When we think about modern art – we often think of new stuff: technologies, materials, media-driven themes and hot social topics. It seems almost impossible tocompare archaic and artisan materials like ceramics and porcelain. However, the following three artists have been proving that clay is still a powerful and imaginative tool in the world of contemporary art, when it’s placed in a skillful hands. To see the depth of these materials, we have to examine each author’s approach to the possibilities and reinvention of these long-forgotten components of the creative practices. From the first sight it might seem that British artist Rachel Kneebone is heavily influenced by the Rococo aesthetic; but on a closer look, it rather resembles some kind of surrealist human-structure made of amorphous body parts. The philosophical embodiment of the life, love and death inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Kneebone reflects on the most essential parts of human existence.
Her sculptures, while resembling bizarre frosted anthropomorphic cakes, reach to the complex and vast topics, the impact of which could be seen on the pedestals of her works – they have cracks and seem to be “damaged” by the weight of the existential struggles depicted above. The porcelain in Kneebone’s work transforms the work to a referential tool which triggers associations with the Ancient Greek sculptures and those of the Rodin, at the same time offering a new, surrealistic tones to the world-old subjects.
Stretching the possibilities of the media, Jesse Wine explores the mixture of humor, everyday objects and self-portraits all done in clay. Breathing new life into the ceramics, the artist tries to eliminate the “planned process” of creating a clay based object, when you aim at the particular shape; instead Wine gives a green light for the experiments, the unexpected behavior of the material itself.
It unlocks the full potential of the medium and brings an unconventional results. Ceramics done by Jesse Wine certainly looks very up to date, usually have a narrative installed, and certainly proves to be a good choice of material for the contemporary artists.
Another fascinating artist working with ceramics does not aim at completely breaking the conventional perception of this material. Klara Kristalova primarily focuses on the making of the small statuettes of boys and girls, that seem to fit in the tradition of 18th century Meissen porcelain figurines. However, the artist also bring in the folk motives of merging with flora and fauna, and as a result the viewers observe quite interesting blend of mystical and decorative motives.
Slightly cartoonish, the sculptures give away dream-like vibe, hinting at the existence of their own unique worlds and universe, especially when displayed in a “Cabinet of Curiosities”, small wooden boxes. This creates a notion that these are artificial creatures, but also give a strong impression of some kind of magic working, with the possibility of revival or at least some hidden secrets. The perfect blend of whimsical and vintage with the modern illustrative pinch makes Kristalova’s oeuvre yet another example of the ceramic’s relevance in the modern art world.