Article written for Ceramics SA Magazine March 2018:
There is a plum tree in my garden with big, purple plums the first week of every December. Its plums are so sour that it implodes your face into a heap. But if you do not persevere, you will not discover that after that first layer as you move closer to its center, it is juicy and deliciously sweet. Some say they are too sour, others they are too sweet, but to me all those layered flavors are like eating laughter mingled with tears. That is why I wonder, are these plums three things or are they one?
It is from such a personal perspective that my pots have taken me to abstract places where I can explore the existence of things – be that colour, the soul of man, even heaven or the worlds unfolding here on earth. I like to shape these abstract things first in my mind and then form them in clay to understand their logic for why they exist. My pots therefore rest on such a process of inquiry which is shaped by many influences along my way.
One of those influences was William Kentridge’s use of narrative in his animation films like – Tide Tables and Journey to the Moon. It made me recognize a certain kind of narrative progressing in pictures on my pot named The Sower – abstract lines became shapes and shapes changed into circular pictures which could again be re-interpreted as it was turned around in a circle.
I also liked Kentridge’s simplistic use of the charcoal line to relate his childlike longing for something real and beyond this world. That made me string imagination as a truth bearing faculty. When I then next encountered the behavior of colour in my glaze oxides, I invited imagination along and made Red (2017) after the first man Adam made out of clay that was red.
More cylinders followed as I drew lines from the worlds of the quantum smalls to the cosmic large objects in the visible and hidden dimensions and beyond to the abstract dimensions declared in Zechariah’s vision about the man riding on a red horse underneath the myrtle trees. I was compelled to translate abstract things into physical form and made The Man riding on a Red Horse in 2017.
The visible world was on the cylinder’s outside surface and the hidden realm of heaven on its inside surface, but there was also the space inside the deep and the space around the outside. I thought the thin wall of the cylinder was a metaphor for how near, yet separate these realities were, but even more – the deep was one with the outer. It was the form of these realities that moved me.
Again, I returned to that longing for the real and beyond, which C.S. Lewis believed, we all shared. He reasoned, ‘If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, then the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.’ He called that longing a lived proof for the existence of God. It was like saying, ‘It is plum because it implodes everybody’s face.’ I then used the form of a teapot-combine, which I derived from the ancient Buncheong wares of the 15th and 17th century in Korea, to express the regeneration of a soul quickened by the Spirit of Christ and made my Gazelle-Woman (2017) with its argument for reason.
Looking at my process, it does not feel linear at all. It feels more like a circle forever spinning on a potter’s wheel, where all things are always being re-interpreted at every rotation of time. It is as if the angular momentum of that spinning circle does all the work, pulling me into its orbit. That tug is unplanned like a sudden realization that all the rhythms and patterns of the universe are obedient to a one-line equation of gravity’s law or that you see symmetries all over the place or that a life without water is a completely different thing. Things like that can occupy my mind for days and days until I then decide to see it clearly for what it is in fast charcoal impressions on cheap newsprint paper – so that nothing material can hold me back. And if I find that the two dimensional surface restricts me, I’ll shape it in clay in four space-times and if I unpack my kiln and see a stranger there, I know it means going even beyond this universe. It is usually then that I hear reason’s silent cries in my ears, ‘what have you done.’ I then crawl after her as she is makes her way back along that slippery circle to repeat my steps from the beginning. I have often wondered what would happen if I first resolved my work in my head and then executed it. It sounds so unappealing to me because I think my mind will rule over my heart. I therefore leap before I think.
This is how I taste, see and leap. Without fail my meanderings always lead me back to the author of all things who fills heaven and earth by his perfect wisdom and compelling love. Perhaps it is only now that I see my pots stand on their own as lived experiments, fragile and fighting for faith.