ARTISTS

CONTEMPORARY SOUTH AFRICAN ARTISTS IN CONVERSATION WITH CLAY

CLAY AS FORM & SURFACE

Two voices in dialogue with each other. 

IAN GARRETT

b.1971

A SHARED LIFE AND STUDIO

by Olivia Barrell

How do you write separately about two artists who have been together for over twenty years and whose studios fall under the same roof? They cut the reeds themselves from the river by their home in Swellendam to make the large ceiling that covers both studios. Over time, the studios have been separated by a brick wall, or a hole in the wall, or a thin film over the hole in the wall.

How do you write separately about two artists who have been together for over twenty years and whose studios fall under the same roof? 

JOHN NEWDIGATE

b.1968

A SHARED LIFE AND STUDIO

by Olivia Barrell

Newdigate visualises his whimsical narratives by ordering planes of colour, layering images one on top of another — perhaps reminiscent of his early experience with screen printing. Newdigate is a painter of figments. He portrays what we might see when we stare out into space or look out at a garden, lost in a daze. 

Newdigate is a painter of figments. He portrays what we might see when we stare out into space or look out at a garden, lost in a daze.

CLAY AS LANGUAGE

Building ceramic forms as a way of speaking.

ZIZIPHO POSWA

b.1979

CREATING VESSELS THAT TELL STORIES

by Keely Shinners

Each vessel tells a story. Coiled up by hand, the story is spun in layers. It is cyclical. It is a story that has already been told. It is a story that will be told again. The colours threaded in those coils are like events strung on a narrative. The base holds something of a prophecy; the crown, a sort of ending. Were we to apply narrative to this process, Zizipho Poswa’s practice would tell a story that begins with the human and ends with the gods. Human – because its base is small enough to fit on the crown of your head. Divine – because its crown, a pair of brass horns, reaches out to pierce the heavens.

Poswa’s practice would tell a story that begins with the human and ends with the gods. Human – because its base is small enough to fit on the crown of your head. Divine – because its crown, a pair of brass horns, reaches out to pierce the heavens.

BEN ORKIN

b.1998

A LANGUAGE OF FORMS

by Olivia Barrell

What is Ben Orkin’s relationship with clay? In the encounters between artists and clay, we ask ourselves what the relationship might be that exists between them. The often sacred connection between earth and hand, the connection between body and mind — and the medium that bears witness to that. Or is the fruit of that connection, standing at the exact point of tension between two things. Orkin builds clay forms that fit beside or on top of other forms like words that fit into a sentence. Is this (this being modularity or the compiling of separate elements) not the basis upon which all language is built?

The works tumble out untethered and emotive. For the artist’s relationship with clay is a relationship with himself. Ben Orkin does not simply build form with clay. He speaks with it.

CLAY AS MUD & CONCRETE

Finding a voice in the earth, unprocessed and gritty.

LEDELLE MOE

b.1971

BUCKETS OF ANGELS, MONUMENTS IN THE UNDERGROWTH, DOWN THE SEA’S THROAT

by Sophie Cope

There’s a bucket of concrete angels in Ledelle Moe’s Woodstock studio. More than one bucket of angel-like madonna-like figures, studded with quartz and grit from the Cederberg, half concrete, half mud. And there’s a large steel frame outlining a sleeping body the size of a baby whale, waiting for a concrete skin. And when the skin comes, it will be thin and porous and the light will leak into it and the frame will poke through. Moe uses concrete to subvert the metaphor of itself. The world of the things we think we know – the seemingly-solid – is memorialised in pieces. The angels are concrete, the concrete is fog. 

There’s a bucket of concrete angels in Ledelle Moe’s Woodstock studio. More than one bucket of angel-like madonna-like figures, studded with quartz and grit from the Cederberg, half concrete, half mud.

BELINDA BLIGNAUT

b.1968

BODY LANGUAGES OF FIRE & MUD

by Sophie Cope

The words are important, and the concept is important. But the language of the body — the language of fire and mud — is not a vocabulary that can be learned or listed. Perhaps it was always there, and can only be returned to. South African artist Belinda Blignaut describes her more recent use of ‘wild clay’ not as an omniscient ‘making from scratch,’ but as a returning or a relinquishing — ‘a conscious decision to give in to mud’.

