Aman Khanna’s Clever Clay Characters Exude Universal Expressions of Tenderness and Emotion
With a background in graphic design and illustration, New Delhi-based artist Aman Khanna has always had a knack for expressing human emotions and experiences in his quirky, playful personalities. Over time, he yearned to build something three-dimensional with his hands as a way to complement his predominantly digital, two-dimensional process of graphic design. An opportunity to explore this new direction arose when he attended the 2013 Pictoplasma Academy, an annual character art conference in Berlin.
Khanna experimented with shaping clay for the first time as he prepared for the Pictoplasma group show, and he hasn’t looked back. “I began to create small clay sculptures that were inspired by human feelings, emotions, and interactions,” he says, sharing that he enjoys working with the material because of its ancient history and connection to the earth. “The fact that it can be moulded into any shape or form is fascinating to me.”
The figures, which he calls Claymen, portray a spectrum of expressions inspired by the intricacies of the human condition. Some sport legs and arms or participate in activities like scuba diving and relaxing with friends, while others’ simplified, disc-like faces depict a range of feelings. “The emotions evoked in us through our actions, reactions, and how we interact with one another has led me to understand how fragile we are,” he says, “and I find that clay allows me to communicate that.”
Khanna works alongside a team of 15 assistants in the Claymen studio, and you can find more of his work on his website and Instagram.
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Lively Botanicals and Organic Forms Cloak Juz Kitson’s Ceramic Vessels in Dense Topographies
Focused on movement and vitality, artist Juz Kitson sculpts supple vessels that harness the lively qualities of Earth’s landscapes. Densely packed with pieces mimicking flowers, fungi, moss, coral, and other organisms, the shapely works “feel like they are pulsating, giving inanimate material a spark of life,” Kitson tells Colossal. Medium and subject matter both nod to the natural process of regeneration and rebirth, with the “malleable, composite of Earth, water, and fire inherently (carrying) the imprint of memory.”
After many years of an itinerant practice that allowed her to travel frequently, Kitson settled in Milton, New South Wales, at the beginning of the pandemic. Given mass uncertainty and closed borders, she simultaneously had to shutter the studio she occupied for nearly a decade in Jingdezhen, China. Much of her work reflects a mélange of these two environments.
Often sculpted from Jingdezhen porcelain, the vessels are topographic and evoke the rugged coastlines and bush of the artist’s native Australia alongside the mountains and lush jungles of East Asia. “I have a deep fascination and attention to detail, constantly observing, exploring, walking through landscapes and creating visual mind maps of surfaces, layers, crevices, and abundant metamorphic forms that will later feed into the works I make,” she says.
Often monochromatic, many of the sculptures are glazed in a clear coat, blush, or black. The latter, especially on Kitson’s urn-like vessels, directly connects to the charred remains of Australia’s bush following the disastrous fires of 2019. At the time, the artist had just purchased her house and studio, which she refused to abandon despite mass evacuations. She shares:
I had just bought my first home, and here I was, standing protecting it by drenching it with a hose, watering my house and soon-to-be studio to protect it from the flames that were only three kilometers away…(I started) a series of funerary urns as a lament for the summer wildfires that devastated the landscape and has seen a region still mourning the loss of vegetation, homes, animals, and lives lost in which the pandemic overshadowed.
If you’re in Australia, there are several opportunities to view Kitson’s works in person, including a July solo exhibition at Sophie Gannon Gallery in Richmond, Victoria, and group shows at Craft Victoria opening in May, Hazelhurst Arts Centre in July, and Sydney Contemporary Art Fair in September. You can also find more on her site and Instagram.
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Entwined Ceramic Sculptures by Claire Lindner Sprout like Roots and Plants
Although fixed in glazed and fired ceramic, Claire Lindner’s voluptuous sculptures are primed for movement as they appear to crawl along walls or sprout upward like the leaves of a plant. Mimicking the spongy texture of living specimens like fungi, sea moss, and roots, the works embody several dualities from hard and soft to stasis and growth. The lively pieces also reference the relationship between biological processes and human intervention, as the artist (previously) sculpts organic forms and covers them with unnaturally bold gradients.
Lindner, who’s based in the countryside in Montpellier, has one work in Within + Without on view through April 6 at Unit London and will be included in the LOEWE Foundation group show scheduled for May at the Noguchi Museum in New York. She’s also in the midst of a residency with the European Institute of Ceramic Art, which will result in an exhibition slated for June at the Théodore Deck Museum. Keep up with the artist’s latest projects and chances to see the works in person on her site and Instagram.
