My recent ceramic works include figurative terracotta wall bas-reliefs, sculptural architectural/figurative/narrative pieces, and multi coloured porcelain organic hand-built vessels.I am influenced by my travels, nature, personal history, and the magic of clay.
There have been many influences throughout this development, particularly the manner in which both natural and man-made forces have affected surface and form.
I have traveled extensively throughout Mexico, Turkey, Morocco, Europe and Asia. I am fascinated by adobe buildings in various stages of transformation; with their collaged layers of mortar and paint, political posters and graffiti. I am drawn to Mayan, Roman, Lycian, and Minoan ruins; to the many openings, passages and stairways that mark the transition from outside to inside; from light to dark, from present to past. I am inspired by the Khmer temples in Angkor, Cambodia, where organic jungle growth is reclaiming ancient temples, in a most extraordinary manner.
The arch shape, that is ubiquitous in much historical architecture, continues to be an influence on my work. Edges are also off importance. They represent the transitions, the place where object ends and the space around begins, the place between light and shadow; the familiar and the unknown. In some of my pieces, parts of the figure and the arch are extending beyond the edge of the frame.
I continue to develop a body of terra cotta, figurative, bas-relief, wall hangings. Often I build these directly from the model, utilizing the immediacy and fluidity of the soft clay in an attempt to express the subtle nuances of the human form and spirit. Coloured slips, terra sigillata, stains, and metal powders are combined with the wet clay and together they are transformed through the kiln to complete the synthesis of form and surface. This combination of techniques assists in the development of depth and subtlety in the colour of the images. I am revisiting my use of decals as a device to add in some personal imagery, pattern and colour.
In recent and current work I am exploring figurative elements within a context. For example, I am establishing a relationship between the arch shaped portal and the physical orientation of the face/mask or figure. I am combining several figurative elements to suggest a dialogue. In some works there is a hint of lightly drawn or painted ghostly, dream like figures in some sort of communion with the main relief figure. Perhaps a story is suggested by these connections, and it is this narrative that helps give power and meaning to the work.
How do eyes, tilt of the head, light, texture and colour express human emotion and convey attitude? I studied historical portraiture, photographs of friends, and observed people in my daily life.
Then, in the studio, I am empowered by engaging in the process of making - allowing my fingers, mind, and intuition to guide me.
Denys James, August, 2018