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Monday, October 21, 2013

Language on Pots

My pottery has hit a new obsession - language.

Drawing and writing seem to be merging onto ceramic form.

I can't let the figure alone! Drawings are starting to morph into a kind of shorthand, the figure becomes a kind of pictographic script.

A starting point for the evolution of a new kind of thinking.

A graffiti, or scrawl of a Buddhist poet.

Figure drawing is the departure point. It has nothing to do with taste. I haven't made ten thousand brush strokes of pine or bamboo with a brush made from the tail of a dog. I haven't mastered 10,000 Kanji characters or practiced the English calligraphy with the broad quill of a turkey.

But I have drawn, from life, and from my imagination, with my life. I'll take the reflexes learned from that kind of drawing, and turn it into a kind of shorthand, a code if you like, that reduces the language of the figure, and turns it towards writing. Towards sense . . . towards commentary.

My goal is to do this in ceramic where another force enters the picture, fire and fusion of glazes and oxides on the surface of the pot. This radically changes the outcome.

On some of my tea-bowls I'll do a quick landscape and then subject that bit of study to the blasting of a wood-fire  where the ash runs, and drips and destroys half of what I've drawn or written.

In such bowls my attempt at landscape are minimal, a dash for a horizon, a slash for a tree, a scribble for a bush, a sloping line for a roof.

The fire transforms the statement.

So lately I've been experimenting with ways the fire can transform the language of the figure. Here's an example:

But what about using the reflexes of the hand, the brush, to simplify and reduce the language of the figure?

So I began to think of the figure as a kind of package of options. What sort of hat, what sort of face, what sort of belly, pose, etc. . .  and then how, in a brief shorthand, can this be put into almost comic strip form.

Doing this requires suspending conscious thought and instead drawing instinctively. I'll think in advance generally about each drawing . . . for instance a few days before I glaze I'll say to myself, "I'll put witches hats on some women, and fancy wide brim hats on others . . " but then when the brush is in my hand I'll draw without even thinking of hats or breasts or bodies at all. I scribble literally, and let the brush run wild. . . . 

As one interested in language, poetry and coding, How much I can put into this script? 

Actions carry content, but some actions contain a muddle of inputs, and the result is not decipherable. The problem of language is one of efficiency. How much meaning can be encoded into a single brushstroke? What is the depth of culture that can fit into a single action or movement?

Letting the subconscious mind turn drawings into letters was a process that mankind achieved over a period of at least ten thousand years. From cave paintings to the Phoenician aleph is a long journey.

Is it possible to create a personal language based on drawn forms and accomplish that process in one lifetime?

If so, then the fire that is making the transformation is not kiln fire, but fire of the mind.

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