Leaky Vessels, 2019

Leaky Vessels, 2019

Installation of 5 components

ceramic, paper, graphite, ink, plywood, mild steel

All images taken by the artist

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My practice is sensitive to materiality and research, encompassing the sculptural arrangement of materials, objects, forms, processes and imprints which conjure tensions that parallel those seen in the between-ness present in our lived environment.

 

Gaston Bachelard’s poetic meditations on the lived space in his work The Poetics of Space (1958) have been a cornerstone to the thinking process behind my practice. Initially, my fascination with Bachelard’s work manifested in my practice as an exploration into the domestic space and objects. I looked at artists such as Rachel Whiteread and Do Ho Suh on their reflections of the home and the imprints of inhabitance. More recently, this study into the poetics of home has developed into an interest in the formal qualities of the vessel which suggest encapsulation, security, dwelling, and roundness[1]. I have also widened my inquiry to encompass aspects of the built environment and the compartmentalisation of life. My practice evolved in more formally abstract and fluid ways, with a greater attention to the juxtaposition of materials and forms.

In an earlier work, Untitled Construction (2018), the piece consisted of cocoon-like terracotta pots which rested upon sharp interlocking planes of a ‘shelf’ structure. Soft cotton thread peeked out from some of these pots and formed links between the cavernous forms. Hints of the domestic forms are still present in this work, as seen from the ‘shelf’-like structure that compartmentalises components of the sculpture. The element of between-ness is most prominent in the next work, Between (2019). I discovered the potential of between spaces being activated to become integral components of the work itself. Spatial gaps between each element of the installation were breaths, pauses and intervals in the rhythmic experience of the work. I looked to works by Richard Long[2] and Edith Dekyndt[3] for their organisation of organic or fluid materials such as mud and stone, or unpredictable interactions such as that between wine and satin. Components were ‘forced’ into some semblance of rigid organisation; a loss of control has seemingly been brought back. This work also started the almost violent introduction of liquid ink to unfired clay vessels. Thus, breaking the porous clay down into an earthy sludge, creating imprints of clay and ink on the surface they lay on. My pursuit of the unpredictable space that exists between material binaries (solid/liquid, round/straight) developed alongside research into Homi Bhabha’s theories on the fluid nature of the ‘home’ and cultural identity in postcolonial contexts. Such qualities against the regimented physical backdrop of the built environment; life organised and constructed by meticulous urban planning, has become an area of consistent interest. In Slippage (2019), a pair of fired terracotta vessels are languidly posed on low-rise acrylic plinths. In the work, I further developed the forms of clay vessels into one which was more biomorphic. Their walls were pinched and pressed into being, and their contours are plump and womb-like. This fleshy allusion to the imagery of the womb hints of the embryonic first home. Associations between the womb and the home conjure nuances reminiscent and informed by Surrealist imagery of ‘soft’ houses by Roberto Matta. These forms further heightened the distinction against the sharper elements of the composition, a highly non-‘soft’ environment. The underbellies of the vessels show traces of what is or was contained, stained with pools of pigment. Positioned below the plinths are sheets of paper with ink imprints that correspond to these underbellies. Like a rock which was lifted to reveal a busy swarm of ants beneath it, some of these vessels are displaced to expose an intricate print. A place of encapsulation, breached by the porousness of clay, is betrayed by its own material. Seeping and oozing, its contents are exposed and greedily absorbed by the fibrous paper surface beneath it, causing warps and undulations in the material. In Leaky Vessels (2019), the installation adapts itself more to the architectural details of the building. A combination of wooden and steel plinths take reference from pillars in the space, resting against or moulding themselves around the columns. White clay is used to make the vessels instead of terracotta. Bachelard writes, “it is a poetic fact that a dreamer can write of a curve that is warm”[4]. Rather than colour, form is responsible for exuding this ‘warmth’. Paper elements are marked with grids; echoing perhaps a city map, or a motherboard, or a blue print. Liquid ink, with no regard for the sensibilities of an organised grid, flow and stain indiscriminately upon its surface.

 

[1] Reference to the chapter “The Phenomenology of Roundness” in The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard, trans. The Orion Press, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969).

[2] These include Untitled (2014), Muddy Water Circle (1994), White Onyx Line (1990), among others.

[3] Particularly Mexican Vanities’ (2013).

[4] Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. The Orion Press, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), 146.

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