, with the materials, techniques and themes, the best for the idea you want to present?  It may not be, the works I exhibited are not the outcomes of extensive maturation processes. I’m not particularly interested to develop those ideas further at present although, for reasons that I can’t yet articulate, further reflection may well bring me back to the topographies with a deeper context for exploration. Reflection on the use of materials for my current work continues below.

How does your current work relate to your previous work?  I retain interest in sculptural/object elements and in the nature and process of drawing. This novel (for me) process of critical evaluation of previous work has led to an appreciation that my work often involves a process of gesture and drawing to create space, dimension and disparate relationships between elements.

I’m continuing to use clay due to its initial plasticity, its sculptural possibilities and the extreme changes in material characteristics in different states. Specifically porcelain due to its purity of colour. At the moment I want to downplay traditional associations of clay with earth and mud, as I’m alluding to issues around clarity of thought and understanding in the pieces. The principle components of porcelain clay are kaolin-type materials, a rare and prized form of which is a New Zealand halloysite. Claimed to be the whitest in the world, this halloysite is uniquely found locally to me at Matauri Bay. I’m considering incorporating this halloysite into my material for the whiteness.

Experimentation with porcelain and installation ideas will continue to explore and bring in broader themes of understanding and hidden layers.

What influences your work?  My work is the outcome of intrinsic curiosity and enjoyment of experimentation. I’m working with a set of concepts I want to ultimately allow to shape the work. As an example of the type of concept, Hermann Minkowski, one of Einstein’s teachers said in 1908: The views of space and time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality. Over 100 years on from Minkowski, is this now our experienced reality? A photon experiences no time – from our standpoint it left a distant galaxy billions of years ago, from its standpoint it hits our retina the instant it’s created. Time flows faster on orbiting satellites than on the earth’s surface, so GPS systems that guide us rely on relativistic calculations.

My work is influenced by the incomprehensible complexity of things, the hidden and unobservable, a horror of the twee and kitsch, time, light, entropy, playfulness, seriousness, sound and music and an interest in the nature and role of art and science.

And people and their art works or ideas. Far from exhaustive and In no particular order: Michaël Borremans, Francis Bacon, Eduardo Chillida, Alberto Giacometti (paintings), Charles Darwin, Edmund de Waal, Lawrence Krauss, Hilla and Bernd Becher, Robert Sapolsky, Jonathan Meades, Anil Seth, Anthony McCall, Olafur Eliasson, Carlos Cruz-Diez and, given its long (and honourable) history as a utilitarian pursuit, all ceramicists that have considered form more important than function. At the moment it’s fair to say that my familiarity with the artists in the list above is generally at the level of impressions from works I’ve seen in exhibition rather than any deeper analysis of practice.

What is your inspiration for your images?  I’m taking this to mean the pathway to the original idea. I suspect it’s no one thing. In general I don’t know, I’m not sure it’s knowable. In retrospect I can take an original idea/image and layer it with meaning, but I think so far for me the catalytic process of idea creation is essentially subconscious.

How does this work fit into a larger body of work or overarching project?  A continued enquiry as to materials and the use of them in my hands. Further steps to the evolution of a practice looking at relationship to scale, hidden meaning and time.

How did your idea change (if it did)?  I didn’t come into this MFA – was expressly advised not to come in – with preconceived ideas. So I’m currently experimenting with a variety of inspiration and material and refining my thoughts on issues that can be addressed via the media I’m currently interested to use. And wondering how important my “maker’s meaning” is to the work – is it central or peripheral, essential or incidental.

Has anyone done this kind of work in the past?  Even with a broad interpretation of both the question and what it is I’m now doing, I find it hard to meaningfully answer this yet. I’m inclined to look for something that is entirely novel, but realistic enough to know I may not find it. Grayson Perry relates a Finnish professor’s analogy of the artist as traveller. Faced with a plethora of possible destinations at Helsinki terminus the artist, maybe more or less randomly, opts for one destination and after working for a while (it’s a slow train) gets off at the third stop, visits a gallery with their work and is disappointed to hear the gallery owner tell them how similar their work is to artist x and y and z. Dispirited the artist journeys back to the terminus and chooses another destination. Three years later another gallery, another owner but the same response, this time artists a, b and c. The professor’s argument was that the artist should have stayed on the train and by six years the work would be developing its own uniqueness and narrative. That said, Louise Bogan in her autobiography Journey Around My Room says “The initial mystery that surrounds any journey is: how did the traveller reach his starting point in the first place?”.

I take from this an acceptance that, given my life experience, my starting place will be somewhat unique, and that I can foster this further through a process of accelerated evolution – stay on the train. Which as I write this makes me reconsider the value of what I’ve done in the past and consider looking for avenues to build on some of that work.

Is anyone else doing it now? Who are the artists that occupied this terrain?  It’s early days for the MFA projects – any critical analysis has barely begun, but I’m seeing parallels with the interests and practice of William Kentridge. A core interest that his works resolve towards is the history of science, and possibly to particular moments of transition in understanding. I’m interested to question the extent to which we are willing and able to penetrate complex levels of understanding in non-mathematical languages, and even when we do, what the limits to understanding might be.

Among artists working at the limits of the materials I’m interested in are Alwyn O’Brien, Alberto Bustos and potentially Erno Langenberg. Artists interested in gestural and performative drawing would include Francis Alijs and Robin Rhode and Paul Glabicki
has used elements drawn from scientific theory in drawings . Artists interested in the process of meaning and engagement might include Andrea Fraser e.g. Little Frank and his Carp.

Who are the writers on the subjects?  Not yet sure, I’m concerned with more closely establishing core concerns of practice right now. I am however reading generalist texts (Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, Eds: Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz, The Philosophy of Art, Stephen Davies and to feed the contrarian in me, Naked Emperors, Brian Sewell)

Is your field an established one or did you invent it?  It’s an emergent practice taking inspiration from diverse sources and using a limited, varied and, as yet, not finally determined range of media. I’m in the process of inventing it.


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