In conjunction with the exhibition Fire it Up: Ceramic as Material in Contemporary Sculpture, the participating artists were asked a few questions about this specific material and their approach to artistic production.
Fire It Up takes place at Dienstgebäude, Töpferstr. 24, Zurich, May 30-July 6, 2013. Vernissage, May 30, 7-10pm
QandA with Fabien Clerc
OS: Do you see yourself as a sculptor/artist or ceramicist/potter? What do you think are the differences between these terms?
FC: For my family, I am a potter, a ceramicist for the elite of the ceramics field, an artist for the cultural institutions, but I think that I would like to define myself as sculptor. When I was a student at the School for Decorative Arts, it seemed clear that I should lead a career in the realm of craft and design. This question is generational. Nowadays, a young artist is obligated to know and to refer to fine art, design, and other contemporary experimentations that are related to materiality.
OS: How do you produce your objects? What is the process you undertake?
FC: As an initial step, I often work by drawing a sketch or making photos-montage/collage. Then I try and choose the appropriate manner of shaping, and I experiment. The process will naturally result from this choice. Even if ceramic remains central to my work, it is no longer exclusive. It freely cohabits with other materials and / or media.
OS: Why do you think that ceramic has had such a bad reputation in modern and contemporary art?
FC: Despite the fact that i am still quite fascinated by the multitude of possibilities in forming the material, and the different applications that are offered by ceramic (in desgin, architecture, sculpture, sound, etc.), ceramic remains an excessively exclusive field, autarkic, almost autistic. Let me explain: you should read an article from the Review of Ceramic and Glass, from professionals to professionals. An ironic but not very interesting parallel defines ceramics as the protected studio of contemporary art. I find this image a bit reductionist but still valid.
OS: How have you come to this material in your practice and what attracts you to it? Why do you work with it?
FC: By accident…After a very classical and traditional education in ceramics, I took some classes in the history of ceramics and they led me to understand the issues and the seriousness of the subject. Later my gallery or museum experience, as well as my interest in primitive art and shamanism, complemented my empathy for said material. The “trend” and the return of ceramics in contemporary art has also strengthened my resolve incontinuing my work in this direction.
OS: Do you feel that your use of the material is essential to understanding your work, or in your case it’s incidental, more of a practical solution?
FC: Good question: the ceramicist is without a doubt conditioned by his own technicality, he expresses himself with the earth. In my work, I do use the material, but not exclusively. If the practical solution requires me to turn to other materials, of course I include them.
OS: In general, do the technical demands of ceramic take away from the artist’s focus on a conceptual approach to the work? Or do you see the technical and the conceptual expressed equally through the form?
FC: First I come up with a concept, an intention, or an approach. Then, as an artist who is going to appeal to a specific craft for his mode of production, I consciously use this material which requires know-how. Luckily in my case, I do master it.
OS: Have you encountered challenges in exhibiting your ceramic work in the contemporary art context? If so, why do you think that is? If not, what has contributed to this inclusion?
FC: I have been exhibiting my work for the past few years in “ceramics” contexts, but also in galleries and institutional spaces that do not distinguish between the two. I always find it interesting for my work to be confronted by an external perspective.
Translation from the French made by Olga Stefan Consulting