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12. March, 2010 / Idun

An exploration of space

Lately I have found an interest in the vessel, which is one of the oldest man made objects. I have always found the vessel interesting. It’s a simple object, yet vital in the way that it holds our food and keeps us alive. It has also been used as a metaphor for our own bodies, the vessel that holds the spirit.

Julian Stair’s latest project has an interesting approach to the idea of the vessel and the body, which I find very much inspiring. He relates the body to the vessel through the exploration of funerary ware.

“The pot no longer is reliant on the body to animate it through use but instead houses the remains of the body itself. Through this transformation the symbolic becomes re-invigorated and in the process becomes tangible again. Like pots sustaining the body in life through the containment of food and drink, this funerary ware contains the body in death and underlines the profoundly somatic characteristic of pottery.” (Julian Stair, 2004)

What is interesting about the vessel is the question of what the vessel really is. Is it the object itself, the material of which it is made, or the space that it contains and surrounds?

Martin Smith uses the formal limitations of the vessel to investigate different conditions of space. His work is developed in series where he gives himself  limitations to govern his selection and composition of form, and the material he uses. The basic forms are usually derived from the geometric set of circle, cylinder, cone, hemisphere or their respective sections. These are either thrown or press moulded in red earthenware and, after firing, machined and polished to precision. Different formulations of space are defined by complementary materials – with light radiating surfaces of metal leaf set against the contradictory influence of the dense red body of the vessel.

Below are some examples of Smith’s work.

Richard Serra is another artist I have had a closer look at. He is most famous for his large minimalist sculptures made of long sheets of metal, with emphasis on materiality, and engagement between the viewer, the site, and the work.

Serra’s work is site specific, and can therefore not be placed anywhere else than where it was originally intended. “To remove the work is to destroy it”.

What I find interesting about his work is the spaces that the large ribbons of metal create. With many of the works being over 4 metres high, what you really observe while walking between the metal walls is not the metal itself, but the space that is creates, the space that you move in. You engage in the work, you become a part of the space it occupies.

The images below picture some examples of Serra’s minimalist sculptures, also showing their massive size in relation to the human body.


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