and care. Sited next to their corresponding artworks and projected in unison around the gallery space, rhythms and counterpoints have been expertly orchestrated in the footage: wedging, moulding, extruding, rolling, throwing, scraping. The physicality and intimacy of each artist’s relationship with clay becomes a shared experience for the viewer, carrying the bodily activities of each maker out into the wider experience of the exhibition. Time, and therefore labour, emerge as dominant features of ceramic practice in these documentaries. “When you see the beautiful films about the making of those works, it gives us both an understanding of time and a re-evaluation of time”, states Clare Twomey. Questions of permanence in an institutional context arise through the time-based commissioned installations. Elsewhere in the exhibition, whether signified through the immediacy of an imprinted hand in Hoshino Saturo’s Appeared Figure (1990), the uncertainty of Paul Astbury’s sealed and sweating, wet-clay sculpture Case (1995), or the durability of a bronze-age ceramic jar, the temporal character of ceramics makes its presence known. Annie Turner’s intricately constructed cage-like structure Sinker (2006) speaks of patience and care as integral to labour, while knowledge and the often repetitive nature of craft are inherently linked to time in Edmund de Waal’s multiple artwork Porcelain Wall (2005 & 2007). Welsh sculptor Carwyn Evans pays homage to the labour-intensive processes of studio-based ceramics in Cast (2012), a large, ringshaped construction made from numerous bone china remnants of
slip-cast tableware. Creating a powerfully simplistic elliptical motif, it references functional ceramic form, releasing rhythmic echoes across its neighbouring artworks. Evans enjoys the play of positive and negative; discarded parings press against each other creating a central void. While the demise of Welsh ceramic legacy may be inadvertently implicit, Evans emphasises his subjective inspiration. “It’s very much a personal response rather than being a bigger cultural signifier of ceramic tradition,” he explains. Appropriating the leftovers of his ceramicist partner Lowri Davies’ studio practice, Cast’s dense and intricate structure is part memorial, part totem; it is a wreath-like testament to the overlooked. In contrast, Neil Brownsword’s Elegy comments upon the wider post-industrial landscape of Stoke-on-Trent. His film projection witnesses the demolition of this town’s once great ceramic factories; ambiguous fired clay forms referencing the by-products of manufacture are laid out against this bleak backdrop of destruction. Reminiscent of archaeological remains, they mourn the past, piecing together an account of lost labour and skill. But Elegy also implies longevity and ultimately survival. The earthy bodies of Brownsword’s fragments are met with notes of exquisite colour; their glazed surfaces suggest jewellike specimens that both commemorate and uphold the rich heritage of ceramic tradition. Keith Harrison extends the sentiment found in Elegy to the exhibition as a whole: “The title Fragile? makes associations with an endangered habitat”, he says, “serving as a reminder of what has been
Venice Biennale interviews: herman de vries, Katerina Gregos, Song Dong, Sean Lynch. As well as conversations with Laura Ford, Sammy Baloji,...