Earthenware, leather and wood
H. 80 x w. 60 cm
About Candice Lau
"My art examines the visceral sensations felt by those living in displacement. Resonating with my own struggle of being displaced, my sculptures are an exploration of my relationship with place as a displaced person. I am discovering a tactile language to which allows these sensations to be expressed, take up space, whilst giving us the permission to stay silent."
"The sculptures are formed by the intentional amalgamation of two materials, leather and clay. A marriage that happened organically as I embraced their contradictions; with leather, every step must be planned and measured, while clay is malleable and highly impressionable. I progress with the cross fertilisation of techniques, weaving and pulling clay as if it was leather, and treating leather as if it was a material with fluid characteristics. All the while pushing each material into uncomfortable positions with palpable tension. This process mirrors our struggle and discomfort to adapt in a so-called new home."
"The result of this performative act are highly textural sculptural forms where the two contrasting materials are effortlessly entangled. In its juxtaposition, clay embraces leather and leather leads clay to find a new shape and identity. As we ruminate over these forms, we may eventually lose all sense of the materiality and ultimately sit with the transposed silence, a new language that gives a physical form, resonance, and hope to the muted struggles of displacement. More pointedly, it gives us the permission to stay silent, all the while expressing these overwhelming feelings."
Candice Lau is an award winning master leatherworker and sculptor. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Australia, she eventually set up her practice at Cockpit Studios in London. Her practice combines her decade long experience working in traditional leatherwork and her more recent shift into an artistic direction after challenging the way she works with leather and inviting clay into her practice. In her new work, she breaks convention and employ leather as a tool, rather than a finished product, to shape the form of the highly impressionable material, clay. With these media, she explores her relationship with place, and the theme of displacement. The results are tactile and expressive sculptural forms that blurs the boundary between the two materials, as well, establishes a new creative language for the artist.
Her extensive experience with leather has attracted commissions from clients including New Balance, John Smedley, Hermes, Toast, Bang and Olufsen, Heals, and Lacoste. To date, Candice has been granted an the a scholarship at the European Cultural Academy in Venice, an Arts Council award, won a Queen Elizabeth Trust Scholarship, chosen as an ambassador for the John Smedley 235th anniversary, shortlisted for the Maker of the Year award with the Heritage Craft Association, as well, won the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers and Cockpit Arts award. Through a Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust grant, Candice had her leathercraft training in Florence, Italy by learning from the masters of leather at the Scuola del Cuoio. In her new artistic direction, she has embarked on further training at Citylit in ceramics.
When did you first work with clay?
C: After a decade of mastering leatherwork, clay was introduced to my practice as I was intrigued by its contradictions to leather in form and the process of working with it. Yet I have come into sculpture from many different angles, from graphic design to leatherwork, then leatherwork to clay. The transference of one skill onto another has informed the art created in the most unexpected way.
The challenge in my work lies in the contradictory behaviour of leather and clay. Leatherwork is clean and when folded, stitched, and glued, form the desired shapes. Meanwhile, claywork is slow; its wetness and dryness is time dependent. It is messy, highly malleable and unpredictable when fired. The way I progress with these two materials is in the cross fertilisation of leather and clay crafting techniques. I weave and pull clay as if it was leather, and treat leather as if it was a material with fluid characteristics. The results are sculptures that are highly abstracted figures created through the performative act of knotting. Knotting, alongside stitching and weaving is a common action in leatherwork. Eager to challenge clay to behave as my threads and leather would, sculptures that evolved acquired a sensual, human-like quality, imitating our own figurative, bodily contortions. Clay will embrace leather and leather will lead clay to find a new shape and identity.
What are your biggest influences?
C: My studio is based in London yet my ideas come from stories of my family back in Hong Kong, or the childhood I had in Australia, or the life I have with my Italian partner. My culture and life in these places have influenced my work immensely. I am inspired by stories and history, like watching my grandma make rice wrapped in bamboo leaves and tied together with string before steaming them. This is not dissimilar to the perfectly formed cubes or spheres that I wrap and constrict using leather ties to form the contours of the objects that I make. While it often takes me a while to realise where these ideas have come from, I often catch a glimpse of something I have made perhaps 1 week or 4 months ago, and finally realise the connection, the stories and the visceral impact my own stories have had on my art.
Tell us more about your recent series, when did you begin this and how has it developed?C: My art gives form to the silently lived sensations of alienation, loneliness and often paralysing effects in the plight of displacement. Resonating with my own struggle of being uprooted, my sculptures are my tactile language to explore my relationship with place as a displaced person. It gives me permission to express whilst staying silent.
The sculptures are formed by the intentional amalgamation of two materials, leather and clay. A marriage that happened organically as I embraced their contradictions; with leather, every step must be planned and measured, while clay is malleable and highly impressionable. All the while pushing each material into uncomfortable positions with palpable tension. This process mirrors our struggle and discomfort to adapt in a so-called new home.
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