The natural world and moments of tenderness merge in Lincolnshire-based artist Nichola Theakston’s expressive sculptures. Serene mammals sculpted in terracotta and cast in bronze characterize a tranquil animal world in which they relax, reflect, and dream. “The notion that an individual creature may experience some spiritual dimension beyond its instinctive animal behaviours is the premise behind much of my work,” she explains in a statement. With half-closed eyes or faces turned skyward, each portrait is an intimate exploration of feeling and empathy.
Inspired by fauna seen commonly around the U.K. like hares and hounds, Theakston also focuses on distant or endangered species like langurs or polar bears that are threatened by hunting and habitat loss. She draws inspiration from ancient cultures that venerated specific animals, such as the Egyptian goddess Bastet who was worshipped in the form of a cat and warded off evil spirits and disease, especially those associated with women and children.
Theakston begins in the studio by pushing and shaping clay into the lithe forms of felines, primates, and canines, trying to capture gestures and contours that give each individual its distinguishing persona. Some of these are then cast into bronze editions to which she applies a patina, giving the sculptures a distinctive texture and hue. Some pieces live on in terracotta, applied with distinctive colored slips. “My main reason for working is to attempt to elevate the animal to an expression of something beyond a representation of its form,” she tells Colossal. Each portrait uniquely mirrors human emotional shifts, encouraging contemplation and communion with the natural world and reflecting on its delicate balance.
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A mass of unruly curls, scaly bodies, and motifs painted in red cradle the sleeping children in Lena Guberman’s ceramics. Lying in the center of round plates, the young characters are suspended in states of slumber, their joys, anxieties, and formative experiences flowing from their resting bodies. “I was an introverted child, compensating for my loneliness with dreams and fantasies. I had a feeling that there is a creature protecting me from anything bad that can happen,” the Israel-based artist tells Colossal. “I think those visions came to me when sculpting.”
Primarily illustrating picture books, editorial pieces, and animations, Guberman began working with ceramics a few years ago, although only recently returned to the medium as a reprieve from her otherwise two-dimensional practice. Part of her growing sculpture collection, the plates shown here reflect her imaginative style and similarly capture the expressive, whimsical qualities of her drawings.
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From her studio on Vashon Island in Washington, artist Ariana Heinzman channels the lithe forms of the human body into supple clay vessels. Enveloped in quirky botanical patterns and thick outlines, the sculptures twist and bow into elegant shapes that sprout buds and spiked flowers. Bold, dense motifs evoke the Garden of Eden, Heinzman shares, and serve as a metaphor for the impulse to cover the nude figure with layers of garments.
The vessels shown below are on view through June 18 at J. Rinehart Gallery in Seattle as part of the artist’s solo show, It’s Good to be Here. You can shop functional ceramic pieces like cups and planters on Heinzman’s site, and explore an archive of her floral sculptures on Instagram.
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Hundreds of Porcelain Layers Recreate 20th Century Technologies in Intricate Sculptures by Anne Butler
Artist Anne Butler cites the porcelain pieces that comprise her ongoing Objects of Time series as being “witness to their own history.” From her studio in Carryduff, Butler recreates 20th Century technologies like rotary telephones and typewriters through an array of techniques from casting and carving to assembly—watch her process in the video below. Brimming with texture and striking in dimension, the analog works explore cultural memory, associations to history and personal use, and the impressions these items have left on the world long after they’ve fallen from widespread use.
Butler shares with Colossal that each of the objects was an important part of her childhood and that the building process reflects its mechanics. The intricately slotted “Analogue,” which replicates her family’s phone, relied on low-tech templates to create the thin Parian porcelain sheets that, once dried, the artist interlocked into their final shape. Similarly, “Remnant” and “Shift” both layer hundreds of individual slabs into keys and sewing tools that are slightly skewed and indicative of their hand-built construction. These irregularities reference the imperfection of the humanmade in comparison to the precision that’s possible with automation.
