This site is about my artwork, below 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. Incidentally you won’t find any Artspeak or IEA (International Art English) here, I would like my writing to be easily understood.

Statement

Media

I work predominantly with clay, making figures, objects and installations which are fired and sometimes glazed.

Clay is a fantastically expressive medium if you understand how it behaves in different states and conditions. It’s 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.

History, skill, pottery

Ceramics has existed since prehistoric times, it flourished in antiquity and the middle ages, it has a track record. Try spending a morning in the ceramics galleries at the V & A museum in London and you will get a real sense of this. Working directly with your hands with a pliable material that preserves your actions is also a pleasure and a challenge. Part of the challenge consists of all the amazing (and mundane) work that has gone before. That is probably why working with ceramics does not feel like a limited palette to me.

Most of my work has now stopped looking like it but pottery is present in many of the techniques I use, it is even possibly, present in my avoidance of utilitarian forms. 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 is a challenging and fruitful subject in itself. I try to avoid the temptation to show off such skills as I have as the main or only concept in the work.

Meaning and intent

In terms of meaning I deal with a range of ideas about life, materials and the process of making. In the last couple of decades I tried to centre the work on masculinity, what it means to be of my gender in this country since the rise of feminism and how a male artist can respond constructively. Tropes that carried these ideas are detectable in the mechanical imagery, the soldiers, the guns and tanks. I use these memes as a celebration of manhood (and boyhood) of the qualities that are particular to it and the imagery which is associated with it. I have been trying to find ways to celebrate masculinity (without the baggage of trying to hold back the tide of change that came into our cultures with feminism). At the same time I think I am trying to redress an imbalance through my artworks that treats masculine energy mainly as a problem rather than something to value, cherish and explore.

While understanding masculinity is a central idea behind my work, it is the context in which I work, not the only subject of my work, which currently is focused on figures, still-lives and hands.

I use these subjects to discuss 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 again it is also a celebration that such skills are still a possibility even if the context in which they occur are almost unrecognizable. Many of us are already so much more likely now to develop tacit skills as part of our leisure than as part of our employment. My own experience of learning and using these skills leaves me with a belief in promoting hand-making skills in fine art as a positive idea.

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 and finding new ways to approach them.

Simon Fell's Axisweb profile