Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rats become Brats / Surface Development.

Surface development concepts.

Its time to develop appropriate surface options for the rats, derived from an investigation into possible titles for the works. I have cast and assembled a variety of animated options for the rats as reflected in the final image posted below. The installation and various groupings (pairs) are now possible, completely visualised and could be realised. However without an integrated, conceptually refined ceramic surface, the actual ceramic sculptures are incomplete. Hence the enclosed images of transfers, their intended symbolic meaning, including the religious and political extremists and fundamentalist symbols, necessary to give shape and meaning to the intended ceramic installation, to be titled, I never promised you a rose garden. For further insight into the concept behind the title - see caption below.

The title of the work has it's roots within the conflict experienced by the author, Joanne Greenberg, of the book with the above mentioned title. She was bullied as a child which shaped her worldview as recorded in her autobiography. The idea behind the installation and pairs of rats is to encapsulate the complex juxtaposed worldviews plaguing society today (incorporating religious conflict - French ban on religious symbols in schools). Fundamentalists and extremists with their hateful agendas are bulling their way forward; in direct response to the impact of globalisation.

Why transfers of roses you may ask? Their intended meaning {a bed of roses, The war of roses (movie title)} - they are highly complex symbols, ambivalent as both heavenly perfection and earthly passion, the flower is both time and eternity, life and death, fertility and virginity. A symbol of beauty, grace, happiness but also voluptuousness, the passions associated with wine, sensuality and seduction. The Rose garden is a paradise symbol - and is the place of mystic marriage, harmony, the union of opposites - beauty, perfection and chastity. The evanescence of the rose represents death, mortality and sorrow, its thorns signify pain, blood and martyrdom. Although colour plays an important part (symbolism captured in ballpoint pen in the above enclosed images), the emphasis was placed on the rose garden - a spectrum of colour; showcasing the beauty of society's diversity and hence the variety of rose transfers.

Religious and political symbols - for many they represent images of conflict (enforced morals) and oppression (bullies)
We all strive to live in peace and harmony, a open and free society, tolerant of each other views. However we live in a world plagued by hot wars with no front (Umberto Eco;
Turning back the clock 2008) - the enemy lurking within (the enemy is amongst us) and around us. Hence the fact that the above showcased religious and political symbols (printed gold transfers) will be dispersed in a calculated and carefully designed fashion amongst the rose transfers on the body of the animated rats - turning them, on close observation, into fundamentalist and extremist brats (bullies); ready to spread their anger and frustration, reminiscent of the black plague.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Slip casting the Rats

Slip Casting. One assembled rat and another drying supported in the mould.
I have started slip casting the rats (to be assembled by hand to create variable stances - an animated approach) to develop appropriate surface options for the installations. I hope to do pairs and various groupings exploring different themes. The first set of pairs will be decorated with decals/transfers, and therefore will remain plain (no under glaze colours and or colour glazes will be used) only a transparent glaze - rendering the rats an off white colour (cream).

Pair of slip cast and assembled rats

Monday, April 20, 2009

Workshop @ Walford's Pottery Studio.

Studio of Andrew Walford; located at the Shongweni Hills, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

I presented a workshop to the members of Ceramics SA in the KwaZulu Natal Province this past weekend. The venue was the quintessential studio of one of South Africa's renown potters, Andrew Walford - he was recently featured as the Artist of the day, Wednesday April 15, on Carole Epp's blog, Musing about Mud. She mentioned the location of his homestead and studio in the rolling peace of the Shongweni Hills, halfway between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. I thought it necessary to share these images (taken with my cell phone) to showcase just how beautiful it really is. I always admire the lifestyles of potters when they get it right - manage to live off their work.

View east of Shongweni hills.
The workshop I presented was one of three conducted this year - focusing on the major factors impacting on the development of ceramics in the 21st century. I also showcased my ceramic works - from Concept to Product; emphasising the role of surface development as part of the conceptual development phase of my work. I did so in the context of contemporary developments in ceramic transfers and decals, with specific reference to the work of designers and ceramists featured in the fabulous new book fragiles, Porcelain, Glass and Ceramics edited by Robert Klanten, Sven Ehmann and Sabrina Grill.

The Walford homestead with some of their pets.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Confrontational Ceramics / Book Review / Ceramics Art and Perception

Confrontational Ceramics by Judith Schwartz - the image above; an introduction to the section on Gender Issues.
The book review I did for Ceramics Art and Perception on the above mentioned publication is in the latest issue. It is the only accredited ceramics magazine in which academics can generate valuable research subsidy outputs for their published articles. It is therefore a great platform for researchers to highlight the significance and value of ceramics in the 21st century - whilst earning valuable subsidy output for their institutions and themselves. It should therefore generate academically sound articles. I wish the new editor/publisher Elaine O Henry everything of the best with the venture. Subscribe now and get it online. I wish to also congratulate Judith Schwartz (image below) on her fabulous new publication, Confrontational Ceramics. She is the Professor of Art and Art Education at New York University, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

Blair slams Pope's entrenched Attitude on Gays.

