This July, an exhibition of new commissions by five emerging makers working at the forefront of applied art opens at Jerwood Space in London. Jerwood Makers Open 2012 brings together new works created by Nao Matsunaga, James Rigler, William Shannon, Louis Thompson and Silvia Weidenbach.
Taking the rare opportunity to lead with their imaginations rather than responding to a set brief, these makers have created ambitious new works in ceramics, design, glass, jewellery and mixed materials and will play with both scale and their chosen materials. Each maker has been awarded £7,500 to create these works.
Shonagh Manson, Director of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, which runs Jerwood Visual Arts and Jerwood Makers Open, commented: “There are number of big questions and issues that are likely to engage the applied arts sector in coming years. Within this exhibition alone are new works which engage with a range of those challenges; with localism and production, with digital design and the concept of uniqueness, and with the potential of the hand-made, the abstract and the sculptural in craft.”
Nao Matsunaga’s approach to making is through seeing and doing: coiling and applying texture to clay surfaces, carving and assembling wood, or drawing and painting on paper. His works give a sense of something organic such as clouds, rocks and animals, but are abstracted versions of these forms. For Jerwood Makers Open 2012, he has created larger-scale works than he has previously made: two freestanding ceramic sculptures that celebrate his view that extremes of scale are often what make a piece of work special or remarkable.
Ceramic artist James Rigler is fascinated by the hierarchy of objects and by what distinguishes something ordinary from something extraordinary. He is inspired by the language of architecture and creates work in response to the everyday objects that surround us. For Jerwood Makers Open 2012, he has created three monuments – an obelisk, a statue and an archway – undermining these grand structures by creating them with everyday materials such as fabric, wood, paint and metal
Fascinated by how and where things are made, William Shannon has designed a 4x4ft pottery workshop, complete with a fictional potter and a working pottery kiln that can produce real pottery ware from locally sourced London clay.
This is the last in a series of five works where Shannon starts by creating a fictional tradesman – in this case, a potter – before developing a place of work for the character by designing and building the architecture and tools to support their trade. In these works, Shannon poses questions about how and where material things are made, suggesting ways in which local materials and localised manufacture can allow new, lightweight industries to be reintroduced to the city.
Louis Thompson's commission for Jerwood Makers Open 2012 is a series of blown glass forms created to challenge and tease the viewer, exploring themes of material quality, composition, scale, collections, distortion and ambiguity. These works combine water and light to exploit mass and volume, shadow and reflection, distortion and illusion, inviting the viewer to question what they’re looking at: is it glass? Is it solid? Is it full or empty? The desire to touch, whether permitted or not, is also an essential part of the audience engagement with the works.
Silvia Weidenbach is a jewellery artist who combines her traditional skill-set of metalsmithing, gemstone-setting, enamelling and casting with high tech processes such as rapid prototyping and CAD and her fascination and experimentation with the decomposition and deformation of materials.
For this exhibition she has crafted three chunky neckpieces, using objects she has collected or created as a starting point. Working with a digital sculpting tool called a ‘haptic arm’, she shapes her ‘virtual clay’ to create her complex, symmetrical forms. Weidenbach exploits the capacity of the machine to create perfectly symmetrical forms, but through subsequent embellishment restores her objects to uniqueness and preciousness. This is the first time Silvia has been able to test this process in her work.
These five artists were selected for Jerwood Makers Open 2012 from over 200 UK-wide applications by an independent panel comprising Felicity Aylieff, ceramic artist, James Beighton, Curator at mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art), and Lauren Parker, Head of Contemporary Programmes at the V&A.