Speakers profiles and abstracts
Dr Jon Wood(keynote speaker)
Jon is Research Curator at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds. He has published widely on modern and contemporary sculpture. He has written extensively on the work of Brancusi, Moore, Gaudier-Brzeska and Tony Cragg and has co-edited Savage Messiah (2011), Modern Sculpture Reader (2007), Articulate Objects (2009) and Sculpture in Twentieth-Century Britain (2003). He has particular, ongoing research interest in the history of the artist’s studio. Recent exhibitions include United Enemies: The Problem of Sculpture in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s (2011), Nice Style: The World’s First Pose Band (2011), Savage Messiah: The Creation of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (2011).
His presentation, entitled ‘Manual Thinking’, will look at several British sculptors’ interests in the materials and processes of ceramics through the lens of the recent Henry Moore Institute exhibition ‘United Enemies: The Problem of Sculpture in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s’.
Professor Stephen Dixon
Stephen is currently engaged as Professorial Research Fellow in Contemporary Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University, investigating contemporary political imagery and narrative in ceramics. Since graduating in sculpture (Newcastle University, 1980) and ceramics (Royal College of Art, 1986) he has made figurative artworks which engage with contemporary social and political issues. These works range from large ceramic vessels (Laocoon, 2003, V&A Museum, London) to ceramic installations (21 Countries, 2003, Museum of Arts and Design, New York) site-specific works (Hero, 2010, Ahmedabad International Arts Festival) and community projects (Asylum, 2000, working with Amnesty International). His work features in numerous public collections including the Museum of Arts & Design, New York; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the British Crafts Council; San Francisco Museum of Fine Arts; The Royal Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. He is a Trustee of the Crafts Council and a member of the Art and Design sub-panel for REF 2014.
This paper and presentation will propose that a symbiotic relationship exists between ceramics and sculpture. It will draw on the experience of my own ‘hybrid’ practice (having trained in both sculpture and ceramics) as a case study.
I will argue that, whilst the contemporary practitioner (and educator) may regard any clear distinction between ‘sculptural’ ceramics and ‘sculpture’ (in other materials) as both arbitrary and unneccesary, the established conventions of the museum, the art school and the marketplace conspire to reinforce such a distinction (particularly in the UK). Tracing the origins of these conventions to the notion of the Renaissance artist as ‘genius’, I will argue that such a polarised distinction between the creative artist and the skilled but anonymous artisan is an outmoded and discredited concept, and that contemporary inter-disciplinary making practices require more permeable definitions.
I will continue by examining the development of a changing attitude to ceramics and sculpture in my own practice, beginning with the heavily figurative satirical vessels (The Seven Deadly Sins, 1993), through the layered, narrative vessels and plates (21 Countries, 2004) to more recent mixed media and site-specific works (Monopoly, 2009). This discussion will focus on a particular body of work, Beyond the Seas (Adelaide, 2006), which was the catalyst for a major conceptual shift in practice, from narratives ‘on’ clay to narratives ‘of’ clay.
The paper will conclude with an examination of new figurative work, begun as artist in residence in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s new ceramic galleries, where I worked for six months in 2009/10. This residency provided the opportunity for intensive research within the museum’s archives and collections, examining contrasting traditions of portraiture (regardless of material) and resulted in a series of political portrait head-forms.
Alun is Curator of the Ceramics & Glass Collection in the Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics & Glass Department of the V&A, where he has worked since 1993. He has specific responsibility for the collections of 20th Century and Contemporary Ceramics. He has published frequently in this field, as well as on British sculpture – in particular Barbara Hepworth – and on historic tiles. He is the author of Tiles and Tilework of Europe (V&A, 2002). He has a particular interest in collecting and curating cutting-edge contemporary work, and curated the event Clay Rocks! at the V&A in 2006. He was a member of the project team in the redevelopment of the V&A’s Ceramics Galleries, opened in 2009 and 2010.
‘Hans Coper: Sculpture in Architecture’.
