Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Ceramics Ireland - SetoMonogatari Project

An article in Ceramics Ireland Magazine complemented my submission to Land/Marks, Ceramics Ireland's triennial ceramics competition. The article discussed my research in Japan and features several photographs of works Seto Monogatari 7 and 8, including on the front cover. 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Corresponding with Jeju Scoria

Scoria Vessel 5, c. 10 x 10 x 5cm 

I was one of 13 artists invited to participate in The Clay Reader: Scoria, Scoria Jeju Scoria, an artist in residence programme organised by City Art Community and funded by the Jeju Culture and Art Foundation. The project was to be held on Jeju Island, South Korea, in August 2020, and the aim was for participants to research and respond creatively to Jeju scoria, a volcanic soil particular to this island. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the residency was cancelled. Instead, participants were sent a small quantity of scoria to work with in their respective countries.

While the process of conducting an artist residency remotely raise challenges, particularly in terms of access to authentic contexts and stimulation, it also provides an opportunity to explore new models of interaction. Originally a site-specific project, restrictions on travel meant that this became a material-specific endeavour, conducted remotely by correspondence through emails and the postal service. The project  resulted in a series of material experiments undertaken to understand the material affordances of the scoria. Following Ingold (2013), this process of enquiry is construed as a further ‘correspondence’ between maker and material, where both are linked in a process of discovery. Rather than existing in stasis, the scoria is presented as ‘vibrant matter’ (Bennet 2010), a substance which invites us to consider the generative potential of materials and understand that both we and they are in a constant process of ‘becoming’ (Ingold 2013).

The material experiments with scoria resulted in a new body of research artefacts. These vessels were made by oxidation firing the scoria in plaster and molochite moulds to temperatures between 1260-1280oC in a process similar to the p√Ęte de verre glass technique. Although the scoria’s lack of plasticity is problematic from a conventional ceramics perspective, the outputs demonstrate that it does have potential as a creative medium with particular material attributes and links to a specific locale. The process of enquiry was documented in a short film.

Scoria Vessel 4,  c.10 x 10 x 5cm

Corresponding with Jeju Scoria Film

Thursday, July 16, 2020

‘The Doctor’, from painting to ceramic figurine: new insights in the age of Covid-19

This is an English translation of the original article in the Asahi Shimbun. This article focuses on the discovery of a ceramic figurine which was inspired by Sir Luke Fildes' painting The Doctor. It mentions my research on figurines in Seto and includes an excerpt of an essay, where I reflect on the significance of the painting and its ceramic representation in terms of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Wordsworth and Basho: Walking Poets, Kakimori Bunko, Itami

A modified version of the 2014 exhibition 'Wordsworth and Basho: Walking Poets', which was held at the Wordsworth Museum in Grasmere, will be on display at Kakimori Bunko, Itami, Japan, from 17 September to 3 November 2016. I have made new work for this exhibition based on research undertaken during my ceramics residency in Seto, Japan. 

Again, my work responds to themes of memory and the ephemerality of the human condition in the work of both Basho and Wordsworth. While Basho often revisited ruins and other sites of communal memory, Wordsworth was concerned that human endeavour – including monuments and works of literature – was at risk of destruction through catastrophe and would be outlasted by nature. This work takes as inspiration Wordsworth’s The Ruined Cottage and the well-known ‘summer grass’ haiku from The Narrow Road to the Deep North composed by Basho when he visited the abandoned estate at Hiraizumi, in 1689.

In a haiku written in 1678, Basho refers to the annual procession made by Dutch traders from their enclave in Dejima, Nagasaki, to pay homage to the Shogun in distant Edo. During the Edo Period (1600–1868), it was only the Dutch and Chinese who were permitted to trade with Japan, providing a limited portal to the world. Pottery sherds recovered from Dejima show that the Dutch took British ceramics, including transfer-printed Sunderland pottery, to Japan in the nineteenth century. Through form and surface decoration, my work explores the idea of hybridity, blending east and west, and attempting to show commonalities in the work of both poets. My porcelain vessels feature imagery derived from research into ruined industrial sites in Seto, a traditional centre of Japanese pottery production. Setomonogatari is a portmanteau  word formed from Setomono – the traditional term for Seto pottery – and monogatari, meaning ‘story’. Blades of glass grass grow from the vessels, suggesting the endurance of nature over culture. 

Work made for the show: Setomonogatari 5 – Iga to Nagasaki (2016)
Porcelain, glaze, pink lustre, ceramic decals, glass, mixed media, 
Approx. 45 x 24 x 22 cm
Photo: Jo Howell, 2016

Setomonogatari 6 – The Ruined Cottage (2016)
Porcelain, glaze, pink lustre, ceramic decals, glass, mixed media, 
Approx. 43 x 24 x 22 cm
Photo: Jo Howell, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

World Archaeology Congress 8, Kyoto, Japan

I presented a paper in the 'Breaking the Frame: Art and Archaeology in Practice' symposium of the World Archaeology Congress in Kyoto, 28 August - 2 September 2016. Organised by Carolyn White (University of Nevada Reno / USA) and Ursula Frederick (University of Sydney/Australia), the session sought to explore the increasingly close relationship between art practice and some forms of archaeology. This year's WAC had a prominent 'art and archaeology' component with various satellite events and exhibitions throughout Kyoto. The session was accompanied by a temporary exhibition of artwork at the Museum of Kyoto in which I displayed new ceramic work. 
In my presentation, titled 'Setomonogatari – Ceramic Practice as an Archaeology of the Contemporary Past', I argued that my creative ceramic practice has much in common with archaeological approaches to the contemporary past in that it takes the form of a creative materialising intervention, focusing on marginal or otherwise overlooked aspects of person-object interaction. I illustrated this by reference to recent artworks made in Seto, Japan, a traditional centre of pottery production. By reanimating old moulds and repurposing discarded sherds, my work explores the sites changing materiality through time and is itself a proactive contribution to the archaeological record, capturing an enduring glimpse of the past and present of this ceramics community.

Temporary display of artwork at the Museum of Kyoto to coincide with WAC8's art and archaeology theme. My work can be seen in the vitrine in the background. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Contemporary Clay and Museum Culture Book Launch at the University of Westminster

As one of the contributing authors, I was delighted to attend the book launch of Contemporary Clay and Museum Culture. Edited by Christie Brown, Julian Stair and Clare Twomey, this compilation of essays provides a critical overview of the relationship between contemporary ceramics and museum curatorial practice. My chapter, 'The Crinson Jug from clay to the grave (and beyond): exploring the ceramic object as a gatheirng point', traces the biography of one of the jugs I made during my PhD research at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, showing how it became activated as a locus of memory. 

A detail of the book. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sunderland 10 x 10 Artist in Residence at Hilton Garden Inn and SAFC

In May, I was one of the artists selected for the Sunderland 10 x 10 residency programme, which paired ten artists with ten local businesses. I worked with Sunderland Association Football Club and the staff of the newly-opened Hilton Garden Inn to make a collaborative artwork for the hotel. This process was intended to give the staff a sense of ownership and engagement. I established an informal focus group with several of the hotel's front of house staff, as well as marketing staff from SAFC. 

A mug decorating workshop as part of the focus group with staff at the
Hilton Garden Inn, Sunderland.

Sunderland 'til I die (2016), a prototype wall piece developed for the
Hilton Garden Inn based on a traditional Sunderland pottery jug form.