J O S E P H L U D K I N
F O R G A T H E R E R S
Joseph Ludkin's collection for our exhibition 'Gatherers' aimed to create a body of work using only materials found at the site of the exhibition itself - OmVed Gardens, Highgate. This collection marks a turning point in Joseph's work, as his passion for using foraged materials suddenly led him to a whole new level of exploring the story of a place through clay:
'Although I am proud of the work I have created so far I have come to realise that the majority of the things that I have made have been simply about me and my relationship with the clay, materials and techniques I use, believing that my work is somehow an abstract form of self-expression in pot form.
'Up to this point in my career I have been striving to find my voice, my aesthetic, my ‘brand’ and establish where I exist as a potter and ceramic artist. The initial premise for my work for the Gatherers project is a good example of this, it was about making objects from materials that I gathered from Omved Gardens, it was about the relationship I was about to make with the site. I had a pretty fixed idea of what I was going to make and I would use the materials found to realise these pieces. However, the time and reflection that lock down has afforded has led me to clearly see that the project had been developing into something much more interesting than myself. And that the things I had begun to discover have become the focus and the driver for the investigation and will ultimately shape the objects I make in response.
'On reflection, a pivotal moment in the project happened one rainy Friday morning as Tom Broadhead and I discussed the things I had found at the site and the way I would use them. Tom stopped the conversation to reach into his pocket and pulled out some twisted dull metal objects and put them down on the table. In front of me were a selection of mangled spoons that he had dug
up on the OmVed site. “There are loads of these, we dug them up, they were all together just sticking out of the ground” he said. These peculiar objects were a ghostly conduit that instantly connected me to the past and to the other people that had used the site where OmVed Gardens now stands. My mind was racing with all the scenarios that could result in a huge hoard of bent spoons being dumped in the earth? It dawned on me that this was just one episode of thousands of acts that had taken place on that site over time and can remember feeling an overwhelming urge to respond to the spoons as a piece of history and human interaction with the site and use them in the work.
'I now realise that I had started making connections between the site, the local community, the materials, the history of London and these things started to become as important in shaping the project than just my relationship with the materials. As the investigation has developed the project has taken on archaeological, historical and geological focuses. I often found myself wandering away from making things to read dig papers, explore local Facebook groups, read up on Highgate history, email experts in Roman Kiln making and to research ancient clay and glaze making techniques used in the Highgate kilns, study geological maps or sit down and talk ‘at’ Tom, my friends or my wife about the ‘exciting’ things I had found out about the area, its people and its history.
'I now realise that the more I researched other people and the connections they had with the site the more I developed and learnt in terms of my skills and knowledge and that this project was becoming guided by the site rather than by me. The historical research that I was conducting into ancient pottery techniques and the visits and conversations with experts in that field were leading to a range of exciting experiments that had begun to shape the future of this project. Likewise, the form of the vessels and objects I had begun to make responded to the social histories as well as the contemporary use of the site. The investigation of people and their relationship with place was shaping me and shaping the project, it was this that was driving the project teaching me to become more open minded and fluid in my practice and informing what I was making.
'I now know that the work I am making for this is a commentary on the relationship between ‘People’ and ‘Place’. My role as the artist is not to create a pseudo self-portrait using the materials and environment around me but to frame an interpretation/representation of the landscape, the people, the communities and the history using the materials I have ‘unearthed’.
'Fundamentally I must adapt and react to stories I find, and I must tell these honestly through the medium of clay.' Joseph Ludkin, 2020
G A T H E R E R S