Blignaut describes her more recent use of ‘wild clay’ not as an omniscient ‘making from scratch,’ but as a returning or a relinquishing — ‘a conscious decision to give in to mud’.

CLAY AT THE EDGE OF A VESSEL

Ceramics forms that have been taken to the edge of themselves.

KATHERINE GLENDAY

b.1960

WITH IT & THROUGH IT: ON VOICES, PORCELAIN AND EMPTINESS

by Sophie Cope

Glenday’s virtuosic control of the medium gives rise to a paradoxical relinquishing. Her vessels drop out of an ongoing exchange between the hands and the clay and the fire of the kiln. Without being reduced to metaphor, the skins and material resonances of porcelain act as entry points into ‘the rest of the world’. The vessel becomes a literal echo-chamber for light and sound, stillness and movement, the unsaid conversation, and the echoes that locate and outlast it. The artist has alternatively described her use of porcelain as ‘painting with light’ – the lightwaves, the sea in Kalk Bay, and the waves of sound and silence too.

The artist has alternatively described her use of porcelain as ‘painting with light’ – the lightwaves, the sea in Kalk Bay, and the waves of sound and silence too.

ASTRID DAHL

b.1977

ON FORM & PROCESS

by Sophie Cope

South African ceramic artist Astrid Dahl makes vessels that are, in some essential sense, about vessel-making – expressing the shapes and processes of ‘themselves,’ not standing as symbolic place-holders for anything ‘else.’ Predominantly composed of white earthenware, Dahl’s work pays homage to form and symmetry before anything. A practice in pursuit of the form that is perfect and timeless – something essential that has yet to emerge, is probably impossible, but feels very close.  The vessels exist as vessels, filling the centre of a room with real presence, and they also exist as material traces of a rigorous daily searching for the things that are beautiful and worthwhile and true.

A practice in pursuit of the form that is perfect and timeless – something essential that has yet to emerge, is probably impossible, but feels very close. 

CLAY AS ARTEFACT FROM MEMORY

Working with a medium as a way of moving closer towards home.

JEANNE HOFFMAN

b.1978

HOMEMAKING

by Caitlin MacDonald

Digression guides Hoffman’s work. She lays out fragments of the familiar, the artefacts of domestic life, setting a table with broken plates overgrown with marine life, placing bouquets in vases gnarled with scales. The maligned art of homemaking is both legible and unsettled by her forms. She speaks often about the significance of Japanese gardening to her practice, in particular the concept of “borrowed scenery” or shakkei. This is the concept of capturing the world beyond reach. For example, a gardener might frame the view of a distant mountain with structures of branches and its misty purple hue inwards by growing heavy-headed Wisteria.

She speaks often about the significance of Japanese gardening to her practice, in particular the concept of “borrowed scenery” or shakkei. This is the concept of capturing the world beyond reach.

NINDYA BUCKTOWAR

b.1988

THE WORLD IS IN THE BODY AND THE BODY IS IN THE WORLD

by Sophie Cope

Bucktowar uses clay in a way that is close to the body, and close to the ‘wild’ and urban landscapes that she knows. A genuine kind of empathy with the material is communicated – both as an imaginative extension of the body, and as a completely literal chunk of ‘the earth’ that is everywhere. Having grown up in Mauritius, representations of rapidly eroding landscapes and ecosystems (due to climate change) appear to mirror a more intimate nostalgia for child-sized loves and losses. The world is in the body and the body is in the world.

Having grown up in Mauritius, representations of rapidly eroding landscapes and ecosystems (due to climate change) appear to mirror a more intimate nostalgia for child-sized loves and losses.

CLAY FORMES

OUR FIRST PRINTED PUBLICATION, WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED BY ART FORMES, IS THE FRUIT OF LITERARY AND PHOTOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS AROUND SOUTH AFRICA, PRESENTING A CURATED SELECTION OF ARTISTS WHO PUSH THE MEDIUM OF CLAY TO ITS SCULPTURAL EDGE.

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