Tuesday, 24 September 2013

I figured out I had to make 12 “pyramids” each in 6 sizes. 72 pieces all together. Will there be enough time? When I assemble them will the sculpture look the way I imagine it in my mind?
There is only one way to find out... so I started making.
 I used relatively coarse handbuilding clay and covered it with porcelain slip, for whiteness and texture. I love using slip that way, although the process is quite messy.
My first impulse was to leave them white, but as I was making them I decided to glaze them in colours of local rocks - iron reds and ochre.

Friday, 20 September 2013


early stages 


How do you start working on a new project? Does it follow as an extension of the previous one like a variation on a theme, or is it a new beginning? A bit of both?
As soon as work for the Stations of the Cross was finished I had to refocus and start considering work for 30th Sculpture Survey at Gomboc Gallery. Outdoor work in public space. How do I create clay work that is large and sturdy enough to stand in the environment, meaningful and engaging - in very little time left after the full timetable of teaching? Timelines and deadlines are words my students hear often when planning exhibition work. We clayworkers know that some processes like drying and firing can’t be hurried and take days and weeks...and results are not always what we hope for.
When I start thinking about new project (I call it germination stage) I flood my mind with images and ideas from all sources. I am in alert and aware state of mind and open to visual stimuli. Everything becomes potential source of inspiration.
I was thinking of creating a work which emerges from the ground, when I stumbled upon a small book of patterns called Kaleidometrics by Sheilah Shaw.

This particular image caught my interest as it reminded me of pinecones:

and it soon become this:

Yes!! Fractals!! ( and Fibonacci numbers)
As I started measuring and enlarging the squares to figure out how big to make them I soon noticed the rule:
diagonal measurement of each square = side of next square.
Then I had to work out the sizes of triangles that would form each "pyramid".
Here are measurements of all bases and 2 largest "pyramids":

This is interesting, Look at those babies I saw in the pond in Saigon, Vietnam recently ( 4 month after Vortex was completed and exhibited). Looks like I'm stealing ideas from mother nature again:

Thursday, 19 September 2013

This Easter I was invited to make a work for The Stations of the Cross exhibition held at Wesley Uniting Church in Perth. I have accepted after a serious consideration and soul search. To tell the truth, I didn't even know the meaning of The Stations of the Cross until I did some research. I accepted without any idea how to approach the theme, but knowing that it will be a spiritual challenge as well as artistic one.
Catherine Czerw, curator of the exhibition asked participating artists to nominate 3 favourite stations in order to allocate each station to an artist.

Mine was: Station 4: Jesus Meets His Mother
I decided to approach the theme from mother’s perspective and examine and depict the emotions mother would feel watching her son carrying a cross. The subject is extremely personal and emotional to me as my daughter suffers chronic pain. The turmoil of emotions felt when you watch your child suffer is hard to put into words. There is helplessness and sorrow, hopelessness, inadequacy, love, vulnerability, emptiness and silence.
So here it is.

Mother is represented by the larger bowl / vessel / womb that contains / embraces / encircles the smaller bowl (son) at a tilted angle. She contains and embraces her child and his cross. Cross is etched, cut and pierced deep into the surface. Shape of the vessel is reminiscent of holy water font.

In many cultures there is association of a clay pot with a human body. Potter is a primal artisan who takes a lump of earth and creates beautiful forms. Vessels.
Body is a vessel that contains life, emotions, breath, thoughts...
In my studio I have images by Delhi based photographer Bandeep Singh. His Antarghata series explores avid interest in the relationship between human body and earthen pots, and I find them beautiful and inspirational.

 It is interesting to note that Sanskrit word for pot also means body.

Image for the cross that is etched, cut and pierced deep into the surface of the inner bowl is inspired by the image (appropriately) from the tattoo web site. Unfortunately I did not write the artists name at the time. I would like to acknowledge the artist, so if anybody knows who it is, please let me know.

I like this image as it is complex,multidimensional,formal,architectural and at the same time sketchy, open, unfinished and not totally defined. I did not want the cross to be heavy, overbearing and funerary. I wanted it to hold the gaze and become mandala like, focus for meditative thought.
It is actually mathematical background for a highly decorative celtic cross.

I wanted the bowl to be at the certain height, but definitely not on a plinth, so I made a metal stand.This image is from the opening of the exhibition. The person in the middle is Rev. Don Dowling - now owner of the artwork.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Self portrait                                                  

I was invited to participate in Mine Own Executioner 2012
an annual exhibition of self portraiture by invited Western Australian artists presented by the Mundaring Art Centre.

It was an intriguing and challenging proposition for me as I am not a figurative artist, and portraiture is very far from my usual way of expression.
Self portrait requires lots of self examination. How do I perceive myself? How do I want to depict myself? How do I find and express the essence of my being? What do I identify with?
And that is how Trees came into the picture. I have huge emotional attachment to trees, and appreciation for their beauty. They have calming effect on me, and I often call forests and trees natures (and my) cathedrals.

