I start by making a black ink drawing as quickly and spontaneously as possible, bringing together and condensing a number of visual references and ideas. This drawing is designed purely as a beginning, providing the bare bones of the images to come.
As a musician might improvise around a given theme, my hastily drawn ink image becomes a starting point or template for a series of images, each an improvisation or variation on the original.
I have very little idea of how each series of images might evolve beyond wishing to explore something I have seen and recorded at some point, perhaps a group of shapes or a quality of colour or mark. The making process is then very much about grappling with an image, of digging to find and recall something and of responding to that which is thrown up.
Working with pre-marked and prepared paper, using fragments sometimes carefully chosen but more often randomly picked, I work from the original ink template. By tracing and retracing areas of a drawing, working upside down and back to front, playing with the relationship of one shape to another, folding and manipulating, my aim is to bring about something new and unexpected. Infinite variety from the same source.
The image is pieced together with individual fragments held in place with pins before being wrapped with a waxed thread. An image temporarily bound and held, always with the potential for change.
The starting point for these drawings was an archival box full of Japanese paper ephemera. A collection of torn and squashed chop-stick packets, ancient paper prayers, creased woodblock prints and splashed and stained inky scribbles.
After Shide & Shide Fragment
‘Shide’ are the zig-zags of folded paper that hang at Shinto shrines to mark the boundary between the sacred and profane.
The works in this exhibition have all been completed over the past two years. They are made, primarily, from native clay. This is direct from the earth and unprocessed as opposed to industrially manufactured clay bodies. The forms are slowly constructed from layers, built up over days and weeks then carved. They are fired for seven days and nights in a wood fuelled kiln. No glaze is applied; the surface textures and colours are the result of the interaction of the clay, fly-ash, coals and fire.
I am constantly building on previous work – just as individual pieces evolve in the process of making, the body of work as a whole does as well. Most of my work develops from the process of making, firing, and arranging. While I may have images in my head of some specific things I have seen, for instance the remnants of an old quarry derrick abandoned in the woods near my home, once I start making, new forms emerge. There is a search and discovery.
I am particularly drawn to objects in various states of decay – either through use over time such as tools or the effects of the “elements”. Everything is in a constant state of flux. These are merely markers of a particular time and place.
It is only when I am fully engaged in the making – that the forms present themselves. There is an intuitive process of discovery – of wondering, of noticing, of physically or intellectually feeling the forms. I work on many pieces at once to enable me to become lost in the process - freely moving from one form to another. There is a complete acceptance in the process. Faith. That is the guide. We work together, informing and reacting to each other.
There are four distinct series in this body of work. The sculptures are the most ambiguous and poetic for me. Drawn from a multitude of sources, industrial detritus, tools and abstracting the fragments of a vessel.
The vessels are rooted in more of a pottery vernacular. They are there to nourish. We are comforted. We have a sense of place.
The cups are individual intimate moments. Each one is a separate story. Held. Caressed. Nourishment. Life-affirming.
The boxes may be urns. Shelters. Forced to touch in order to experience the inside. Containment. Security. Protect me. What is revealed?
The blurry space between past and present, nature and technology, life and death. That is the interest for me.