I find it useful to reflect on ways in which my current practice might be foreshadowed in earlier work. Through this process, previously unrealised connections become evident, and these often enrich thinking about my current work.
My work has evolved to consider indeterminacy in the world, an interest that was accelerated during the development of an installation in September 2018. While working towards this installation my concept of a ceramics practice expanded into progressive engagement with ceramic components as material, as matter. And in doing so opened up questions regarding human understanding of material, of matter, and assumptions that underlie these understandings.
The installation, entitled space between, was a floor-standing assembly of elements. These included 1m high cylinders of compressed dry kaolin, raw kaolin rock, porcelain clay blocks revealing algal and fungal surface growth, and both extruded and wheel-thrown kiln-fired objects, made either from porcelain clay or from pure kaolin clay.
I envisaged the title, space between, would operate at different levels:
—to articulate the space between objects as an entity in its own right
—to draw focus to the material surface, as it is here that the space between is marked, delineated
—to operate within objects, the space between as the indeterminate body between visible surfaces.
Two of the elements in the installation seem to have particular relevance to my practice as it is now.
Column, kaolin: these columns were made using fine kaolin powder from a local quarry. The kaolin was compressed, using hand tools, into split pipes that were assembled using hose clips.
The resultant kaolin columns, released from the pipes, were chalk-white and usually unstable. They stood vertically for periods from minutes to days before sudden collapse under gravitational forces. This uncertainty of form resonated with previous interests of mine regarding the nature of time and the significance of the proximate event. These questions about time and cause-and-effect had been previously explored in the extruded porcelain and metal sculpture fields of time. Here, a single extended scaffold of interconnected porcelain elements supported occasional upward explorations by the material. Porcelain lines, testing fragility limits.
Wheel-thrown object, kaolin: Kaolin is a vital component of porcelain clay, but as for all ceramics, multiple components are required to create a ceramic clay. It is only through using a mixture of components that ceramic clays melt at temperatures low enough to be achieved in the kiln, and thus become vitrified. For these objects, I created a clay solely from kaolin and water, and processed it as if it were porcelain. The resultant objects did not vitrify, and were cracked with a fine tracery and an eggshell-like surface. Evidently fragile, they signalled other states of matter that I felt opened the installation to further enquiry.
Foreshadowing: Within the installation, each state of the kaolin elicited a different set of assumptions about the material, about the nature of the matter. The columns in space between and the loosely scaffolded structure of fields of time had themselves evolved through earlier work exploring the notion of the line. I was intrigued by the apparent simplicity of some of Paul Klee’s drawings, under which lay sophisticated ideas about the unfolding of the line (for this and what follows see line-further enquiry). The kaolin columns, the porcelain lines and the wheel-thrown kaolin artifacts all seemed to occupy places where my intentions met freedom of the material to respond to the environment. This was perhaps drawn from Klee’s idea (expanded upon by Hewish as I describe in the above-referenced article), that it is the line that goes for a stroll, destination unknown, rather than the artist.
In subsequent work, I have focused on deriving parameters that allow material to express behaviour and qualities in diverse settings, all within a speculative context regarding the nature of both what is being observed and the act of observation.