Although my residency with York College has theoretically been ongoing for some time, only now am I finally getting into the real swing of things. Much of this delay has been due to my own schedule – the end of 2014 was very busy with shows (including the East Street Arts Open Studios, a solo show at the Leeds Corn Exchange, a show at Cupola Gallery in Sheffield, and my online ‘Pop Up Shop’ event). Following this I was away in Canada for more than a month, only returning in early January.
Now that the new year is here, things have smoothed out a bit and given me the chance to begin the AA2A+ residency in earnest. Most importantly, I was able to draft a proposal for my project with York Art Gallery (who are kindly funding me to create some new sculptural work responding to their amazing 20th Century studio ceramics collection). Thankfully, the curators at YAG seem enthusiastic about the concept for my project and so I’ve now got the “go ahead” to start work – which will become the focus of my next few months at York College.
The opportunity to work with York Art Gallery’s collection is an ideal one for me, as my art has long been inspired by ceramics. My earliest pieces (2008-2010) often based themselves on the decorations of ancient Greek amphorae and Wedgewood ceramics – which I hand-painted upon discarded packaging materials such as paper plates and cardboard boxes. Over time, I began working digitally, which allowed me to manufacture pieces from scratch and create intricate sculptural forms that echo the architectures and surfaces of contemporary packaged goods.
For my project with York Art Gallery, I’m going to bring both these techniques together – while also expanding into new territory. Here is the description of my project proposal:
Reincarnations will explore the packaging and storage of York Art Gallery’s Studio Ceramics collection during their recent renovations. My sculptures will use the actual cardboard boxes employed during this storage process, recycled and transformed into 3D shapes inspired by the ceramics they once contained. I will then collaborate with students from York College to craft accompanying ceramic pieces that interlock into the cardboard forms, providing both decorative and structural elements. The resulting artworks will occupy an uncertain hybrid space between ceramics and sculpture, between artwork and packaging – and between that which contains, and that which is contained.
The title Reincarnations alludes to the transformative use of materials within the sculptures, while commemorating York Gallery’s recent metamorphosis. It also refers to the strong influence of Zen Buddhism upon the development of Studio Ceramics.
While there will inevitably be some adjustments to the project once I’m deeper into it & realize some of the technical limitations of what I envision, I’m very excited to return to a more hand-crafted approach to my work, and to develop some new skills as a ceramicist. As part of my research for this residency I've been reading a great deal about British Studio ceramics, something I had little previous knowledge of. I'm particularly interested in the artists Gordon Baldwin and Ian Godfrey (both well represented within the YAG collection) - and I'm therefore keen to take inspiration from their work as I create my Reincarnations sculptures over the next several weeks...