Trees symbolize life, growth, reaching down to the ground and up to the sky at the same time. Their branches meander through space as a metaphor for the thinking process, thoughts and ideas growing and taking shape. That is kind of how I perceive myself from the inside. I am more aware of my thoughts, ideas and emotions than of my physical image. And that is how I decided to portray myself: as a shadow, glimpse, spectre, idea of the tree. I hope you see it:

To bring this idea to realization I started with a simple profile drawing of my torso. Then I put a transparent sheet over and drew a tree. Over the top I put another transparent sheet and drew another tree filling empty spots ...and so on until most of the profile was filled in. This is the image of all transparencies together:

and separate:

Next step was to figure out the sizes of the trees I need to make. Trees closer to the source of light have to be progressively smaller than the trees further from the light in order to cast the same size shadow and create the image.
That is where the maths comes in, and saved scrap of paper with some working out:

reducing the sizes of the trees was easy on the photocopier:

Here is the close up of one porcelain tree:

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Gateway 21


First step was to dig 2 holes for the foundations. I made couple of steel rod frames (same system as inside the ceramic blocks) to be concreted under ground level.

They had to be level and perfectly positioned, or the arch would not connect at the top. Big board you see in the foreground of the photo is a template, assuring that perfect fit.   

This part we practiced before and it worked really well.

This is another template, to make sure the top part of the arch will fit - before we start maneuvering it in place.

There are no photos of the next part - we were too busy with all hands holding the heavy frame supporting the ceramic blocks threaded on the metal frame.
The top fitted perfectly and the only thing left to do was to unscrew the MDF frame supporting it.
That is when we realized that the screwdriver head on the battery drill does not fit the screws.
No matter how much we tried, we still did not prepare for everything. The rest of that story is part of a legend now.
Finally, done:

And my favorite photos with my son Robert:

Monday, 2 September 2013

Gateway 21


After lots of consideration, toying with various options and consultations with Charlie - wonderful technician at Central Institute of Technology - we decided that the best option for assembly is to make steel rod frames for each block.

Most of the welding was done inside ceramic blocks. That assured perfect fit and ceramic can withstand the heat. (and yes, I have done the welding)
It is a really neat system. Metal frames slide in and out of the middle of ceramic blocks. Because of rhomboid shape bigger on the bottom and smaller on the top, they don't fall out.
Nuts and bolts allow for adjustment and tightening. And the whole thing can be pulled apart and re-assembled.
Absolutely essential: to mark each piece exactly how it fits together - including which block is on the left and which on the right side of the arch, and which side faces in. And same for the metal frames.
That system worked on the bottom seven blocks on each side. Block 8 was too small to weld inside it, and even if I managed that, it would be impossible to reach the nuts & bolts
while assembling. 

So the plan was for the top 7 blocks to be  "threaded" on the metal frame and lowered onto the "legs" of the arch. Charlie ( on the photo below) welded larger square tube on the seventh frame, and smaller ( perfect size to slide into one another) onto the top arch frame.

After we made sure the metal bits all fit together, it was time to trial assemble the whole thing together.
Charlie was worried about ceramic blocks on the arch part, so he came up with the plan:

There were a few hair-raising moments there! But YES! It fits!
Now we only have to repeat all that on site. Without forklift.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Gateway 21

Unfortunately, I can't find photos of the early stages of design process, so I can give you only words.
Next came a small 3D paper model.
Then full size paper model (every part of small model enlarged on photocopier and put together) 
After that all parts were cut out of 3mm mdf to make outer frame, + 10cm narrower version to make inner frame.
MDF frame was used to hold clay shapes. 
Here you can see stack of 3 blocks to the left, and one block on the right. Hopefully you can imagine MDF framework into which the wheel thrown bits were placed (well, thrown).

Arch is made of 21 blocks, and each block is made of hundreds wheel thrown little bits:

And then, of course, few blocks (first ones I made) had to be made again as they were not dense enough and developed big stress cracks in the glaze firing.
But finally, they were all made, bisque fired to 1000o C, glazed with 2 glazes and fired to 1200o C (cone 6).
After all that I could start thinking  about the assembly in more detail.

Gateway 21
early stages
It all started with teaching ceramics to Diploma of Environmental Art students at Midland polytechnic. As a part of their course, students participate every year in Sculpture Survey at GombocGallery.
Lots of pressure and great learning experience for emerging artists.
As a new lecturer to a small group of students I decided to practice as well as preach and make a ceramic sculpture for the survey too.

Theme: “New Perspective”

The idea of the arch emerged very early on. Sculpture had to be relatively large to assert itself in the open outdoor space and I wanted people to be able to connect and interact with the sculpture, space and idea.
Looking at the arch, through arch, physically walking through and emerging on the other side (same or changed?).  In my mind it fitted the theme perfectly.

As a ceramist I am not a stranger to arches.

When I was a student, one of the lecturers introduced me to the Catenary arch. The one that hanging chain assumes under its own weight when supported only at its ends. It is a beautiful mathematical curve, with lots of complex equations... but can be drawn simply and accurately by hanging a chain from 2 nails and drawing the curve it creates.

Catenary arches are often used in the construction of kilns.

And absolutely beautiful when found in nature:

So I knew I wanted to make an arch. Catenary arch.
One of the concept drawings: