Statement for Elemental: Air_Breath

Working towards an exhibition like this one – where one is asked to make a new work to fit a theme – is like getting a kind of assignment. I mean this in the best way. It presents an opportunity to both focus and extend ones practice. I’ve also felt some sympathy for my students and the regular challenge I give to them of responding to a prompt in a way that is poetic rather than simply didactic or explanatory. My advice to them is that research is useful, particularly when it is complemented by an openness to intuition and even impulse.

In this case it felt intuitive to connect the classical element of air with atmosphere or wind but also with “breath”. The classical elements would seem to function as a way of connecting empirical physical experience with abstract and symbolic meaning, and breath is the bodily experience of air, pressure, and wind.

Potters often refer to the breath of a pot, which, along with “the lip”, “the belly”, and “the foot”, is another example of the anthropomophizing of pottery form. Among these the breath is unique in that it refers to the form as a whole, the general proportion and distribution of volume. But while individual pots are static breath is continuous, and animated.

This piece began with two historical pots, each seeming to exemplify an extreme of breath. One inhaling, and one exhaling the movement of breath, or breathing, is the transition between these two states. Here this transition is as a series, or morphology, modeled using computer software.

The entire series of pots was produced from a single mold. They were cast from a porcelain slip into this plaster mold which was carved reductively using a computer controlled router. After each casting the plaster mold was put back on the CNC machine and carved again, removing more material as the form progressed from “exhaling” towards “inhaling”. By working in this way, reductively carving the same mass, the form begins as a classical archetype but the final form is a composite of the two source pots. Rather than the average of the two the final form is the maximum of volume and breath and the mold itself is a negative space, a void, a container of air.