A Re-Conceptualisation of Contemporary Sculpthural Ceramics From a Post-Minimalist Perspective
This thesis examines the extent to which the 1960s process art strand of post-Minimalism can provide an analytical template for critical writing around contemporary ceramic art. A dearth of critical writing is an acknowledged problem in all types of ceramics practice and some of the reasons for this situation will be explored. In the past decade frequent calls have been made by artists, critics, academics, and curators for a body of critical writing to underpin contemporary work and connect with wider cultural debates. During this period, artists have begun to use the process of making the work to form part of the content. Such work has no relationship to traditional studio pottery, and critics have described it as difficult to write about and classify in normative ceramic terms. However, this area of ceramic practice shares characteristics with post-Minimalism, a movement of the 1960s that emphasised the behaviour of materials and the act of making. In The Archaeology of Knowledge the French philosopher Michel Foucault suggests that a new critical language may emerge from the appropriation of other discourses, providing new interpretations for subject areas not yet theoretically mapped out. Foucault’s notions on the formation of discourse are used as a methodological approach to investigate how process-led sculptural ceramics may be articulated by an understanding of post-Minimalist critical writings. A substantial body of critical writing developed around post-Minimalist process art, providing a context for radical new approaches which broke with modernist traditions and which expanded and changed traditional definitions of sculpture. Key post-Minimalist texts are investigated as an analytical template for a new critical discourse for process-led ceramic art. A study of the sculptural ceramics of Richard Deacon and Kosho is undertaken as a means of identifying process-led tendencies and the possibility of a re-conceptualisation from a post-minimalist perspective. An analysis of the role of process within my own practice is used to provide visual evidence of contemporary ceramic work that can be re-conceptualised from a post-Minimalist perspective. After twenty years of stagnant debate in the ceramics field, this research might provide a new critical context for process-led ceramic art. The project shows a way that artists may be empowered to develop a critical literacy in a field that has traditionally lacked a research based approach. It is hoped that it may well encourage other ceramics practitioners to explore new ways of presenting an academic critique of their own area of practice. The contribution to knowledge identifies a new critical context and approach to writing for the process-led area of ceramics practice that is currently described as being difficult to write about, as having no appropriate critical language of its own, and of being difficult to categorise in standard ceramic terms.