I have been reflecting on my Enlightenment installation, what it is about and how it is developing. Enlightenment is an evolving project consisting of about a dozen partial figures in various media including raw dried clay, bisque fired earthenware, glazed fired earthenware, plaster and papier maché. Most of the figures can be lit from inside with LED lights and this helps gives the group a certain unity and extra depth. It was last shown at Civilians in Brighton (May 2019)

Although it did not start out as my intention it now seems that the piece is my endeavour to capture a sense of collective presence, to define with inanimate media how it feels to be part of a human group with a singular purpose or deeply felt shared experience.

A semi-solid bisque fired terracotta figure 15cm wide which is part of a developing installation of 13 or more figures in glazed and unglazed terra-cotta, plaster and papier mache illuminated by LED lights on stands made of cardboard and mdf

Some plaster figures 25cm wide in the studio. These are part of a developing installation of 13 or more figures in papier mache and other media to be illuminated by internal LED lights

A rolling project

The work was conceived as an evolving project, as new pieces are made they will replace older ones until such a point as the project comes to a natural end or someone buys the complete piece. That rule might yet change, for all I know now the work might divide into two at some point. Until that point it seems important to keep it developing, it is in the spirit of the idea that it can keep changing.

This collection started out as an experiment. I started making solid figures and piercing them with various tools, sticks and plastic implements. Using the solid forms as moulds to make shell forms, I used pre-perforated sheets of clay or I made a form then pierced it by cutting or driving implements into the shaped blank figure. If you look at the clay versions you should be able to discern the difference between the two methods: Ones with holes that are cut and others with holes that are ‘stabbed’ or driven in.

Mould making in progress for a figure. One of the elements from 'Enlightenment', a rolling project installation in mixed media

A glazed teracotta figure. One of the figures from 'Enlightenment', a rolling project installation in mixed media

An experimental approach

The experimental approach continued with other materials such as plaster on a wire armature and papier maché. The informal and experimental approach turns out to be an integral part of the piece. Very few of my other works have quite the same characteristics. Working with a ceramics process tends to push you towards a planned and measured way of working with a constant effort to control the medium and make it predictable to some degree. Enlightenment is different and I seem to have stumbled on a more flexible way of framing my work, one that is less plinth based and with a more conceptual aspect. My practice has become very materials-based because I love the characteristics of clay and all the skill that it requires to work with it. This approach just seems slightly looser in both concept and execution.

A new way of working and writing

I don’t usually write about my work in this way. Until now I have preferred it to speak for itself and let viewers decide what it means for them. There’s something about not telling people what to think in this. Actually I still don’t think I have crossed that boundary. My reflections here are about my way of working rather than the meaning of this compilation of objects. This protracted variation to my usual method of working has allowed me to consider a piece that is effectively still in progress. The less defined boundaries of the work in time mean I can discuss something that is both complete and still evolving. I must say I like the luxury of this, usually work on my sculptures finishes when the glaze firing is complete or when it is fixed to a stand.

A work in progress

I am also starting to wonder what this means for the future. Will I be making more work like Enlightenment or will it remain a singular episode? My current work in progress is nothing like it, (it’s a kind of fruit bowl with ceramic fruit incorporated) so who knows, watch this space and I will keep you posted …

Glazed terracotta figure. One of the elements from 'Enlightenment', an evolving project installation in mixed media

Above: This is one of the pieces that have now been sold. That sale helps enable me to continue making other work that will replace it.

Clay figure in progress. One of the elements from 'Enlightenment', a rolling project installation in mixed media

Above: This piece was so experimental that it never made beyond this stage. It was squashed and made into other works.