Hans Coper (1920-1981) stands among the leading figures of 20th century studio ceramics. He is also one of the potters most frequently credited for the production of ceramics of a sculptural nature. This paper will consider the evolution of the sculptural tendencies in Coper’s work, and examine the influences that shaped its development. It will in particular focus on his ‘architectural period’: those years between 1959 and 1963 that Coper spent at the Digswell Art Trust in Hertfordshire. Here, under the auspices of the educationalist Henry Morris, Coper formed relationships with architects and industry, and fulfilled a number of substantial commissions for specific interiors. These included two mural schemes, as well as the celebrated monumental candlesticks commissioned by Basil Spence for Coventry Cathedral. The impact of these architectural endeavours and public commissions will be considered in relation to Coper’s development as a sculptor-potter, and the significance of working at scale and for specific sites will be explored.
Michael has, for the past thirty years, taught masters level studies in ceramics with students with diverse backgrounds in art and design, including fine art, as well as other subjects. He has also supervised a significant number of doctoral students to successful completion, whose projects wholly synthesized theory and practice. Membership of the Art and Design Panel in HEFCE’s 1996 and 2001 RAEs, acting as an independent assessor for AHRC in it’s early years has provided important overviews and insights regarding the relationship between Ceramics and other disciplines in art and design. In more recent years, he has focused through his research degree supervision, on developing ways in which artistic practice in ceramics can be significantly developed, extended or enhanced, by drawing from appropriate theories to inform the analysis and contextualization of the practice, as well as to describe, evaluate and discuss features of the artworks in aesthetic terms.
‘What difference can a description make?’
Over recent years, there has been a steady increase in Europe, in the size of new artworks works in Ceramics, achieved either simply by making individual pieces to larger dimensions, or through the bringing together of a number of smaller components. At the same time, many of these makers are adopting relatively ad hoc, terms widely used by sculptors to describe their artistic work and aspects of their practice: developments which appear tacitly and widely accepted within the Ceramics community. These developments are healthy, demonstrating that the discipline is stretching its boundaries, but there are problems: not least sweeping or vague claims made in terms of the aims or subject of their works, by the ceramicists concerned, a situation exacerbated by a paucity of adequate description, appropriate contextualization and discussion of aesthetic features, in much critical writing on ceramics.
It will be argued through the paper that if the weaknesses of articulation described are a reflection of the incapacity of many ceramicists to balance intuitive ways of working with more conscious, rigorous self-evaluation and contextualization of their practice, this may significantly restrict their potential to develop their artistic work. It will also be argued that this situation inhibits serious discussion and debate, thus weakening claims for credence or validity for such developments. To illustrate the point, statements made by artists making ‘installations’ and working in the disciplines of both sculpture and ceramics, will be compared and discussed. This comparison will also include the ways the artworks and practices are described and discussed in their respective journals.
The paper will conclude by briefly summarising key differences between the artistic practices, represented by the examples used, and make proposals for the ways the issues discussed may be addressed within the discipline of ceramics.
Master studies in art history, Romance language and literature (French and Italian) at the University of Cologne, Germany, from 2001 until 2006. Doctorate ibid. in art history in 2009 with the dissertation (published in 2011 by ibidem-Verlag, Hannover/Stuttgart, Germany): Die Kleinplastiken von James Pradier. Skulptur im industrialisierten Kunstbetrieb des 19. Jahrhunderts (title translated: Small-scale sculpture by James Pradier. Sculpture and the industrialized art production in the 19th century). 7 years of varied work experience in galleries, auction houses, art theft enquiries (Art Loss Register) and responsibilities in the exhibition sector. Further researches and publication projects in progress as independent scholar in the field of 18th and 19th-centuries French and British sculpture and pottery as well as about art in the realm of industrialization (especially about the edition of sculpture and the „industry“ of serially reproduced objects of art). Member of the Verband Deutscher Kunsthistoriker e.V. (Association of German Art Historians), the Deutscher Verein für Kunstwissenschaft e.V. (German Association of Art History) and CAA (College Art Association, NY).
