Wednesday, January 09, 2008
I'm in a book!
"Firing- philosophies within contemporary ceramic practice" by David Jones is a brilliant addition to ceramic and craft scholarship. What Jones has done with this book is to bring the technical aspects of firing ceramics into a wider discussion of philosophy history and the nexus where ceramics and contemporary art meet. "Firing" is a lavish production with 100's of full colour plates of contemporary ceramics from, tableware through to large scale sculptural works and kiln sculptures.
What I admire most about this book is the way Jones has linked firing ceramics, subject usually treated with dry, technical prose with the ingrained human need for fire. In this way "Firing" becomes a deeply poetic reflection on the metaphoric connections between fired ceramics and food, eating and living.
"Firing" begins with a quote from Milton's "Paradise Lost"
"yet from these flames
No light; but rather darkness visible."
And this sets the tone for a poetic , thoughtful and exciting discussion of the ramifications of fired ceramics and their place in the world of contemporary art. Jones examines many aspects of firing and his chapters include "Eating, Drinking , Cooking", "Distanced from Fire- Electric Kilns", "Firing as Metaphor", and "The Denial of Fire". I particularly loved his thoughts on porcelain ( no suprises there!)
"One of the magical paradoxical things about pottery and, for me porcelain is that it embodies a durability and contains echoes of its tremendous endurance while still being fragile- these images are contradictory, but contribute to the unconscious appeal of these objects."pp 71
This is just one example of the though-provoking concepts Jones deals with in this book.
Jones is a celebrated maker of Raku pots and his thoughts on Raku firing embody the joy in making and sense of humour that anyone who has ever met Jones knows so well. "In the 1960's and 1970's Raku stood as a freewheelin', improvisatory, jazzlike counterpoint to the austere and restrained palette of reduction fired stoneware."
pp. 53 I think it is essential for the sustainability of hand made ceramics that ceramicists and potters, and artists who work in clay (whichever you choose to call yourself!) engage with intellectual debate both within the art world and within society in general. "Firing" brings many strands of thought together creating an exciting dialogue which illuminates the way forward for artists of many genres.