Ornate Birds and Sea Creatures Spring to Life With Environmental Embellishments of Flowers and Foliage
Artist Ellen Jewett (previously) continues to create sculptures of animals from the land and sea, crafting realistic depictions with a surreal edge. Each porcelain creature features elaborate elements that connect the animal back to its natural environment—such as green leaves that sprout from the wings of a black cockatoo, or tiny yellow fish that are found along the spines of her ornately patterned seahorses.
After she forms each sea turtle, octopus, or fish from porcelain, Jewett free-models a wire armature by hand and coats the piece in polymer. This addition allows her to connect detailed elements such as flowers and other fauna to the animals fins or claws. Her solo exhibition On Wilderness is on view at the Ottawa School of Art’s Main Gallery in Ontario, Canada through November 18, 2018. Her work is also being exhibited in the group exhibition Nature Imagined at the Wilding Museum of Art and Nature in Solvang, California through January 2019. You can learn more about her process by following her work on Instagram.
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The latest installation by ceramicist and ocean advocate Courtney Mattison (previously) is Confluence (Our Changing Seas V), a porcelain coral arrangement produced for the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. The site-specific work features a vibrant cluster of coral structures at its center which turn stark white the further they are placed from the installation’s core. This shifting gradient references the rapid devastation caused to reefs as temperature levels rise and force corals to lose their colorful algae.
This installation is a celebration of Indonesia’s coral reefs, while also pinpointing the human-caused damage that infects the vibrant systems. “Corals, anemones, sponges and other reef-dwelling invertebrates coalesce into a cyclone-like spiral with colorful healthy corals at the eye of the storm, their tentacles and branches dancing in the current,” explains Mattison. “Toward the edges and tail of the swirling constellation, corals sicken and bleach, exposing their sterile white skeletons—a specter of what could be lost from climate change. Yet at its heart the reef remains healthy, resilient and harmonious.”
Indonesia is located at the heart of what is called the “Coral Triangle” or “Amazon of the Sea.” This environment is host to more invertebrate species than can be found anywhere else on the planet, in addition to thousands of species of fish which thrive in the rich ecosystem. Mattison hopes that her handmade constructions of the Coral Triangle’s diverse specimens produces an excitement in viewers while sparking an interest to protect the delicate balance found in Indonesia’s coral systems.
Mattison is exhibiting another recent installation titled Afterglow (Our Changing Seas VI) in the group show Endangered Species: Artists on the Frontline of Biodiversity, curated by Barbara Matilsky, at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington through January 6, 2019. Mattison will travel to Bali at the end of October to unveil a 60-foot-long community-based coral installation she designed for the Coral Triangle Center in Sanur, Bali titled Semesta Terumbu Karang—Coral Universe. The work features over 2000 elements sculpted by a team of over 300 volunteers, coral reef conservationists, and Balinese artisans. You can see further conservation-based projects by Mattison on her website and Instagram.
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Ceramicist and mathematician Guy Van Leemput forms textured bowls by drafting interlocking lines, abnormally shaped circles, and other designs on the surface of balloons. The artist begins by adding a porcelain stamp to the bottom of his rubber mold and then working his way in a circular motion upward. Although his designs are geometrically inspired, he creates each piece based on intuition rather than a pre-determined template. When finished, the pots are so translucent they appear as if they were formed from paper. This aesthetic, both in the works’ color and technique, was inspired by ancient Italian fresco paintings, and has been a part of his practice since 2014.
Currently Van Leemput’s work is included in the Porcelain Biennale at the Albrechtsburg Castle in Meissen, Germany, the city where European porcelain was first composed. The exhibition opened earlier this month and runs through November 4, 2018. You can take a look inside the artist’s studio and handbuilt kiln in a video made for the Dutch ceramics magazine de kleine K below. (via Art is a Way)
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Toronto-based sculptor Gosia (previously) constructs minimally-hued porcelain busts of contemplative female forms from a variety of materials, including ceramic, polymer gypsum, resin, and most recently, porcelain. Her very first experiment with the new medium is included in her current solo exhibition, Beneath the Surface, at Paradigm Gallery in Philadelphia. The work is an imperfect cast, a mistake which Gosia details in the text below.
