Thursday, 21 July 2011

Visual Jazz: Exploration in Clay

I am so pleased with the title of the show, Visual Jazz. It just came to me in a flash. I have often been aware of an understanding and empathy with saxophonists who say, on hearing back the music they have just played, that they have no idea how they did that. Improvisation is like that, it allows playful experimentation and exploration, drawing on everything we have done before.  The more I look at my work, the more that the title Visual jazz conveys the way I work, in free expression, using clay and colour, and a childlike connection to the moment, without worrying if it is going to work or not, or if it is going be good or not. None of that is relevant at the time.  

In the latest pieces in the show I have incorporated some rich earthy brick clay into the body, and then partially overlaid that with layers of pure white porcelain. I have a box of toys, in which I keep things which will make an interesting texture as I press them into the clay.  Such as a jacaranda seedpod from Trinidad, the square end of a piece of cut wood, bits of curled wire from old electric storage heaters and the sole of my shoe. 

Pressing these textured bits and pieces into the clay is FUN. I don’t plan, I don’t think about balance or structure or form, I actually don’t need to as a need to control gets in the way.  I can safely leave it to my intuition, much as I can leave the editing of Resurgence to Susan and Satish, or the display of my exhibition to Lucy. I, or what I think of as my I-ness, just gets in the way and interferes. 

So I have learned to stay back, and just watch what comes. And interestingly, there is always a structure. There is always a balance; just as there is a balance in a tree, or a rose leaf.  It may not consist of straight lines and formulae, it may be asymmetrical or off-centre, but nonetheless the sense of balance is there in an organic way. We all know this, it is in the core of our being, which is often why we recognise it when we see it in art, even if we don’t know that that is what we are doing.

As the pots dry they shrink, as earth does in a drought, and the porcelain surface crackles and crinkles delightfully geologically. Its whiteness is asking for colours; and they show clearly and fully. So I have titled the pieces using musical terms, such as Riff, Andante Ma Non Troppo, Bose Bouncing and Razzma tazz.

Sandy Brown is an internationally renowned ceramicist who lives and works in North Devon. She is the Art Advisor at Resurgence magazine.
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Visual Jazz exhibition takes place at Lacoste Gallery from 16 July to 3 August 2011

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