There have been some lazy days this week – a combination of post Christmas lethargy, overeating and a serious case of man-flue causing my darling husband to occupying most of the liveable space we currently have. In the end I decided joining him under the duvet was the easiest option. The great plus point here was that I have been able to catch up on some reading. A friend lent me a whole stack of back issues of Ceramic Review a while ago and I have finally got round to enjoying them. How very different to today’s glossy features! It has been lovely to get stuck into some quite academic articles about such things as Terra Sigilata and some really interesting profiles of the likes of John Higgins.
What a great artist! I love his sculptural pieces with their fabulous dry decoration using slips, oxides and on-glazes and curved shapes. I also feel an affinity to them given their makers love of digging about in waste pits!
In the same edition I also found an article by Jenny Beavan about geological forces and the link between ceramic art and human existence. Fascinating! In it she talks about the work of Joseph Beuys and his views on the interaction between science, art, nature and society and of Peter Voulkos who’s work reflects the violence of geological forces and she included some of her own work, which has long fascinated and enthralled me and a long section about Satoru Hoshino.
But one of the artists was a name that I did not recognise, Jacques Kaufmann, and I feel compelled to investigate him further. There is no excuse for not knowing of this man. He is only the current President of the International Academy of Ceramics!
I am intrigued by his interest in the relationship of human origins and geological processes and I want to know more! First impressions are that his work is rather controlled and yet I found a piece by him which seems bely this thought. It reads: ‘The question of the legitimacy of forms is recurrent in my work. One of my hypotheses is to think that all energy put into a material, first in an intuitive way, than fully structured as one goes along, is the generating principle of the work. In order to achieve this goal, my gestures are simple and accurate and are generated by the material itself. What is at stake is that the form is invented as a concrete experience of a relationship. For me, the imaginary is originated in the material, in its qualities and in its poetical energy. I belong to a line of artists who questions the limits: those of the materials as well as those of the cultures I meet’. I can relate to that! Beavan talks about how Kaufmann’s work begins with a ‘letting go, a relaxation of the will.’ Now that seems like a great idea. So often I find myself fighting with myself over the making of a piece. There is this tension with wanting something perfect which is not perfect. It isn’t easy and it can’t happen if I am tense. So beginning with a letting go would be a fabulous idea. Maybe it’s time to take up yoga!
So the summer of love has turned into the summer of rain, too much wind or not enough wind and very poor visibility. All this means that a coffee (and one of their waste-line wrecking cakes) at the Arts Café, Truro, seemed a much better bet than going sailing! Given that I am a card carrying member of the Royal Cornwall Museum next door it seemed a good idea to go and explore the displays and stay out of the rain. I love the geology section of this museum. I have spent many a happy winter hour gazing at remarkable rocks from around the county. I really enjoy the way that you can open most of the drawers to discover hidden secrets about rocks, the earth and all things rocky.
Having spent a while reacquainting myself with the beautifully marked samples of Serpentine and Polyphant I wandered upstairs past Poldark’s Cornwall to an exhibition in the temporary galleries by an artist who I try never to miss – Kurt Jackson.
I first came across Jackson at Lemon Street Gallery, Truro. I was drawn to his work because of its expressive quality. I love the exciting, liberating loose marks with which he gives a fabulous sense of freedom and I find his colour palette really draws me in. Much of his work is about Cornwall and Devon, my favourite counties on the planet. I share his love of the wild places; his paintings, which are often done en plein air, represent the moors, rivers and coastline which I adore and have within them a real sense of passion. So I was a little surprised by this newest exhibition. It is called Place and in it Jackson has worked with a number of writers from different parts of Britain and from different backgrounds. The outcome is a diverse range of paintings and sculptures which hint at the diversity of our landscape but also have a sense of nostalgia about them. The paintings are exciting and have a real sense of feeling and yet there was something missing. I found myself looking in a rather more detached way than I am used to with Jackson’s work. By working in areas which meant a lot to other people but little to him he has moved away from the personal and I think the work reflects this. Somehow I encountered an air of detachment which I have never experienced when I have gazed at his work in the past.
I am left puzzling about this – is it that I have no attachment to these places or is it because he has none? Do we, as landscape artists of any genre, need to be personally involved in order to imbue our work with that deeper sense of meaning which is so intangible and yet clearly speaks to us? If so, this makes it really difficult to branch out and explore unfamiliar territory. Is there not a risk that any such adventure will be thwarted by unfamiliarity and subsequent loss of deep involvement?
I don’t think that this can be the case. I have recently been experimenting with including local finds and information about a place in my work and have been completely engrossed in the process. I am really excited by the results which definitely have a great sense of meaning to me. So far this work has been exploratory. The first pieces were in response to some clay which I was given from the foundations of my sister’s house extension. This is a place that I know well and yet it holds no particular draw for me. I suppose time and more work will tell whether the sense of passion which has grown in me for this new line of work is because of my feelings for my sister and her home or down to my excitement at the unpredictability of adding strange, untested clay to my work and just letting things happen.