“Imperfect is one of those ‘happy accident’ pieces,” she explains. “My intention for it was completely different, but when it came out of the mold it had an indentation on the left side of the face… It made me think a lot about the world’s obsession (and my own) with perfection and what we might be missing because of it. It felt good to let go of control and for once let my art do its own thing.”
Other new works include Overflow, which features a female figure inside of an elongated cube. The subject’s long hair flows into the pedestal’s depths—a structure that seems to at once support and swallow the imbedded figure. Two other pieces are each titled Beneath the Surface, and were created with the combination of opaque and lucid materials. Translucent resin composes the bottom the sculptures’ faces to their nose, making it appear as if each have dipped partially underwater.
“Beneath the Surface” runs through June 16 at Paradigm Gallery. Gosia’s first European show, “The Windows of the Soul,” opened this past weekend at Dorothy Circus in London. You can see more of Gosia’s work on her website and Instagram.
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Portland-based artist Kate MacDowell (previously) continues to construct discomfiting combinations of human and wildlife elements in her porcelain sculptures. She builds each piece by hand, and often layers in details after hollowing out the main form, whether it is a fox’s body encasing a human skull or a human brain filled with flora and fauna. MacDowell describes her choice of material:
I chose porcelain for its luminous and ghostly qualities as well as its strength and ability to show fine texture. It highlights both the impermanence and fragility of natural forms in a dying ecosystem, while paradoxically, being a material that can last for thousands of years and is historically associated with high status and value.
The artist’s work is included in a group show at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY, which is open through April 15, 2018, and she is also leading a week-long workshop on porcelain sculpting at Idyllwild Arts in California in June 2018. You can see more of her work on her website and Facebook page.
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Since 2013, artist Claudia Fontes (previously) has been investigating the use and meaning of the word “foreigner” in a series of small figurative sculptures. Each sculpture, which is about the size of Fontes’ hand (about 23 x 5 cm / 9 x 2 inches) is made with flaxseed paper porcelain. Anonymous figures, alone or in groups, are consumed by or emerging from organic textures that resemble grass, sea sponges, and thin shards of stone. Fontes has been based in England for the last ten years, where ‘foreigner’ is a popular pejorative term. She was born and raised in Argentina, and has also lived and worked in the Netherlands. The artist describes the process and inspiration behind the series on her website:
I began to make [Foreigners] in response to the English landscape that surrounds me and to my cultural understanding of it as a foreigner. I generally find the images out of which they are born during walks in the nearby forest and in the field that begins as soon as I cross the street where I live. During these walks, I concentrate in observing the process of transformation, interaction and the mechanisms of adaptation that happen amongst the creatures that share this particular bio-political system.
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Ceramicist Hitomi Hosono (previously) creates porcelain vessels layered in hundreds of leaf sprigs and other botanical forms. These monochromatic elements are based on plants Hosono encounters during walks through East London’s greenery. “It is my intention to transfer the leaf’s beauty and detail into my ceramic work,” she explains, using it as my own language to weave new stories for objects.”
Her technique is inspired by Jasperware, a type of stoneware covered in thin ceramic reliefs invented by Josiah Wedgwood in the late 18th century. Like Wedgwood, she carefully applies her delicate forms to a porcelain base. From start to finish a larger work will take Hosono nearly a year and a half to complete. Much of this time is spent drying, as her densely layered works often need 10-12 months to completely dry.
Hosono’s solo exhibition, Reimagining Nature: Hitomi Hosono’s Memories in Porcelain, is currently on view at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation in London through December 15, 2017. You can see more of her layered botanical sculptures on the artist’s website and through her gallery Adrian Sassoon.
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