A large part of my job as an artist is to act as a translator for my unconscious mind. One of the advantages of visual thinking as opposed to literal or linear thinking is that it gives us alternative ways to consider things. Perhaps one of my functions is to bring ideas into view that might not be obvious, sensible or easily understood. This does not mean that everything I do has to be revolutionary or shocking or even new. What it does mean is that I have to be open to the unexpected and cultivate it in my working process and combine things in new, often subtly altered ways. I also have to be prepared for my ideas not to work or need modification as I work on them.

Clay, paper and pixels

I work predominantly with clay, making figures, objects and installations which are fired and usually glazed at earthenware temperatures. Clay is my medium of choice, I work with its qualities and investigate its limitations. I am not averse to including other materials but most of the time I don’t. I also draw both as part of my sculpture practice and in its own right. I use digital photography to record my sculpture and drawing as stills and movies and as a medium itself.


A Double shot (two square images side-by-side) of 'Cornucopia -Rhetorical' - a bowl on a stand in brown and gray glazes containing an unruly pile of brightly glazed and textured shapes. Some are in the form of question marks, others are like tyres, or balls or semi-spheres

Articulate with clay

I generally create shell forms in clay, that is, I work out ways of making small structures that support themselves with their external shape, like all pottery does. You need to acquire skill to be articulate with clay, that’s a challenging and fruitful subject too.

In terms of meaning I deal with a range of ideas about personal and political change (particularly around the masculine gender role) materials and the process of making. My artwork is currently focused on still-lives, hands and figures. I like to think there are layers of meaning in my work that are not immediately obvious but I have to admit that my intentions and what other people see do not always coincide – which is how it should be.


Tacit skills

I use these themes to consider the changing nature of work where fewer and fewer people work with their hands to develop tacit skills – bodily skills built up by repetition over time which become instinctive at a certain point. There is a loss to be mourned in this but also we can celebrate that such skills are still a possibility even if the context in which they occur is almost unrecognisable. In the developed world we are already as likely now to develop tacit skills as part of our leisure as we are as part of our employment.

My own experience of learning and using these skills leaves me with a belief that developing hand-making skills as an artist is a positive idea which we can now see has not been replaced by conceptualism. As a student I became involved with conceptual art which was what was new at the time. Since then I found I could not just inhabit my mind, my interest in art came from and with my acquisition of dextrous skills. My body needs to be involved in making and my brain has to be engaged in working out what to make and how, and why.

Equally drawing is still alive and well and has not been washed away by the growth in photography as was thought at one point. These things co-exist and thrive once the first apparent dichotomy subsides.

Mixed media installation. I no longer consider the realism of the figures very important as the objects manage to retain their ‘presence’ despite a lot of variation in proportions and any sense of realism or accuracy.

The Artists Insight

My more recent post graduate education through psycho-analysis gave me the resources to heal myself through working with others. This aspect of my development has led me to start Artists Insight, a series of (now online) sessions and workshops reflecting on the dilemmas of choosing to be an artist.

I also run Makers HeadRoom, an online group for any Makers using any material in any genre.

I lead the online artists peer mentoring group ArtistsAnswer

Simon Fell's Axisweb profile

The first person

This site is about my artwork, above is my artists statement where I discuss how it comes about and my intentions in making it. It’s written in the first person, intentionally – I don’t want to mystify my work by pretending to be someone else writing about it. You won’t find any Artspeak or IEA (International Art English) here, I would like my writing to be easily understood. Art is already mystifying to many people, there is no need to to obscure it behind a wall of words – unless your intention is to create rarity, obscurity and bogus value.