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This site is not so much about me as about my work, if you want to know about me please look at my social media links in the header and footer.

Here’s my statement about my work, 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 and you won’t find any Artspeak or IEA (International Art English) here:

Statement

Media

I work predominantly with clay, making figures, objects and installations which are fired and sometimes glazed. I make drawings too, not just to work out what to make and how but as artwork in its own right.

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 was invented in prehistoric times, it flourished in antiquity and the middle ages, it has a track record. Try spending a morning in the ceramics galleries of the V & A museum in London to 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 just like all pottery does. You need to acquire skill to be articulate with clay, that is an challenging and fruitful subject in itself.

Meaning and intent

In terms of meaning, I think my work is broadly about what it means to be me, now. That is, what it means to be a man in the era following the rise of feminist ideas since my childhood. Recently my output has largely consisted of male figures. This is the result of a decision to try and reflect my interest in personal growth and gender politics. I don’t intend to be evangelical or didactic with the subject, and I can’t even tell if my thinking really comes across in the work, the ideas are not exactly spelled out. These ideas are visually or physically expressed in clay and glaze rather than in the form of words so it’s quite hard to translate exactly what they are saying even when you know the intention behind them.

Men and feminism

Feminism was the liberation movement that had the most direct influence on my own experience. The challenging of gender roles and expectations has rippled outwards to anyone that is receptive and changed them, it also forced reluctant transformations. Men have adapted during my lifetime and will have to continue to do so, much of the change has been prompted by feminism although it is rarely credited, often blamed. This is all part of the new diversity that is in the throes of coming to terms with its own nature. I believe the current turbulence in western politics is largely due to the crisis in masculinity that great cultural changes and rapidly developing new technology have brought to the surface.

Hybrid directions

My artwork is now an evolving hybrid with influences from contemporary sculpture and studio pottery to the tradition of figure making from the Staffordshire potteries with an undercurrent of identity politics. This last aspect is evidenced by the kind of images that almost universally appeal to boys – cars, machines, vehicles, tools & guns for instance. These interests which seem to symbolise male energy and curiosity are often treated as unsophisticated, immature and devoid of meaning and subtlety. Through my artworks I think I am investigating the opposite of that, I think I am trying to redress an imbalance that treats masculine energy as a problem (e.g. all the comic/idiot men in tv ads) rather than something to value, cherish and explore.

My tacit skills (made with your hands and mind working together) and my art education often pull in opposite directions and leave me with a belief in promoting hand-making skills in fine art as a positive idea. My later education through psycho-analysis gave me the drive to heal myself and perhaps a few others if I can. This aspect of my development has led me to start The Artists Space, a series of workshops, talks and individual sessions reflecting on the dilemmas of choosing to be an artist.

Simon Fell's Axisweb profile