Article written for Ceramics SA Magazine March 2018:
There is a plum tree in my garden, which bears big, purple plums in the first week of every December. The skins of these plums are so extremely sour, that before you even know it, your face is pulled tight into a ruinous heap, but if you don’t 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 sour, some say they are sweet, while I love all those flavors in-between. And so I wonder, are these plums three things or are they one? It is from such a personal perspective that my pots take me to abstract places from 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 in clay to understand their logic for why they really 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, which made me recognize a certain kind of narrative in pictures on my pot of The Sower as my abstract lines became shapes and shapes progressed into a circular picture, which could then be re-interpreted as it was turned in a circle.
I also connected with his way of relating his childlike longing for something real and beyond this world by using the simplest of means, – the charcoal line. It made me grasp imagination as a truth bearing faculty. So when I encountered the behavior of colour in my glaze oxides, I invited imagination along and made Red (2017).
I then went on to imagine the worlds of the quantum smalls and the cosmic large objects in the visible and hidden dimensions as hypothesized by string theory and then related these abstract dimensions to Zechariah’s vision of the man riding on a red horse underneath the myrtle trees. Again compelled to translate abstract things into physical form, I then made My Starry Skies (2017).
On its circular canvas, I sketched the lines of the world on the cylinder’s outside surface and the hidden heaven on its inside and thought of my pot’s wall as a thin membrane separating these two. I then wrote out the logic of these spaces as I would draw lines to see things better.
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 pulls everybody’s face tight into a ruinous heap.’ 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 that abstract shape of a soul quickened by the Spirit of Christ and made my Gazelle-Woman (2017) with its dialectic.
Looking back at my process over these last three years, it does not feel linear at all. It is more like a circle forever spinning on a potter’s wheel, where all things are always being re-interpreted at every rotation. It is as if the angular momentum of that spinning circle does all the work and all that is required of me is to fall into its orbit. That often happens by unexpected things, like the sudden realization that all the rhythms and patterns of the whole universe are obedient to that one-line equation of gravity’s law or the fact that there are symmetries popping up all over the place or the way that 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 by sketching it out as fast charcoal impressions on newsprint paper so that nothing material can hold me back. And if I find that its two dimensional surface restricts me, I’ll shape it in clay in four space-times and if I unpack my kiln and see another 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 already making her way back along that slippery circle to repeat my steps from the beginning. If I were to switch my process the other way around and first resolve my work in my head, then my mind will rule over my heart and the outcome will be less authentic. I therefore leap before I think.
That is how I taste all those in-between flavors. Without fail my meanderings always lead me back to the beautiful designs of God, who creates all things by perfect logic. It is perhaps only now that I see my pots stand on their own as lived experiments next to their written logics for being.