Site of memory – sensuous geography and nostalgia

Moving forward, separating and understanding the differences between nostalgia and sentimentality another element within my work I have been interested in is the site of memory, or ‘ sensuous geography’ – the idea that ‘the senses mediate the apprehension of space and in so doing contribute to our sense of place’. Yi-Fu Tuan (1972) was the first to call attention to the spatiality of the senses and their role in shaping the affective relation of people to their habitat. “What begins as undifferentiated space becomes place as we get to know it better [through our senses] and endow it with value”’. 

Fundamentally it’s the idea that if you were stood on top of a mountain for example, then the sound, feel, and temperature of the atmosphere around you would ultimately denote you to your sense of place and thus your brain would register the fact you are on top of a mountain. What becomes interesting in terms of memory is say for example you visited this location under a second set of circumstances and similar environmental conditions endured then your brain may ultimately remember the preceding set of events, thus upon the second time you visit you may register a greater sense of space as you are adding new memories to a preceding one. You stand on top of the mountain, think back, take a huge breath, breathe out and feel good.

With the objects featured in the images, i am attempting to be slightly more obscure. You could almost look at the objects featured as miniature excavations pulled from my dried out slurry buckets with the site of memory being the buckets themselves. What I do to these excavations or ‘uncovered’ objects is completely controlled. I like the idea of looking at these objects as a series of memories from the past that has been mashed and distorted into the present, much like how I personally view ‘nostalgia’. How I glaze these objects, in terms of aestheticism is purely representational and subjective of my immaterial, material memories and nostalgia, that of early 2000s aesthetics or ‘YTK aesthetics’ – the glad, tacky, wacky space colors and transparent inflatable sofas that dominate my subconscious. These objects are ‘fractured’ representations of my memories and further myself.

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material alphabet

After testing, gathering and creating a body of work I decided to take a number of the objects down to the photography studio to play with composition and ultimately develop some form of language between the forms I have manufactured. with the idea of memory very much at mind, what narrative where these objects beginning to speak? and by pairing them in compositions how did they bounce off and work with each other?

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I like the idea of looking upon these series of objects as an alphabet, a physical, sensorial language that challenges semiotical ways of viewing sculpture.

Although I really enjoy the images that I have taken of the objects I have made so far I am unsure at this point in time that the actual objects themselves are representational of the concepts that I hold to my project ( that of personal memory and ideas surrounding sentimentality and nostalgia). Although These objects are highly subjective to my own personal experiences and are thus abstracted as a representation of myself, to some degree I want the experience of my objects to be understood by a collective, to be interpreted in a certain way or to make people feel a certain ‘vibe’ you could say.

I am at a turning point. Where I have created a series of objects in response to my intuition and intuitively/contemporarily glazed. Ideas of nostalgia and ‘the child at play’ dominate my theoretical standpoint and to some extent, I do believe my objects represent that, although I do believe these objects are also disjointed.

Personally, these objects subjectively are based on early childhood memories – where as a child because both of my parents were busy working I was usually dumped on a construction site with my dad. In that moment I was incredibly bored, twiddling my thumbs and finding ways to play and keep myself busy. Not until looking back now as an adult do I firstly see how easy things were back then and now really reside and reminisce over the events that took place, where the world of working and childhood play intermingled.  It is interesting now from really studying these events do I realize how relevant it is within my studio practice.

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Glaze experimentation – memory and sentimentality

Continuing with my glaze experimentation I began the ongoing tradition of submerging extruder parts in various glazes to see how the various chemicals react with one another, more so experimenting with volcanic sand in various glazes and porcelains to test and push its reactive qualities after a friend showed me various effects of the volcanic sand on a variety of ceramic bodies.

With memory, nostalgia, and sentimentality very much at the forefront of my contemporary ideas I began to try and see how glaze can be incorporated further as an approach for these sculptures; thinking back to how the dry vitreous slip  resembled that of the cracked earth on the farm in the summer I began reminiscing, expressing and attempting to demonstrate material interests that have alluded me my whole life, even if at this current moment in time I am completely unsure why.

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Volcanos, rocks and magma patterns have always interested me and are something that creeps its way into many of my sketchbook ideas, prints, and sculptural works. Until recently, with a greater understanding of ceramic alchemy have I been able to visually demonstrate this. Weirdly, it is not natural volcanos that seem to allude my memories, more so cartoon, digitized and comical portrayals of lava – immaterial representations of natural phenomena. Colours like orange, red, black and white ooze their way from my past into my more recent memories from watching television programs such as cartoon network, nickelodeon and the bright red RAW advertisement of WWF. You could say this is a harmless subliminal messaging of sorts, unintentional but purely situational. By placing the nickelodeon or cartoon network logo in the corner of the screen it’s a sort of branding rather than insidious brain washing tool, none the less has an effect of sorts.

much like memory, I want my sculptures to represent the ‘mish-mash’ of things. Memory for myself is just one giant cluster of ideas and experiences formed by the brain from the past and present all jumbled and reassembled in reality.

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Carwyn Evans – PADER – CSAD -2017

After coming across Carwyn Evans installation down in the foyer space at CSAD and attending his in conversation I was fascinated by his ideas surrounding his personal memories of farm life and welsh identity. As an artist similarly interested in personal memory, identity and how these ideas are reappropriated into physical tactile form, it was fascinating listening to an artist with a similar background to myself. Coming from a rural village in the middle of Gloucestershire, working on a farm within the local area I could connect and understand ‘PADER’ on a subjective level and analyse the ‘details’ of the sculptural composition. It is funny that these objects have been reappropriated in such a manner as for myself there is a running joke amongst the farming communities that farmers hoard ‘anything and everything’ as everything even junk has some form of use at some point in the future, perhaps it seems even for contemporary art/sculpture.

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when up close and personal with the composition you begin to dissect the objects from one another, we begin to unassemble the reappropriated. For example, the way the wood is joint together or the folded trefoil sheet that is laid underneath. When up close and personal even the most minimal of details such as the wax on the sheet echo an ulterior autobiographical message – that of the artist himself, his identity and his farming background.We as the viewer begin to try and build a picture of the artist, who is he? what is he trying to say? – The site of memory seems to be incredibly important to the artist.

when approaching the light at the back, kneeling down and taking a closer look I noticed mud splashes on the right-hand side. This could have easily been removed, yet it is interesting how the artist decided to leave these marks; not lazily but purposely left I believe. the mud splashes appear to have been splashed there by a tractor or quad bike wheel that could have been struggling in the mud. The artist re-appropriates personal memory from objects he connects with from day to day, tackling memory as formless matter in which he denotes meaning to material and further form.

Takuro Kuwata – beauty through destruction

Takuro Kuwatas work is rooted in Japanese technique and history, One of which is the traditional technique of ishi-haze or stone explosion, in which stones are allowed to overheat in the kiln to the point where they rupture and distort. Conventionally, this technique is used in the making of traditional Japanese tea ceramics; however, Kuwata uses his oversized rocks to distort, melt or explode within the firing process. Kuwata also employs kairagi, another famous Japanese technique in which is used to create imperfections within the glaze, as a result the glaze shrinks and cracks. Kuwata is unconventionally drawn to the imperfections that are produced from these processes and implements them to their extreme.

The uncertainty of the method allows Kuwata to stand back and let the firing and material processes take control over the resulting form, enhancing the organic nature and dysfunctionality of his objects.It is the oozing glaze and tactile nature of Kuwata’s work and his material understanding in relation to his sense of identity and heritage that originally drew me in.

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Kuwata’s practice is firmly rooted in Japanese history and aesthetics. The characteristics of the Japanese philosophy wabi-sabi, which focuses on imperfect and incomplete beauty, including asymmetry and asperity, are all evident in Kuwata’s work.

Born in Hiroshima, but removed from the aftermath of World War II, Kuwata is offering a contemporary view of postwar Japanese anxiety as well as demonstrating a correlation between Japan’s recent natural and social disasters.

As a result of the artist’s history and past, The natural world plays an active role in Kuwata’s practice, with bursting stones and broken glazes acting as metaphors for erupting volcanoes and earthquakes, and even potentially the Hiroshima disaster that eludes his heritage, engendering beauty through destruction.

 

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Bente Skjøttgaard – cumulonimbus/2014

 

the Scandinavian sculptor/ceramicist Bente Skjottgaard creates beautifully unique ‘cloud’ series, in which glaze consumes ceramic and is married and entangled with concept and process. Scientific in nature and source the cloud series transform cloud cluster into imaginary cloud compositions in which narrative takes over.

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Skjøttgaard defines her clusters as “somewhere between the recognizable and the undefined”. What I find particularly interesting with regards to Skjøttgaard’s Cumulonimbus series is how she talks about the ‘non-staticness’ of clouds and how this leads to an interesting sculptural topic:

Clay is initially soft, then hardens during the firing, while a cloud remains inattainable, vaporous and constantly in motion, retaining the ability to transform into something else. This ’non-static-ness’ makes clouds interesting to explore sculpturally, and to relate to as volume, material, motion and colour.”

Her Cumulonimbus sculptures seem to manifest and evolve from one another, they appear organic and intuitive. Although undoubtedly heavy in nature the ceramic objects neutralize gravity as they float from there clay stalks.With regards to glazing (or at least the color on the surface) the cloud series seems to mimic the “changeability and volatile volume of clouds. A shimmering mass of electrifying, overexposed, fluffy scrawl, that makes focusing difficult for the eye”.they are light, thus, appear transparent. Correlating form with cluster cloud concept.

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Rafa Perez -shaped by volcanic heat: material tension

Maybe this is just a side effect of the cold rain hitting my windows, but I really appreciate the way fire appears to have left artifacts of itself behind in the finished products. It’s an obvious recipe, clay and fire, but it’s so plainly seen on these works. Many of the forms have tissue-thin layers, shearing apart like shalestone. Others show the glaze splitting and cracking. I’m reminded of the way paper burns, the way it flakes apart before finally turning into ash. The glaze looks like paint still clinging to the walls of a burned house. Heat is so present in these works. It’s a wonder they aren’t steaming, even as they sit in the gallery. Rafa Perez – Copyright © 2016 C-File

Perez`s work is certainly distinguishable, his ceramic sculpture, material use, and techniques are rather unorthodox with regards to traditional ceramics, yet, this is what undeniably makes his sculptures so unique. Perez’s sculpture looks as if they have been dug/pulled from the ground. The layers within the body are reminiscent of the layers of sedimentary rock that we see on geologic television documentaries or we tend to see at the beach or within traditional seascape paintings.An emphasis on material tension and exploration is incredibly apparent.

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Perez’s sculptures remind me of the work of Ewan Henderson, perhaps this is due to the irregular textural qualities of their work and naturally occurring phenomena both artists are interested in, thus tend to communicate. Unlike Henderson, the selected sculptures of Perez seem to project an absence of colour, a coldness; which is interesting yet ironic due to the high firing process the sculptures are exposed to. The combination of earthenware and porcelain clay body’s fracture, melt and become one, hosting and projecting the process they have undergone, giving emphasis to the unstable nature of ceramics that many people do not experience.