Ceramics: The Central Core - Part 1

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Ceramics: The Central Core - Part 1

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Ceramics: The Central Core - Part 1

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THE RISE OF FEMINIST ART THEORY AND THE RECOGNITION OF WIDESPREAD GENDER DISCRIMINATION IN THE ARTS OVER THE PAST 50 YEARS HAS SIGNIFICANTLY FOCUSED ON TEXTILE AND FIBRE SCULPTURE AS A KEY MEDIA (ROSZIKA PARKER’S SEMINAL 1984 PUBLICATION THE SUBVERSIVE STITCH GIVING A PUBLIC VOICE TO THE FIELD). REMOVING TEXTILE FROM THE DOMESTIC SPHERE, IT IS NOW A RESPECTED AND POPULAR ART FORM, YET CERAMICS, TEXTILE'S CRAFTY COUNTERPART, HAS YET TO ACHIEVE THE SAME STATUS.

A DECADE BEFORE PARKER’S PUBLICATION, MIRIAM SHAPIRO COINED THE PHRASE ‘CENTRAL CORE IMAGERY’ IN HER 1973 ESSAY 'FEMALE IMAGERY,' PUBLISHED IN WOMANSPACE JOURNAL. SHAPIRO USED THE PHRASE AS A REFERENCE TO THE VAGINAL FORM AS A REPRESENTATION OF FEMALE IDENTITY AND HOW HER FEMALE COUNTERPARTS WERE HARNESSING THIS FORM TO THEIR PARTICULAR NEEDS. TAKING INSPIRATION FROM THIS IMAGERY, THIS TWO-PART ONLINE EXHIBITION  EXPLORES THE WORK OF LEADING FEMALE ARTISTS AND CERAMICISTS, WHO HAVE USED CENTRAL CORE IMAGERY – WHETHER EXPLICITLY OR NOT – THROUGH THE ‘OPEN’ FORM.

Lynda BENGLIS’ Bird’s Nest series are a vivid manifestation of this central core, the ceramics modelled as abstract, elongated 'bird’s nests' with a deep central opening. Benglis, who is best known for her poured sculptures made from wax, latex, metal and foam in the 1960s, created these glazed ceramic moulded forms to be hung on the wall – the first time ever with the medium – with the raised lips on either side offering an opening to the space within.

Placed next to the small, fantastical ceramic shoes of Zoe Williams, their monumental size is exaggerated, and they appear as surreal, Dali-esque melting forms.

Lynda Benglis
Bird's Nest #2, 2016
Glazed ceramic
92.7 x 21.6 x 21.6 cm / 36.5 x 8.5 x 8.5 in approx.
From a series of 18 unique sculptures

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Lynda Benglis
Bird's Nest #12, 2016
Glazed ceramic
92.7 x 21.6 x 21.6 cm / 36.5 x 8.5 x 8.5 in approx.
From a series of 18 unique sculptures

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Zoe WILLIAMS offers an unwearable antidote to societal expectations of a woman’s attire: she renders her lone shoes as unwearable both in form and in media (ceramics being inherently fragile). Selecting to present just one shoe as a pointed subversion to the Cinderella story, Williams aptly titles one as an homage to Carol RAMA, the famed Italian feminist artist who spent most of her life working in obscurity in Torino. Tying Rama’s surrealist and provocative works into her own psycho-sexual fantasy of desire, Williams creates a staged tableau in the same vein as her predecessors, also including Helen CHADWICK.

Zoë Williams
Carol Rama Shoe, 2019
Hand glazed ceramic, rabbit furs
8 × 7 × 20 cm
Courtesy Ciaccia Levi, Paris

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Zoë Williams
High Salmon piss pot heel, 2019
Hand glazed ceramic with gold lustre, rabbit furs
10.5 × 8 × 20 cm
Courtesy Ciaccia Levi, Paris

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"THESE SHOE WORKS WERE QUITE INTERLINKED WITH A SERIES OF DRAWINGS DEPICTING A FANTASTICAL SERIES OF VIGNETTES OF RECURRENT FIGURES AND CHARACTERS SUCH AS FLYING GLOVES, AN ART NOUVEAU GLASS FIST, NUMEROUS SEX TOYS, GEMS, RABID MINKS, OCTOPUS’ LIMBS, SAUSAGES/TURDS, WHIPS, CREAM CAKES, EMBELLISHED COOKED SKIN LIKE BOOTS, AND YELLOWING LIQUIDS. THE IRREVERENT USE OF ART HISTORICAL REFERENCES AND MIXTURE OF FAIRY TALE IMAGERY WITH EROTICALLY CHARGED CONTENT WAS ALSO INTENDED TO SUBVERT AND INTERROGATE THE SYMBOLISM THEY EMBODY. I SUPPOSE THAT AFTERWARDS I WANTED TO 'MAKE REAL' SOME OF THE OBJECTS FROM THE DRAWINGS WITH THESE SHOE WORKS. THE SYMBOL OF 'PISS OR URINE' HAS ALSO BEEN A RECURRENT THEME, AS THIS KIND OF SACRED LIQUID, RUNNING THROUGH DIFFERENT STRANDS OF MY WORK - AND SO THE TITLE WAS A PLAY ON THIS AS WELL."

- ZOE WILLIAMS

Zoë Williams
Flesh and lime slipper, 2019
Glazed earthenware ceramic, with gold and pearl lustre
Approx. 23 x 9 x 7 cm
Courtesy Ciaccia Levi, Paris

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Juxtaposed against Benglis and Williams is the work of the pioneering Belgian-born British artist, Jacqueline PONCELET. Poncelet was loosely associated with the 1980s New British Sculpture movement, a male-dominated movement led by Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Anish Kapoor and Bill Woodrow, who were reacting to the prevailing minimal and conceptual movements at the time.

Poncelet’s abstract forms are infused with a sense of sexuality: the phallic form of a Rhinoceros; the Venus of Willendorf, the famed female figurine made 25,000 years ago; or the ambiguous form of a fractured body in the shape of split legs. These ceramic works show her innovative and sensual approach to the media, each designed with coloured patterns and marks, rooted in her early fascination with naturally occurring patterns.

Jacqueline Poncelet
Untitled, c. 1985
Clay, slip and glaze
45.7 x 142.2 x 22.9 cm

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 “I SAW GRIDS WITH MAD PATTERNS IN THEM - ARCHITECTURE SUBVERTED BY NATURE. MADNESS EVERYWHERE. AT THAT POINT DOWN IN SOHO EVERYTHING WAS COVERED IN PATTERN. IF YOU LOOKED IN SHOPS, THEY HAD STAMPED METAL CEILINGS. NOTHING WAS QUITE WHAT YOU WOULD IMAGINE NEW YORK TO BE. IT WAS SO THRILLING. IT GAVE ME THE POSSIBILITY TO MAKE VERY DIFFERENT WORK AND TO START COVERING THINGS WITH PATTERN.”

- JACQUELINE PONCELET ON BEING IN NYC IN THE '70S AND HER USE OF PATTERNS

Jacqueline Poncelet
Untitled, c. 1985
Glazed earthenware
35.6 x 66 x 17.8 cm

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Jacqueline Poncelet
Untitled, c. 1985
Clay, slip and glaze
55.9 x 43.2 x 16.5 cm

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