‘The Edition of Sculpture in England: A French Spirit of Commerce, English Manufactories and the New Sculpture’
Researches in the field of serially reproduced sculpture in 19th- century France include the observation of a phenomenon passing the national borders. Works by famous French sculptors like Pradier, Carrier-Belleuse, Feuchère and others which had been regularly reproduced and commercially distributed by popular foundries in Paris like Susse Frères or Barbedienne since the 1830′s, attracted also the interest of English manufactories such as Minton’s, Copeland, Cooke or Robinson & Leadbeater which were engaged in the reproduction and sale – in some degree at mass – of small-scale statuary, especially in Parian Ware. Many examples of this petite sculpture born at this epoch of highly industrially dominated art production still wander today’s art market, a high quantity of them appearing in online auctions.
A growing commercial interest of English manufacturers in French sculpture can be ascertained in particular from the 1840′s on and reached its “peak” in the second half of the century, the time when British sculpture itself obviously showed a change in language. In this regard, the prospective study comprises an analysis considering the following aspects: firstly, the reproduction and commercial distribution of French sculpture by English potteries and its impact on and the interaction with the development of British sculpture, in particular the “group” of artists representing the New Sculpture. Secondly, on the scale of things, the detailed consideration of this facet bears a close relation to a changed attitude towards sculpture and its relation to the decorative arts, its commercial potential, the interaction of art and industry, the possibilities offered on the field of a kind of commercial aesthetics, a democracy in the commerce of art, in purchasing and enjoying art, as also a new entrepreneurial thinking – even shared by artists -, all this within the realm of a strong belief of progress dominating the industrial 19th century. To take only a few examples: as a sculptor like Carrier- Belleuse worked as designer in chief for Minton and taught English modellers, or as Pierre-Emile Jeannest collaborated with Minton’s and held a post at the Potteries School of Design, or as Jules Dalou was, during his stay in England from 1871 to 1879, a crucial authority in mediating the French spirit of sculpture, not least throughout his teaching at South Kensington School of Art, the influence might perhaps be seen as inevitable. But the extension of this influence has to be carefully observed, and as I suggest, this analysis shall not only comprise conditions of artistic and aesthetic measures, but, as posed above, in particular economic interests, the ascendancy of industrialization.
In order to widen and implement the given general frame of the project, a specific case in point leads us additionally on the way to correlate the mentioned perspectives of analysis. The aspect in question concerns the trade with French serially reproduced sculpture abroad as an enterprise like Barbedienne, for instance, had commercial connections with Graham & Jackson in London, Thomas Agnew & Sons in Manchester, or even overseas with Tiffany & Co. in New York. In this concern, it actually becomes evident that due to commercial relations and the fact that manufacturers in England showed a high interest in the “exploitation” of French models – a market of French-influenced small statuary – and therefore employed French modellers to provide them with designs and teaching, the knowledge of French sculpture comprising its kind of imagery, aesthetics, technical superiority – especially in casting – as also commercial ambition established itself firmly in the realm of British sculpture, and moreover within a time when it became suitable to study in Paris to complete one’s artistic education; it was in a certain sense a welcome inspiration for British statuary to pass beyond its limits of expression and perception.
This paper will examine the way in which a major museum’s collecting activity can transgress traditional taxonomies in a creative and rich manner.
I will propose the metaphor of multiple identities (as used in identity politics and cultural studies) as a way to assist the understanding of difference and commonality expressed in the museum and in the practices upon which it draws.
Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales collects ceramic objects in many disciplinary contexts. It has one of the strongest collections of historic porcelain and production ceramics in the UK. It has a fine collection of 20thc studio ceramics. Its Art collections include paintings, works on paper, sculpture, video and film, many being ceramic or referent to ceramic traditions. Its archaeology, social history and industrial history departments collect historic and contemporary domestic ware and ceremonial and decorative ceramic objects.
Unusually for British public collections outside London over the last three decades, it has been able to maintain a significant level of contemporary collecting in all these fields.
This paper will document recent projects and acquisitions involving artists who have used or referenced ‘ceramics’, or exploited the meanings that can be derived from cross-referencing disciplinary contexts. Documentation and interpretation which uses the terminologies of the conference title will be explored.
The paper will emphasise the need for openly expressed collecting strategies and confident curating of work straddling disciplinary contexts.
With such openness and confidence, I will argue, the validity of specificity to particular practices can be best demonstrated, whilst the dangers of rigid and artificial boundaries overcome.
I will argue that by responding to and facilitating the work of artists whose practices blur boundaries between disciplines, the museum can, ironically, encourage audiences to consider the specific inherent meanings of objects and historic taxonomies of artistic and craft practices in a rich way.
Conor studied ceramics to BA and MA level in Bristol and Cardiff respectively and is currently studying for an MPhil/PhD at the Royal College of Art. He has work in public spaces in the UK and public and private collections worldwide, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Recent exhibitions include ´Placement´ (Oriel Davies and St. Andrews Museum, 2011), ‘3D2D3D’ (Edinburgh Printmakers Gallery, 2010), British Ceramics Biennial (2009) and the 5th World Ceramic Biennale, Republic of Korea (2009). Work is also held in the archive of the Cass Sculpture Foundation, Goodwood, UK. Wilson has been awarded five Arts Council grants and a Jerwood Contemporary Makers prize (2010). Recent publications to profile his work include Extra/ordinary: Craft culture and contemporary art (Duke University Press, USA 2010) and Contemporary Ceramics (Thames & Hudson, UK 2009). He has worked as a freelance lecturer, in both theory and practice, since 1992.
‘ “You can use clay, but you can’t do ceramics”: Some thoughts about why Ceramics isn´t Sculpture, based on the thinking of Eduardo Chillida and Robert Morris’
It seems important to address the terms, Ceramics and Sculpture. Any one definition of Ceramics is likely to be contested, but it does not present itself as an impossible task. However broad the discipline, description can cohere around a relatively stable set of materials, processes and intentions. Sculpture, conversely, seems effectively indefinable. It is more likely to be defined by what it is not than by what it is – it is not painting, it is not design and it is not ceramics, although it might appropriate knowledge from these and any other discipline. Recently, a sculpture student told me that his tutor had said, ‘you can use clay, but you can’t do ceramics’; while Carol McNicoll, a long-time innovator within the ceramics field, insists on a connection to function and dismisses the genre she calls ‘shards on the floor’ as irrelevant to Ceramics.
I am currently investigating methods through which the qualities of ceramic materials and the embodied knowledge inherent in ceramic processes might be communicated within an expanded cultural field, with a focus on art and writing. My methods include making, writing about making and exploring the thinking/writing about process and intention of key practitioners, through interview and text. I intend to approach this paper as part of my investigation of practitioners´ thinking and have chosen to look at two sculptors whose radically different conceptions of sculpture, space and material pose interesting problems for critically engaged ceramicists. I will investigate the work of Eduardo Chillida and Robert Morris with particular reference to Chillida´s extended series of Lurra clay sculptures and Morris´s Continuous Project Altered Daily (1969) and explore some examples of how ceramic practice might have been affected by the slow and partial shift in emphasis from form to process.
David Jones graduated in Philosophy and Literature and is a senior lecturer in the department of ceramics at the University of Wolverhampton. He is a Fellow of the Crafts Potter Association of England and a member of the International Academy of Ceramics. His ceramics are represented in many of the major international collections. The work is a combination of studio and Installation practices balanced by theoretical interventions at conferences such as Römhild International Ceramics Symposium, Germany (2011); Making Futures, Plymouth (2009); New Crafts Future Voices, Aberdeen, (2007); NCECA USA, (2007 and 2011); International Raku symposium, Colorado(2005). The critical writing includes the authoring of Raku – Investigations into Fire (1999/2005) and Firing – Philosophies within Contemporary Ceramic Practice (2007), in addition to many articles for the ceramic press, that deal with both individual issues in ceramics as well as critiques of makers, and exhibition reviews.
Bonnie Kemske holds a PhD in ceramics and touch from the Royal College of Art. She produces ceramic sculptures that engage the body’s sense of touch, which she uses in event-based art experiences (often as collaborations) and more traditional exhibitions, although only those that will allow the work to be handled. She has been Editor of Ceramic Review since May 2010. Her publications include the primary chapter in Ceramics and the Human Form (A&C Black, May 2012), twelve commissioned articles, six exhibition reviews, and numerous smaller articles and reports, and her first book as editor will be out in February. She has published or presented thirteen peer-reviewed journal articles, conference papers, and posters, and has convened discussion groups and workshops. She also works as a curator. Currently she is part of an interdisciplinary team of designers, scientists, therapists, and social scientists developing a tactile musical instrument to be used therapeutically.
Moira Vincentelli is Emeritus Professor of Art History and Curator of Ceramics at Aberystwyth University. From the mid 1970s she developed the ceramic collection at Aberystwyth and its associated archive of audio, video and paper documentation. Her personal research has a focus on gender and ceramics with two books on the subject: Women and Ceramics: Gendered Vessels (MUP, 2000) and Women Potters: Transforming Traditions (A&C Black, 2003) and she has written many articles and catalogue essays, With her interest in World Ceramics external research collaborations have been important as an invited curator at Manchester Museum and Northern Clay Center, Minneapolis. She regularly develops exhibitions, websites and educational projects some of which draw on postgraduate projects and research: most recently A Sense of Affinity (2009) and Gathered World (2010) and We Spirited Creatures (2011). She is on the Editorial Board of Interpreting Ceramics and is a long-serving member of the organising committee of the International Ceramics Festival.
Dr Jeffrey Jones is Reader in Ceramics at Cardiff Metropolitan University. In 2009-2011 he was a visiting Research Fellow at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, the main output being the curation of the exhibition A Rough Equivalent: Sculpture and Pottery from the Post-War Period, at Leeds Art Gallery (Sept. 2010 – Jan. 2011) with an accompanying interpretative essay published by the Institute. His book Studio Pottery in Britain 1900-2005, a major survey of the field, was published by A&C Black in 2007. In 2012 he contributed a chapter to the book Gordon Baldwin: Objects for a Landscape, which was published to accompany the retrospective exhibition of Baldwin’s work at York Art Gallery. He is founder-editor of Interpreting Ceramics electronic journal, www.interpretingceramics.com . With Prof. Moira Vincentelli of Aberystwyth University, he led the initiative to establish the National Centre for Ceramics in Wales in 2010.
Andrew Renton is Head of Applied Art at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. Since joining the Museum in 1999, he has emphasised the development of the Museum’s collection of contemporary applied art, seeking to work with artists and to use collections creatively as part of an active and ambitious acquisition strategy. He has curated exhibitions at the National Museum in Cardiff in collaboration with Edmund de Waal (Arcanum: mapping European porcelain, 2005) and Elizabeth Fritsch (Dynamic Structures: Painted Vessels by Elizabeth Fritsch, 2010). His other priorities have included research into and acquisitions for the full range of post-mediaeval applied art collections, in particular Welsh ceramics and historic silver. Prior to moving to Cardiff, he worked for six years at National Museums Liverpool as a curator of applied art, including three years as Curator of the Lady Lever Art Gallery.
Laura Gray was formerly Assistant Curator for Art at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston. She has also worked as a curator in the Fine and Decorative Art department of the National Army Museum in London. She is currently in the final year of her doctorate at Cardiff School of Art. Her PhD is entitled ‘In What Ways are the Relationships Between Pottery and Sculpture Negotiated and Revealed in Contemporary Ceramics Practice?’. Her chapter ‘Sydney Paviere and the Harris Museum & Art Gallery’ is published in Museums and Biographies (Boydell Press) in 2012.
Angie Dutton is Enterprise, Cardiff Design Festival and Cardiff Open Art School Co-ordinator at Cardiff School of Art & Design. Angie can be contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or 029 20416628.