Sunday, 22 June 2014

Whitewashing and Colour Revolt

Some things have been distracting me of late which involved a lot of waiting and anticipation. It also entailed a trip to Cairns to see the result which was overwhelmingly beautiful and promises years of joy to come.

I am not good at waiting situations and either go into a frenzy of distracted creating with no great overriding plan or I freeze up and do lots of nervous energy things involving cleaning and re organising.
I can assure you on this occasion my house and studio are not clean or tidy and I have been productive in every area of creativity for weeks.

My Instagram account ( @crankyceramics) has been a source of excitement and confidence building and no doubt that too will go through a slump or fall off the map as the next big thing comes along.
We are all assailed by doubts about everything we do which is why governments hell bent on power will seek to undermine our confidence and keep us in fear. I  have met someone like that on more than one occasion, someone so fearful of losing status or power, that nothing stands in their way to keep themselves on the top of the rocky pedestal. Personal attack and sabotage are their weapons, and public bullying and mocking with shrill voices that betray their panic. The day I turned up to the  grade school breakup party in a "homemade"dress instead of a shop bought dress,confused me as I longed for the crude factory sewing, the ridiculous price tag, and skimpy throwaway design, over my floral swiss voile dress cut to fit my figure by my mother and in a colour chosen to bring out my eyes. I had learned shame by being different and the powerful girls had learned from their mothers that being different was a weakness that could be exploited. I didn't realise that my intellect, my sporting ability and my enormously long hair were what the girls were afraid of because these drew the interest of the interesting other people-my mates, the boys.

I see the Instagram community as a place where people are taking a risk to come out and tentatively show their wares. Some of them are already well advanced with their skills, some of them are running a commentary on their practice and daily inspiration, and some of them are seeking inspirational others.  For some of us shrugging off bullying and shyness, it is a good place to learn to handle praise and attention.Kindness never hurt anyone and it is good to foster some positive constructive praise for young and aspiring artists. My past teaching career was always about launching kids and I can't help but continue that. Just as the sting of a bully can fester in your weakest moments, an uplifting word of targeted praise can sustain a child through some of the most brutal times.
As a gardener, I know the judicious use of white flowers can lift a chaotic riot of colour or lighten the edge of a driveway at night, but a garden made of white is a very difficult thing to pull off.  Likewise a landscape of just a couple of species of plants only stands out because of surrounding gardens throwing it into relief.
 The landscape in ceramics has been very white for a long time. It is a safe choice for restaurants because it is cheap to produce and replace, it implies purity and cleanliness, and it is tradtional and conservative. White has been used as a canvas for the kitchen artiste to squirt swirls of pseudo foods as paint around and elevate the eating experience beyond the mere inhalation of calories. In its most zen like form each element can be savoured for its essence, and in its worst iteration can appear like sputum samples from a thoracic ward frothing and sliding around on the shiny white canvas.

But the shrill and panicked voices of leaders around the world trying to conserve power while whitewashing their populations, their coral reefs, their immigration policies, their housing stock, and their dishonest monetary practices, agriculture and food production practice, is also being played out in every aspect of our lives, while our foods are being filled with synthetic chemicals and our air and oceans and rivers are filling up with their filthy byproducts. Filling the vulnerable with false fears of gods, and economic doom, while providing nothing to alleviate pain or ignorance or starvation is the weapon of the power hungry.

At the same time people are looking to artists for glorious vibrant works that counter balance the conservative background. The walls of urban environments have been the canvas for a grafitti explosion unknown 50 years ago. Yarn bombing of construction hoardings and traffic furniture seek to ameliorate and highlight the hard restrictive environment of the city. And the explosion of body art in every walk of life is a constant reminder of the rebellion even the most conservative people feel in their hearts to the march of globalisation and  homogenised corporate takeover of every aspect of their lives.

Natural art is disappearing from our environments and it is rare to see a fruit tree in a park, dangling with clusters of children and bird life hungry for its seasonal goodness. As suburban gardens are built over with blocks of apartments, low maintenance landscapes are chosen over exuberant and flamboyant flowering  and perfumed shrubs which require regular pruning and tidying by knowledgable gardeners. Maintenance men with electric brooms are NOT gardeners. Whole swathes of generational knowledge are being lost to an unbalanced world view, that corrals and contains and categorises humans like goods on supermarket shelves. We buy into the view that we cannot continue the urban sprawl because it undermines the centralised food and energy production model we have had to swallow.

Toxic chemicals, don't belong in food or water. They are put there to...I don't know why.

Toxic and not so toxic chemicals can make glorious colours in glazes,and in their encapsulated underglaze colours are permanently safe from leaching into food or the environment and are safe for use in the studio.
I love  unbridled colour and its ability to flush out the panicked and conservative, status anxious in a crowd.
I think ceramics can be a political act.