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Anthony Theakston’s Elegant Sculptures Imbue Ceramics and Bronze with Avian Spirit
Known as silent predators of the night, owls possess the beguiling ability to swoop within inches of their prey undetected due to specialized feathers that make their flight almost completely inaudible. It’s no wonder that for millennia, the enigmatic creatures have represented wisdom, helpfulness, and prophecy in myths and folklore around the world. Lincolnshire-based artist Anthony Theakston has always been fascinated by birds and flight, and he summons the mystical beauty of the avians’ elegant wings and tender faces in ceramic and bronze.
Theakston prizes out the essence of each living being in a way that is neither purely abstract nor representational, transforming an inanimate hunk of plaster, ceramic, or bronze into a form poised to launch from its perch at any moment. “My work is as much an abstract sculpture or design that contains some spirit of life in general, and the bird form seems like a pure way to represent this to me,” he tells Colossal. “The barn owl has a particular place in my work, I think, partly because it has an obvious beauty but also because it in some way has a human quality to its facial characteristics and structure.”
To begin a new sculpture, the artist starts by discerning a mood that he wants to convey and searches for imagery that captures that feeling. After sketching loosely, he refines the idea into a formal design. “I am most happy with a simple, uncomplicated expression of the idea, and so much of my time is spent refining and altering every small detail until it seems to work perfectly,” he says. “I like to think of it as an equation which has been expressed in its simplest form.” Once the design is finalized, he sculpts the minimal lines of legs, heart-shaped heads, and beady eyes from a solid block of Herculite plaster and adds a variety of surface finishes to produce an array of patinas and patterns.
Theakston will release a new bronze edition at the end of May and is exhibiting work at Affordable Art Fair Brussels between February 8 and 12 with De Kunst Salon. Find more of his work on Instagram.
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Jennifer McCurdy Harnesses an Island’s Natural Rhythms in Captivating Porcelain Vessels
The natural patterns of turning tides and changing seasons illuminate the delicate porcelain sculptures of Martha’s Vineyard-based artist Jennifer McCurdy. Responding to the shifts of island life—and “island time”—she draws inspiration from the surrounding environment and organic forms, like “the cracked conch shell on the beach revealing its perfect spiral to the milkweed pod burst in the field, its brilliant airborne seeds streaming into the sunlight,” she explains in a statement. Her wheel-thrown porcelain vessels capture both subtle and dramatic shifts in light and shadow, mimicking waves, gales, smoke, and flames.
In 2020, when, like many, McCurdy was obliged to slow down and approach her studio practice under the constraints of canceled exhibitions, she seized the opportunity to re-evaluate her own work, telling Colossal that “once my panic receded, I settled into the mindset of the sabbatical, exploring new forms and testing different carving patterns in the porcelain for optimal movement in the firing.” She broadened the questions she asked of her process and the influence it took from nature, such as how the rocks and shoreline met the surrounding sea or whether she could generate the energy of constant movement in her sculptures. “I think the direction of my work did not change, but it gained clarity from focusing on the space between and around each form,” she says.
McCurdy uses a translucent porcelain that she first shapes on a potter’s wheel and then manipulates, slices, or molds to create a sense of motion, often with a swirling or spiraling effect. A series of “pattern studies” highlight dynamic cuts that extend and slump with the assistance of gravity when fired upside-down in a kiln heated to cone ten—or 2,350 degrees Fahrenheit. With the addition of gold or platinum leaf on the interior, which is applied by the artist’s long-time collaborator, former sign painter, and husband Tom McCurdy, the vessels reflect light and evoke warmth, as if formed around a heat source
McCurdy’s work will be on display in Florida at Art Wynwood and The Palm Beach Show with Steidel Fine Art from February 16 to 19. In May, she will also exhibit in the Smithsonian Craft + Design Show in Washington, D.C. Find more on her website and Instagram.
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Linda Lopez’s Playful Ceramic ‘Dust Furries’ Pick Up Detritus Like Pebbles and Peas in Their Colorful Coats
Bending and swishing as if poised to wiggle right out of the room, Linda Nguyen Lopez’s playful ceramic sculptures just want to do a little cleaning up. In the ongoing series Dust Furries, satisfying color gradients complement the supple textures of the works, which have a knack for getting odds and ends, like a dust bunny under the bed, stuck to their “fur.” “The detritus ranges from rocks to fingernails to peas,” Lopez tells Colossal. “All the things you would find on the floor or in corners.”
Bright hues, a variety of sizes, and different materials combine to create each piece’s distinct personality. Stylized shapes representing lint or abstract cut-outs float over the surfaces as if attracted by static electricity, suggesting the gentle friction of movement. “Over the past three years, the furries have become more technically proficient,” Lopez explains. “The colors are more fluid, there is stronger fur, and the porcelain furries have jumped in scale.”
Lopez (previously) is currently working on a new public art project in which she will translate the ceramic surface into bronze. Find more of her work on her website, and follow updates on Instagram.
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