Conversations with Potters. Bangkok, 2023. statement

Ceramics is an inter-personal exchange; the work that I presented considers surface and form as a means of communication. It is this consideration that makes it so relevant to the theme of our exhibition, titled: POTs: The Vessels 2023. The vessels that I have exhibited in Thailand, refer to containment. They reference the Japanese chawan (tea-bowls) made for Cha-no-yu (Tea-Ceremony). The ancient role of the pot was to hold fluids and food (and most significantly for me, those particular vessels were created to be experienced through touch as much as visually); as a contemporary maker, I have extended that meaning so that a “vessel” now carries ideas.

Underpinning the objects is an explanation that has manifested itself to me as a result of much research and introspective examination while writing my PhD. I consider that my work has come to focus on the representation of the humanity that was stripped from my grandparents and my relatives and millions of other victims in Nazi concentration camps. The work, while seeking aesthetic goals, also aspires to speak of the unspeakable and endeavours to establish an ethical dimension for clay objects. The Deconstructed Tea Bowls, shown in Bangkok, record the traces of their own making and with that the memory of marked and damaged clay and flesh both past and present. In my utilization of the raku firing process (that literally burns the surface of the clay leaving traces of carbonization), I have aimed to create a language to express a contemplative re-iteration of the fate of the millions of victims of Holocaust.

I create much of my work on the potter’s wheel, as it is an icon of making that is very closely associated in the mind of the public with the craft of ceramics. I leave references to the indexical “marks of  making” on, and in, the surface as traces of where the artist’s “hand”  has been.

Unlike in the normal process of firing clay, where the work is locked away for considerable periods of time in a kiln while change takes place through its firing, in Raku the process involves a very close personal interaction with a vessel, whilst it is being fired, which allows for accidental qualities to be planned into the making.

In her book Recollection,  Pim’s colleague, Dr. JuthamasTangsantikul reminds us of the activity of re-purposing that has occurred throughout history and was fundamental to the practice of Cha-no-yu, the Japanese tea ceremony, where ancient, dug-up, discarded and  broken artefacts were appropriated to new ritual, wabi-sabi uses. Making vessels for Tea-Ceremony was the progenitor of raku-firing practices, ancient and modern.

Group exhibitions, like our own here in Thailand, represent an opportunity to consider the extent to which local traits and customs of making, while at the same time as providing trans-global  inspiration, can still manifest in work that is significantly local.