Celebrating pansies. see post entry dated 16 January 2009.
Another confrontational platter, titled Celebrating pansies - in direct response to Blair's strong words on on the Pope's "entrenched" views on homosexuality (see news paper article posted below or any of the posted links highlighted). In an interview with the gay men's magazine Attitude, he (converted to Catholicism in 2007) stated that the Vatican should modernise. You go Blaire - Attitude magazine hailed Blair as "probably the most prominent pro-gay religious figure in the the world (Daily Mail)".

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mould making for slip casting the rats

Mould making done simply, efficiently and effectively. The First phase of mould making. Splitting the prototype, taking care of undercuts . Building the divisions (Leather-hard clay slabs) - determined by the number of sections to be moulded. I normally secure the prototype in a clay slab to ensure no plaster penetrates below the prototype and it also provides support to the extruded plastic sheeting (to hold its shape - determined by the thickness of the plaster walls).

Preparing the mould casings - using extruded plastic sheeting and the ever clever cable-ties to hold the casing together; ensuring no plaster escapes the casing. Soft soap is applied and left to dry to ensure that the moulds seperate from each other.

Poring spouts are attached before casting the final pieces normally the bottom that contains the opening (pouring spout) for slip casting.

The moulding process is complete - the prototypes removed and moulds refined before drying. The keys that holds the pieces together are done with a large coin held at an angle and turned scraping the negative circular form as seen in the above image.

The completed moulds and prototypes - ready for drying. The tail was cast during the previous moulding process and ready for slip casting.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Got you. Prototype for installation - see post entry below.
Modeling almost complete
. I always review the form and shape the next day, before the moulding process begins.

Add Image

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Showcasing modeling of prototypes.

Academics need holidays to get down to serious work in their studios. That's exactly what I am doing - two weeks dedicated to remodeling and moulding rats for slip casting an installation of animated rats. The rats are designed to form a carpet - their tails reminiscent of tassels when they are placed in Escher type formation (opposite directions). The majority of rats will lie motionless, whilst their radical counterparts, will be roaming off in opposite directions creating havoc (reminiscent of the black plaque). Decals will be created (fired on the glazed bodies of the rats) to add meaning, based on either tattoos and or carpet designs depending on the theme. The rats represent a plague of intolerance spearheaded by extremists and fundamentalists.

The original prototype from which five plaster moulds were made. In the background are a few slip cast rats experimenting with surface development options.

The process begins - remodeling the prototype into various sections. The various body parts and feet (to be modeled) will be moulded separately to be in a position to animate the rat; assemble various options creating applied movement in the installation.

Coffee break; reflecting on the shapes and interface between body and head (variable options once slip cast and assembled).

Refining the integration of the body and head. The modeling clay is called Y2 - clay. I use a 100 watt spot on the prototype to keep the clay soft for modeling and another lamp close to a batch of clay from which I take pieces to add to the prototype. The clay goes very hard once the heat is removed (light switched off). For those who are not familiar with the clay - it is fantastic and makes the moulding process that much easier. You never have to keep the prototype wet.

Comparing the integration of modeling with the original slip cast, fired and decorated product.

Considering various animated options before refining the prototype and adding the front feet (to be modeled and cast separately)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What's in a name.

Artists notes - thoughts on surface development options.

I was researching appropriate surface development options for my next sculpture A Ceramic Tableau titled Trojan Horse (post entry below 26/02/09). As the horse was a present, in this case its will be a precious gift associated with our new found freedom, I considered important events associated with gifts. The obvious being Christmas, Valentines Day and for the purpose of this particular work I thought a stork party gift would be appropriate - two sculptures; one blue titled,
It's a Boy and one pink, It's a Girl with appropriate images (ceramic decals) to suite the occasion. Obviously there is going to be a twist (lurking within the belly of the dark horse) - because we can never be sure as to what choices they will make in their lives with regard to sexual preferences etc.

During my research I came across a catalogue promoting new publications. One in particular caught my attention, a book titled Art, Sex and Eugenics
. Needless to say I became very excited because of the link between my name and Eugenics. My colleague John Shirley, suggested I look up the meaning of my name on the internet, which in Greek means "well born" (see image above for more information - insert). This sparked a very intense investigation into eugenics and I discovered tons of material for the development of the new works; in support of the mentioned theme. Eugenics has everything to do with eliminating bad genes in the quest to breed better humans (Nazism and the Aryan Race; a perfect example - 1000s were castrated to eliminate bad genes). Is it about nature or nurture - is it ultimately the way we are born and or what happens along the way.

A recently published book (can be downloaded for free) titled Future Human Evolution (Eugenics in the Twenty -First Century) written by John Glad highlights contemporary thought in this regard (in particular page 37) it will in all probability be possible to eliminate particular genes; especially those associated with certain diseases. If however it can be proved that being gay is in your genes, then as reflected in the document, lumped with a list of diseases, it too will be eliminated.
Could this be the end of homosexuals in our society or would mothers choose to have a gay son because of the endearing qualities they possess. How many gays (once gays are fully integrated into society with equal rights etc), if given second chance at life on earth, notwithstanding the problems of coming out of the closet of course, would be happy to return as homosexuals - the life lived. These are interesting times with many great challenges; and it its all in my name.