Figurative Ceramic Vessels by Claire Partington Combine Animal Traits with Historic and Mythical Characters
London-based artist Claire Partington creates figurative ceramic vessels steeped in power dynamics and status. Her works often feature removable head stoppers of humans and animals, which bring a range and versatility to each glazed character. Her inspiration for the elegant figures comes mostly from European applied art and design styles from the 17th-century onward, yet the pieces blend elements from various centuries and genres. Partington shares with Colossal that she has a “magpie” approach to collecting visual elements from her everyday experience, “equally taking inspiration from a visit to a museum or a walk along my local high street.” To create the works she first coil-builds the vessel, then shapes the object before adding press molded surface decorations and computer-generated enamel decoration over the glaze.
“I started out making my work as illustrations to the folk and fairy stories that had stayed with me from childhood, partly because of the vivid illustrations, but also the gripping and grisly content of the stories and the fantastical human to animal transformations of the protagonists,” Partington explains to Colossal. “I gradually became more interested in the personalities of characters themselves, rather than the narrative alone and began blurring the stories with identifiable historical figures and to exploit the use of clothes to convey messages of power and allegiance or to reinforce or challenge social limitations.”
Partington has an upcoming solo exhibition at Seattle-based Winston Wächter gallery titled The Hunting Party which opens June 8 and runs through July 27, 2019. Her exhibition Taking Tea is currently on view in the Porcelain Room at the Seattle Art Museum through December 6, 2020. Her exhibition explores the dark side of the historical tea industry such as the forced servitude and precarious ocean voyages that occurred during the expansion of the international trade. You can see more of her ceramic sculptures which blend historical characters with fairytales and myths on her website and Instagram.
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Ceramic artist Martha Pachón Rodríguez’s sculptural vessels juxtapose an extremely clean, refined construction with sharp repeated shapes and jarring color combinations. Using a mix of uncolored and pigmented porcelain, Rodríguez layers thin triangles or spikes that resemble quills or teeth, to frame gaping holes in her rounded vessels. In a statement on the artist’s website, she describes her sculptures as a “mixture of human eroticism with animal nature.” In addition to her sculptural body of work, Rodríguez also builds suspended installations and crafts fine jewelry as part of her ceramic practice. The artist was born and educated in Colombia, and continued her studies in Italy. Rodríguez is currently the Art Director of Faenza Art Ceramic Center in Italy. Explore more of the artist’s works on Instagram.
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Ceramic artist Kaori Kurihara’s textured ceramics reference familiar botanicals like durian, cauliflower, and bananas, while maintaining an otherworldly element of surprise. The artist adds organic details like articulated fronds and streaked or dimpled skin by hand, while working in part from her imagination. In a statement she shares, “I take inspiration from the plant world with particular attention to forms and their geometric repetition. Every element of nature seems to repeat itself, but in fact there is an infinite variety of it. I have the deep desire to make concrete the fruits represented in my mind and to be able to contemplate them through my own eyes.”
Kurihara learned the art of pottery in her native Japan, at SEIKA University in Kyoto. She has further refined her craft as a resident of France, where she has studied jewelry-making, which includes techniques like enameling that the artist now uses in her sculptures.
The artist has exhibited widely and will be showing her work at the International Fine Art and Craft Biennial in Paris from May 23-26, 2019, as well as at the Bernardaud Foundation in June, 2019. Take a peek inside her studio via the video below, and on Instagram and Facebook. If you enjoy Kurihara’s work, also check out William Kidd’s inventive and organically-inspired ceramics.
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While many designers focus on enhancing the cuteness of small air plants, ceramic artist Gregory Knopp highlights the otherworldly qualities of these popular plants. His hand-built clay vessels feature gaping mouth-like holes surrounded by curling claws or winding appendages that draw attention to the spindly air plants. Knopp, who works under the name Tooth and Snail, explains that he begins each piece with a concept sketch and then develops the work instinctively with clay in hand. “This is such an intuitive and malleable medium, it allows for images and ideas that might not be conscious to come through and take shape.”
Knopp immigrated as a child with his family from Russia to Brooklyn, where he currently lives and works. The artist shares with Colossal that he has always been fascinated by deep sea life forms. As a high schooler he volunteered at the Coney Island Aquarium, where he was drawn to corals and octupuses over the more popular sea otters and dolphins. Knopp’s interest in science continues today, and the artist finds inspiration in readings on anatomy and evolutionary biology. “Living forms have much order and purpose in their constitutions, but are at the same time ludicrous and whimsical,” he explains. “I try to capture some of that with these sculptures.”
Knopp’s unusual sculptural ceramics, including dramatic interpretations of cacti, are available in the Tooth and Snail online store and at pop-up markets around Brooklyn. The artist also shares updates on Instagram.
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For his “Swimmers” print series, artist Brendan Lee Satish Tang transformed traditional blue and white ceramic dishware patterns into a symbol for culture: the complex, learned, and shared pool that surrounds us all. Each intricately drawn work features two swimmers (parental figures and children, siblings, and peers) who are seemingly unaffected as they attempt to navigate the rippling waters together.
Born in Ireland to Trinidadian parents, Tang received a formal art education in the United States and in Canada, where he is a naturalized citizen. He has lectured at conferences and academic institutions across North America, and his work has been exhibited and collected at museums and galleries across both nations. Currently based in Vancouver, Tang works primarily in clay to explore themes of tradition and culture with a particular interest in cultural appropriation and hybridity, which he says reflects his own “ambiguous cultural identity.”
The crosshatching and subdued blue tone give Tang’s drawings a sketch-like quality, while the morphing of the ceramic waves show a deeper level of planning and precision. A play on the idiom “a fish out of water,” Tang writes on his website that “we are the fish,” adding that humankind is “always finding our way through our greater culture.” Brendan Lee Satish Tang is represented by Gallery Jones in Vancouver and Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Portland. Check out his website to see where he will be showing next, and follow him on Instagram for closer looks at his latest work.
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Rain falls through the air in smooth curvaceous orbs, instantaneously splitting as it splatters to the ground. Chinese artist Bian Xiaodong’s glossy ceramics resemble these falling droplets, however their inverted forms drip upwards rather than down. The artist crafts his gravity-defying artworks from kaolin clay derived from Jingdezhen —a part of east China’s Jiangxi Province known for its history of crafting porcelain.
After adding the clay to silicone moulds, Bian turns the pieces upside down and lets the natural flow of the clay create a unique shape. In the high-temperature firing process, this ultra-thin clay body further morphs into different forms. Once his ceramics are formed, the artist paints them, using an array of colorful pigments including metallic grey and sunflower yellow. “My work attempts to discover the special texture of ceramic materials, and the beauty that is brought to me by the natural forces,” he explains to Colossal. To view more of Bian’s raindrop-like artworks, visit the China Design Centre’s online gallery.
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Chinese artist Wan Liya paints natural sceneries inspired by traditional Chinese paintings onto ceramics of contemporary household items. Soda bottles and soap dispensers become highly decorative objects, blurring the line between traditional and contemporary craft.
Each piece has its own detailed illustration—some feature birds perching upon blossomed trees, while others depict rugged mountainous forms. However, when the objects are arranged together, they compose a larger picture. The images are inspired by Wang Ximeng’s 12th-century painting One Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains, a large piece depicting mountains and lakes meticulously painted on Chinese silk.
“The idea of this installation work is based on one of the top ten [most classic] paintings in Chinese art history,” says Wan. “The Emperor Song Hui Zong liked [Wang Ximeng] very much and called him into the imperial palace and taught him personally when he was 18 years old. He died when he was 21 years old. Now, this is the only painting by him left.”
Influenced by Wang Ximeng’s skill and craft, Wan Liya reinvents his traditional Chinese style by placing the imagery onto contemporary objects, elevating the meaning and beauty of ordinary, everyday items. To view more of his work visit the China Design Centre’s online gallery and visit Wan’s website.
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