Contemporary clay art has a new chic. Forget the earnest and minimal work of studio potters like Bernard Leach, pottery now officially 'ROCKS'. What on earth happened?
Grayson Perry won the Turner Art prize in 2003. Nuff said.
The rise of sub-cultural movements like punk have gradually infiltrated into contemporary clay art pottery.
Contemporary artists like Robert Crumb and S. Clay Wilson are informing the work of new age potters like Rimas VisGirda.
Now, I for one, really like the Shadow Dog pot of VisGirda's shown on the left.
I think it is simply just funky, clever, modern and attractive. Maybe not to everyones' tastes, but certainly our there and challenging boudaries as well as being amusing.
Contemporary clay art is the subject of this page and Rimas VisGirda produces visually stunning work in this genre.
It informs, amuses and decorates all at the same time.
Todays' contemporary clay art potters need to be imaginative, fearless and sensitive all at the same time.
Lack any of these qualities and you're toast (or kiln clinker).
The work of contemporary clay art potters like Charles Krafft and Paul Smith show this trinity of attributes, yet are totally different. See 'Clay and Art' and 'clay artists' pages for more on these particular artists.
VisGirda has very much ploughed his own furrow, making wry comments on the very society he is selling his wares to.
Lithuanian born, he now works and teaches in the US. Holding a degree in physics and an MA in art, he obviously isn't short of a few brain cells.
VisGirda’s work is both wheel-thrown and sculpted slab work, with a characteristic surface decoration.
One of the things I most identify with is one of his statements about 'experience'. VisGirda says that when things happen to you, sometimes they have an immediate effect, but other times there has to be an incubation period of years before you start to gain knowledge from the experience.
VisGirda's wise words put me in mind of the time before I was a full time artist. I had a high powered executive job which left me totally out of my depth. One day, I remember having a panic attack quietly to myself in my office. I was totally unable to deal with the power politics that were going on in the organization.
I had my head in my hands and was muttering to myself "What on earth can I do about this, I have a wife and kids and a mortgage?".
I was searching my mental database for a logical plan of action.
No strategy came to me. I was bereft of a functioning hard drive. I left the job, but there was a happy ending. I became an artist and found my way in life.
Years later I look back and know exactly what I could and should have done had I wanted to keep my executive career on track (wisdom in hindsight). I'm glad my mind went blank.
As discussed on the main Clay Art page, clay has been used from earliest stone-age times as a way of self-expression and tribal ritual. Fertility rites, story-telling, tribute to gods and rulers it has served social as well as spiritual purposes.
However, unlike pure fine art, ceramics has always has a utilitarian element to its creation which often became tied to a legacy of ornamental or decorative status and function. Art and craft interchangeable, almost undefinable and unclassifiable.
The Arts and Crafts movement of the late 1800's tried to redefine the dynamics that existed between the potter and the clay - 'form before function' or 'function before form' was the great debating point. William Morris and the swirling florals of the Liberty movement held sway. The pendulum swung back the the latter with the minimalist anti-romantic sheer lines of the reaction Art Deco of the 1920's.
Abstract expressionism of the 1950’s took this argument one stage further when function was totally blown out of the water.
Potters today seem to have reached the happy half-way-house that clay is a medium for art, or craft or a mixture if the two. Rimas VisGirda is a case in point. Wonderfully witty craft with an accent on his skill in materializing fine art with a touch of the modern illustrator too. For my money, a perfect combination.
Today it is not a sin to be designing and making ceramics for mass production while at the same time producing one-off art items.
I cannot think of another medium so flexible and lush. Then I would say that, because it is what I do. For me, there is a world of possibilities in making my portraits and ladies for mass production for the Royal Doulton and Royal Worcester and Coalport factories, whilst at the same time producing my own flavor of art.