Although traditionally used as a medium for functional or decorative objects, ceramic has become a medium that is increasingly used by contemporary artists to express opinions. Here is the work of some important contemporary ceramic artists from around the world!
“I like the whole iconography of pottery. It hasn’t got any big pretensions to being great public works of art, and no matter how brash a statement I make, on a pot it will always have certain humility.”
Grayson Perry was born in 1960 in Essex. He received the prestigious Turner Prize in 2003, which was the first time it was given to a ceramic artist. He was introduced to the Turkish audience at Pera Museum with a solo show in 2016 titled “Grayson Perry: Small Differences”. He is known for his ceramic vases, which have classical forms and are decorated in bright colors, depicting subjects at odds with their attractive appearance. There is a strong autobiographical element in his work, where we often see Perry’s alter ego Claire. His work draws from Greek pottery and folk art. He uses the traditional method of coiling, as well as glazing, incision and embossing, and photographic transfer. Perry’s ceramics are highly expressive: he often comments on the British social structure. His work carries the traditional craft-like nature of ceramics to a conceptual contemporary art form.
Ken Price, Underhung, 1997
“The color thing, it’s very intuitive; it’s not some sort of formula. It’s how they feel, really.”
Ken Price was born in 1935 in Los Angeles. He uses fired clay to create abstract shapes. The painted colorful layers are usually not glazed, but sanded. He is one of the important figures who contributed to the change of the traditional perception of ceramics as craft. He approached ceramics from a contemporary point of view and challenged the traditional use of ceramics as functional objects. In the 1960s Price was at the center of LA’s avant-garde art scene. Price’s inspirations included: Bauhaus, Japanese ceramics, classic Southwestern pottery, jazz music and counter cultures of the 1960s.
Arlene Shechet, Masterpiece II, 2013
“It’s the formless becoming form. I’m looking to catch a moment in there.”
Arlene Shechet was born in 1951 in New York City. She has an experimental approach to ceramic sculpture where she challenges the limits of color, gravity and texture. She is inspired by traditional forms and color use, but she combines her ceramic works with plinths that are made of wood, steel or concrete. She was an artist in residence in Mesissen Porcelain Manufactory in Germany in 2012, where she produced ceramic sculptures with white surfaces and refined aesthetic associated with traditional Meissen porcelain. She brought together original Meissen olds and her own molds of those molds to create idiosyncratic forms and glazed surfaces built up with multiple firings.
Ai Weiwei, Ghost Gu, 2007
“I’m a freak of technical control.”
Born in 1957 in Bejing, Ai Weiwei became a globally known political activist as well as an artist. His exhibition “Ai Weiwei On Porcelain”, that brings together his work that draws from Chinese and Greek pottery ornamentation and Egyptian wall paintings, continues at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum. Ai’s Chinese background allows him to use traditional methods and patterns of ceramics to create contemporary forms and express political opinions. One of his famous ceramic installation Sunflower Seeds displayed 100 million handmade and painted porcelain sunflower seeds that weighted about 150 tons and were made by Jingdezhen artisans. Jingdezhen was known for this particular traditional method in which a thirty-step procedure was used. Ai Weiwei used the region’s traditional approach to porcelain to challenge the “made in China” concept, raising questions about the labor aspect of the work.
Betty Woodman, Aztec Vase and Carpet #2, 2012
“A potter makes something that lives in a situation.”
Betty Woodman was born in 1930 in Norwalk. Woodman is known for her vibrant ceramic sculptures. She began working with ceramics in the 1950s. She states that ceramics was always a macho world, but she explored the possibilities of the medium by introducing new techniques and combining it with different media, especially painting. She became interested in the Mediterranean clay tradition in the early 50s and found the experience of doing the same thing that had been done since 3000 BC, thrilling. Her work carries elements of her fascination with the Mediterranean, as well as a constant experimentation and urge to explore new methods. She combines unusual materials with slip glaze that was used on ancient ceramics.
Also take a look at our Kütahya Tiles and Ceramics Collection to find out about ceramics that is traditionally used as a medium for functional or decorative objects!