As she expands Objects of Time, Butler plans to reproduce kitchen scales and her first SLR camera, so keep an eye on Instagram for those works. If you’re in London, you can see “Shift” at Two Temple Place between May 11 and 14, where Ruup & Form will be representing the artist in Eye of the Collector. You also might enjoy Yoonmi Nam’s worn sketchbooks. (via Lustik)
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Artist Simone Leigh Embodies Self-Determination in the Historic ‘Sovereignty’ at the Venice Biennale
“To be sovereign is to not be subject to another’s authority, another’s desires, or another’s gaze but rather to be the author of one’s own history.” This conviction founds Simone Leigh: Sovereignty, the artist’s new body of work created for the U.S. Pavilion of the 2022 Venice Biennale. Leigh is the first Black woman to be awarded the prestigious commission.
Comprised of towering bronze works and ceramics, the exhibition continues Leigh’s questions about self-determination, historical erasure, and Black femme subjectivity. She explores both interiority and what it means for Black women, who she’s repeatedly described as her primary audience, to move through the world.
While largely sculptural, Sovereignty opens with Leigh’s reinterpretation of the pavilion’s Palladian-style facade. A thatched roof and wooden columns cloak the stately architecture in reference to the 1931 Paris Colonial Exposition, which celebrated French dominance and extracted and exoticized objects, images, and materials of African cultures. The Jamaican woman hunched over a mirrored pool in “Last Garment,” a depiction Leigh originally discovered on a vintage postcard, similarly rebukes colonialism and the negative stereotypes it perpetuates.
Inside are additional figurative works, including the soaring, abstract bronze piece titled “Sentinel,” which has a wide, sloping head and echoes the squat “Satellite” at the exhibition’s entrance. Evoking the artistic traditions within Africa and of the diaspora, many of the pieces address questions and themes that recur in Leigh’s practice, although they extend her oeuvre, as well. As with her earlier works, cowrie shells make an appearance, emerging from a large, ceramic jug and resting atop a raffia dome in “Cupboard.” The standing bronze “Sharifa,” on the other hand, depicts Leigh’s friend, the writer Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, and is the artist’s first portrait.
“In order to tell the truth, you need to invent what might be missing from the archive, to collapse time, to concern yourself with issues of scale, to formally move things around in a way that reveals something more true than fact,” she says in a statement about Sovereignty, adding in her opening remarks that, “Black women and Black people in general across the diaspora … We often are getting information from someone who had a different intention than we have.”
In addition to Sovereignty, Leigh’s monumental bust “Brick House,” which was stationed at the High Line through May of 2021, is included in the Biennale’s international exhibition The Milk of Dreams, on view through November 27. “Brick House” also won a Golden Lion, the exhibition’s highest award.
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Gathering thousands of miniature porcelain vessels over large surfaces and curvatures, Grégoire Scalabre confronts preconceptions of form, scale, and material in his intricate sculptures. The Paris-based artist hand-turns countless tiny, vase-like containers reminiscent of amphorae, or ancient storage jars that were typically long and narrow so that they could be snugly stored together. Drawing on a centuries-old tradition of French porcelain making and an interest in Greek mythology, his dynamic works combine incredible technical skill with a desire to recast the medium in a new light and experiment with its physical limits.
Approximately 1 to 1.5 inches in height and half an inch wide, every one of Scalabre’s minuscule components varies slightly from the next. Some have longer flutes than others, squatter bases, flattened tops, or a curl to the lip of the opening. When accumulated, the pieces appear to undulate across the surface in fluid patterns. The inherent delicacy of fine porcelain is challenged by the monumental scale at which these works take shape.
Standing more than six feet tall and months in the making, the artist’s most recent work, “The Final Metamorphosis of Thetis,” recalls a story from Greek mythology about a sea nymph by the same name. He translated a sketch of the composition into a 3D model, then created 70,000 individual ceramic pieces by hand. One by one, each vessel was dipped in glaze, fired at a high temperature, and once cooled, adhered to a structure made of resin foam.
Two of Scalabre’s sculptures, including “The Final Metamorphosis of Thetis,” are on view through May 1 as part of Porcelain Virtuosity at Homo Faber 2022 in Venice. You can find more of his work on Instagram. (via IGNANT)
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.