Earthenware with underglaze
H. 6 x dia. 30 cm
About Judith Symons
"I have been a painter and printmaker for some decades. During lockdown I discovered the delights of three dimensions, with the opportunity to focus on hand-built ceramics."
"I enjoy the challenge of transforming two-dimensional works, both my own and other artists’, onto a three-dimensional surface."
"I love to exploit colour and line and have combined my curiosity and surprise at encountering a surface – the round, circular unending surface of a vessel – with my pastel drawings of gardens and other open spaces. In this way I have been introduced to a more decorative perspective and have learned and drawn closely from creatives from more diverse fields."
"I went to art school in the seventies, and worked in a number of studio complexes over the years. For the last ten years I’ve been making prints at East London Printmakers in Mile End. Most of my recent exhibitions have been of my printmaking. In the last couple of years I have participated in The Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair and The Affordable Art Fairs in Hampstead and Battersea. My work has also been shown in the Freud Museum and The Tavistock Institute, the Royal Academy Summer show and The Whitechapel Open."
What drew you to working with clay?
J: I’ve been making pictures since childhood.
Making ceramics allows me many experiences unavailable with a picture on a flat surface.
For one, a ceramic object can be moved and held, shared and used. This has an emotional impact - we can cradle this thing.
Secondly, it is not rectangular, and roundness brings demanding and new considerations. The circumference is very large, requiring a design that leads the eye around the vessel.
What's been the biggest influence on your work?
J: An important influence and help in recent years has been my sister Angela. She collects ceramics, pictures and furnishings that thrill me, and with her I have visited many exhibitions of ceramics and paid attention to patterns and fabrics.
But more importantly, she loves her garden.
How does the location of your studio/home come into your work?
J: As a penniless artist for too many years, I live in a small flat without so much as a balcony, so over the past ten years I’ve spent time out of doors in the blessed space of a garden, the most glorious of art endeavours, drawing. I use pastels, which is only possible outside as they make a terrible mess on clean floors.
I now have a few garden drawing hosts, of whom Susan is one - we meet only for me to draw and for her to enjoy my love of her garden.
Drawing out of doors is fast and furious, but transforming a drawing into a design for a round vessel brings thoughtfulness and slowness. The search for rhythm and variety has led me to look at work I’d have previously ignored.
Which artists do you admire?
One such artist is Josef Frank, a Viennese architect who relocated to Sweden because of WW2. Who would have guessed that a refugee architect would create such sweet and complete flowery designs! When I draw my sister indoors (with an iPad or pencil, of course) the cushions from Frank keep popping up and are a source of bold and lighthearted delight. Very recently I’ve applied his designs to a couple of plates, and my admiration has continued to increase.
When do you know if a piece is finished? What are you looking for in a complete piece?
J: The internal conversations of making concern the internal relationships of form and are similar across media, making demands on my feelings and fantasies - they are psychological. It’s as if the visual elements are lovers or potential lovers. This line leans close to this shape and pulls the eye away from the area to its left. This shape feels tentative, this one assertive - can they fall in love?
One day soon I’ll make a vase like Keats’ in his poem ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’, with an unending roundness, forever chasing, forever still free.
But, it being 2023, not until I’ve worked out who is chasing whom.
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