Today I was looking at a few of the remains from my collaborative project ‘Our Dreams Are Not So Different’. I am still receiving photographs from participants in this unit and plan to spend some of the summer mapping the location of all works. These fragments (below) have slept on my desk throughout the last few months and I wanted to make some work which is connected to my current theme but also nodding to the collaboration.
I decided to make stacks out of old work and fragments of current work. I put a box of pieces out on the table and had the most enjoyable time finding, re-glazing and stacking these together. They are hopelessly unstable but the glaze should secure them together during the firing process. I feel they are logical – almost a Princess and the Pea reference with these little sleeping faces balanced precariously at the top of a formidable stack of oddly arranged ‘blankets’. Or the broken remnants of buildings?
I will be offering these as unique works to be auctioned for charity to provide funds to charities supporting the homeless. I recognise that these works resonate fairly clearly with this. I thought about whether they should have titles but decided simply on ‘Bed’. Each will look completely different after the firing process, as ever and they will then become part of this current body of work. I am a huge fan of the stacks, irrespective of whether they have faces at the top or not: they are extremely aesthetically pleasing, given that I know my colour combinations and yet cannot predict what the ranges of different clay and blends of glaze will become at 1200 degrees. Elements of a Made in China bowl set have been installed within the work and I have no idea whether this will survive. If one part fails, the whole tower tumbles. Exciting stuff.
I have recently discovered the artist Bouke de Vries:
Bouke de Vries is a Dutch-born ceramic artist currently living and working in London. He has lived a life that is much like his artwork — a mash-up of old world skills that he uses to remix, reorder, and deliver overt contemporary satire and social commentary. The reverse of Ai Weiwei, who dramatically dropped the Han dynasty urn to make a point about the loss of history, de Vries puts the broken back together to re-contextualize the past.
Bouke de Vries. Goddess of the Fragments 2. 2015
Bouke de Vries. Fragmented Vase 1. 2015
I had already used some pieces from a set I had bought in a charity shop with Chinese pattern work on the surface – some of those pieces can just about be found amidst the fragments of my own broken ceramics. My work is neither trying to achieve anything similar to Ai Wei Wei or de Vries, however the powerful nature of something either being destroyed or being regenerated is transfixing. It reminds us of our attachment to objects and the strength of emotion we can feel when we see a pattern familiar to us (perhaps even from childhood). The damage can feel actually visceral to some. I have seen people react similarly to a book being doodled onto, or a CD not being returned to a case. Damage is something which makes some feel deeply concerned and uncomfortable – that this is downfall, crisis, out of control. And, moreover, that items that exist should be in some way cherished and revered. The worth of any item remains a negotiation between historical and cultural market monetary value and that of the sentiment: that raw, gut twisting sense of broken promise, broken dreams, the fragility and temporality of existence itself.
I already have plans for some ambitious works which will happen as and when I get studio time and space. I also have boxes of broken and fragmented pieces from old works as well as some that I continue to demolish and return to the box for reincarnation.