Alison Rees

Turning the page: a new dimension to the language of ceramics with reference to wayfaring, porcelain paperclay and the archetype of the paper page

PhD Viva completed 2021-2022

ABSTRACT

This research establishes an original clay form – a clay page – that stands apart from traditional clay-based archetypes such as the vessel, the figurine and the tile.  The surface treatment and the presentation of the new clay page, formed from porcelain paperclay, all correspond with the language of the paper page. 

My research asks how this new physical clay page can be developed, and what it might mean. These questions are examined by conducting practice-based investigations.  In the studio, the primary research involves tests and compositions in which the clay page corresponds with international paper sizes and the characteristics of the paper page, such as thinness, flatness and lightness.  Outside the studio, the research engages in wayfaring (as theorised by Ingold) predominantly in the urban environment of the UK; information is recorded using a camera and brought back to the studio. 

Layers of coloured slip and glaze are applied to the clay page surface to construct abstract compositions that respond to the clay page form, and which reflect wayfaring.  The clay pages are then composed into a group, using the grid, and are presented on the wall.  My research explores repetition and variation; grids and edges; borders and framing; levels and layers; lightness and minimality; the ordinary and the everyday; colour and spatial organisation; series and progressions; arrangement and rearrangement; temporality and flexibility.  It involves an ethos of working in a self-sufficient manner. 

The meaning of the clay page and its surface is interpreted as a story of the self, finding a place in the world, seeking joy and freedom within a framework of restricted order and balancing tensions, elevating ordinary, everyday experiences into the extraordinary.  The interplay of subject, object and place is grounded in Modernist abstraction and colour theory (Itten) and later theoretical frameworks of the grid (Krauss), the parergon (Derrida) and the overlooked (Bryson). Besides fine art and anthropology, secondary research also draws on poetry, economic theory, philosophy and ceramics. Continual processes of making and material thinking, alone in the street and the studio, are the means by which the new clay archetype develops. Through these collective research procedures, the clay page achieves the aim of the title: a new dimension to the language of ceramics.

The research expands the potential of paperclay, ceramic practice and its theorisation, and will be of interest to both specialist and interdisciplinary constituencies.

Website: www.alisonrees.com