LUCINDA MUDGE: BUILDING STORIES IN THE ROUND

CONTEMPORARY SOUTH AFRICAN ARTIST  |  ARTIST WRITE UP  |  CLAY

lucinda-mudge-ceramics

Lucinda Mudge  |  Always Right  |  2021  |  Ceramic, gold luster

Weaver of tales. Mother. Baker. Painter. The imagery is, at first glance, playful and inviting to the viewer: little ghosts of goopy glaze float against egg-shell white, golden dog bones, and glimmering padlocks reminiscent of Elsa Schiaparelli’s Haute Couture designs.

BY OLIVIA BARRELL

Lucinda Mudge is equal parts artist and storyteller. By extension, her ceramic practice is made up of distinct facets. Part of her discipline is controlled: the slow hand-coiling and unhurried drying of each piece leave space for patience and reflection. These exacting hours are interspersed with Mudge’s spontaneous and painterly expression, which flows out “shiny, hot, and playful’’ onto the surface of the clay bodies. Mudge laughs whilst discussing her practice – for she finds humour in the world around her and finds joy in her ability to incorporate its details into her visual language.

Each artwork can take up to three months before completion. This means that Mudge works multiple vessels at the same time – or rather, Mudge tells multiple stories at the same time. We might notice one narrative thread that has rolled off a particular vessel, across the studio, and onto another. Mudge tells stories with imagery. A creeping white tentacle. Flowers tied together with string. Glistening gold chains. A high-heeled shoe. We see a complex ideogrammatic alphabet, where each image carries meaning. Over time, Mudge has built both numerous objects in clay and a growing vocabulary of symbols.

Mudge works from a studio attached to her wooden home extending out of a thick of trees in Nature’s Valley (perched on South Africa’s Garden Route). Mudge, self-taught and experimental, started building vessels over eleven years ago. The vessels have gradually grown in scale — the forms bellowing and elongating with technical finesse. Their glazes have brightened, and the vocabulary of symbols has become almost archival in its magnitude, forming chapters of time that reference past events and experiences in the artist’s own life. Taking a deep dive into one of the artist’s stories is how we get to know Lucinda Mudge. Weaver of tales. Mother. Baker. Painter. The imagery is, at first glance, playful and inviting to the viewer: little ghosts of goopy glaze float against egg-shell white, golden dog bones, and glimmering padlocks reminiscent of Elsa Schiaparelli’s Haute Couture designs.

lucinda-mudge

Lucinda Mudge  |  Always Right  |  2021  |  Ceramic, gold luster

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Lucinda Mudge  | Silence is Violence / Turn Up The Music (after Emilio Pucci)  | Ceramic, gold luster

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Lucinda Mudge  |  Another Angry Mob  | Ceramic, gold luster

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Lucinda Mudge  |  Sorry Sorry  | Ceramic, gold luster

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Lucinda Mudge  |  Humans  | Ceramic, gold luster

...the vocabulary of symbols has become almost archival in its magnitude, forming chapters of time that reference past events and experiences in the artist’s own life.

lucinda-mudge

Lucinda Mudge  |  Always Right (detail) |  2021  |  Ceramic, gold luster

On this particular vessel, we notice pieces of string blown taut. Mudge’s vivid narratives conjure up a sense of motion; the viewer can almost feel the wind against their face. They make our eyes greedy with their frieze-like detail and colourful ooziness — yet we notice something sinister. We cannot look away. The stories are imbued with violence, provocatively rendered by Mudge, and comment on many of the darker tones of human behaviour such as societal pretence, one-upmanship, and the mistreatment of others. In Always Right, the loose movement of the paintbrush is jarring against the painstakingly built form. The ceramic form is controlled, while the paint flows freely. We notice that the blue fragments are torn, chained, and bonded together amidst a capsized octopus and hungry Pac-Man, imagery that is equally playful and sinister.

... the blue fragments are torn, chained, and bonded together amidst a capsized octopus and hungry Pac-Man...

Mudge explores societal associations with an iconic blue-and-white ceramic object by rendering her own interpretation. Always Right echoes the catchy interior design mantra, ‘’blue-and-white is always right.’’ The artist pokes fun at preconceived labels around design, craft, objects, and ceramics. Mudge does not build objects of design. She does not identify as a ceramic artist and she definitely does not build vases. “I’ve always considered myself to be a painter,” says Mudge. The beauty and power of her work lies in her combination of coiling, painting and narrating. She builds a type of bulbous clay tablet onto which a series of tales unfolds. The clay holds her painterly practice, both physically and meditatively. It is the union of these two distinct practices, bound tightly together, that allow Lucinda Mudge to compose her unusual stories in the round.

lucinda-mudge-ceramics

Lucinda Mudge  |  Holding it together (better than you)  |  Ceramic, gold luster

lucinda-mudge-ceramics

Lucinda Mudge  |  Everything All The Time (after Sonia Delaunay)  |  Ceramic, gold luster

All images courtesy of  Lucinda Mudge

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