The work of Canadian artist Aaron Nelson is in my mind one of the most important social commentaries happening in ceramics today. Rather than moaning that the smart phone pulls us out of our bodies, he notes the complex dexterity needed to operate a touch screen and finds that we may be growing closer to our bodies through technology. As a way of considering this complex notion he pairs thrown vessels with iPod’s to create digital features on the pieces, or in another piece he runs electrical current through luster glazes to power a radio. The work is engaging, inventive and incredibly relevant to the world we live in today.
Here is a brief video of work from his latest show
and a link to his website, which is one of the best artists sites I have seen.
One of the most engaging pieces of Nelson’s work is his development of a very low firing soft paste porcelain. The idea behind it was to drop the firing temp on his process to reduce the carbon footprint of the work. I love it because it shows a clear commitment to his values and showcases his ceramic skills to develop such a thing. It give the work a sense of completion, as if all the elements have been considered and placed carefully.
this work is encouraging to me personally, as the digital aspect of my work becomes so consuming and I feel pushed further and further from the craft of the work I do. Aaron Nelson is clearly demonstrating that pursuit of both is not only possible, but when done well, becomes an engaging new medium, comprising elements of both but making something all together new.
It is difficult to know where to begin in writing about Grayson Perry. He is such a complex and multi faceted artist, for one, ceramic is only a part of what he does, though it does seems to be his primary medium. But also that his work can not be discussed with out discussing him as well. Aside from being a transvestite he is the only ceramist to have won the Turner Prize ( 2003). Here he is above dressed as “an Italian mother of the bride” receiving a CSM from Prince Charles. This is a rather conservative outfit for Mr. Perry, his typical preference is super feminine and incredibly decorative
This style reflects the look of his work. First and most importantly for me is that they are for the most part pots, like his clothes, are well made and heavily decorated.
There are typically layers of images and text that revolve around a theme, often sex, contemporary culture and class as they relate to himself and his life as a transvestite.
On the surface he doesn’t really fit the criteria I set down in the beginning of the blog, but looking deeper, or even better, doing a google search for Grayson Perry, brings an avalanche of images, lectures, websites and articles. Not just in art journals either but many from English newspapers. Grayson Perry owns himself, his name and his images in a way that a digital media marketer can only envy. I would attribute much of this to his collaboration with British culture, and understanding the roll of the artist in relation to his culture. Sadly I can’t find a way to watch this series of television shows starring Perry, but here is the trailer to give you a feel for the depth of his influence.
He thinks deeply and is well spoken and there are many interviews and lectures that feature Perry, but I chose these 3. They are parts of a great long lecture he gave for Central Saint Martins. He gives wonderful explanation for his work and his influences. The first section features a brief stop motion video of his making process that give great insight into the importance of craft in his making.
I have been thinking over which artist I wanted to add to my International Top 10 for a few days now. Then today I was included in a conversation that helped make up my mind. The discussion was about the intentional breaking of a work by Ai Weiwei , whom I featured in my last top 10 post, by another artist as an act of protest. This lead to an ethical conversation about some of Weiwei’s practices and for me into thinking about the destruction of ceramic as part of its life cycle. So then choosing Keith Harrison became a straight forward decision.
An English clay artists who works a great deal in performance, Harrison was banned from the ceramics studio in school and so was forced to think in unconventional ways. This has led to an incredible approach that is as much about electronics and sense experience as it is clay. Here is a 5 minute video with Harrison explaining his evolution and process for himself.
Honestly I had been aware of this artist for a while but had never really considered looking more deeply until c-file did a web article on one of his latest pieces titled Bustleholme. In this work, Harrison collaborates with the grindcore band Napalm Death in an attempt to destroy tile and speaker effigies of english apartment blocks through sound.
And here is the video:
Neither the music nor the esthetic of the brightly colored commercial tiles are at all what I would normally respond to, but in combination they create that magic third element that goes beyond what each might be on their own. The lack of destruction might be seen as a sort of failure but really that seems beside the point. The genius of the work is in the moments of its living, including the music crazed man tearing at it during the show. The work seems to invite that sort of act, being placed not in a gallery setting but in a metal concert, honestly its my favorite part of the video. And in fact Harrison himself seems to invite it in a previous performance titled Moon. This is a two-minute video and completely worth the watch.
For more information on this artist here is his page from his residency at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I personally love the intellectual rigor he brings to this fierce and strange work.
Its true that when things begin to change there is an adjustment period, as ideas and possibilities are explored. It feels like I have been chasing a series of dead ends as I have been seeking a new studio space with my studio/business partner Gabe Wolff. I finally feel like we have settled into a space that will work. Thanks to the generosity of my mom and step dad we have been “put up” in a barn on my parents horse farm. The barn has been used primarily for foaling mares which my mom no longer does for her clients so she was willing to give up a couple stalls to our cause. We have been cleaning and moving with great energy for the past week and today I really could feel the work space beginning to come together. The total move in will take many more weeks but the essentials are in.
Corresponding almost perfectly to this happy event is the beginning of the summer installation class with my professor Linda Ganstrom. The new location has suggested many wonderful opportunities for work but for my first I will be working on a Rapprochment installation in the corral outside our main stall.
i may work on two of the tree pieces for the workshop in this space. Since installation is an art of space and time, being able to make art in this space at this time would be a bit magical, it is an intersection of many rich threads of my life.