H. 16.5” x W. 12"
Multiple fired clay and assorted glaze materials
TONY MARSH, Crucible
FREE within Massachusetts
TONY MARSH (born 1954), born in NYC, lives in LA
1988 New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, MFA
1978- 81 Shimaoka Pottery, Mashiko, Japan
Assistant to Mr. Shimaoka (Named Living National Treasure 1996)
1978 California State University, Long Beach, BFA
Over the past ten years of developing the Crucible series, my entire approach to working with clay and glaze materials has undergone both a philosophical and a methodological realignment. At present, I am moving increasingly further away from the traditional approaches to working with clay that were foundational in my education; namely, the historical and dogmatic necessity of good craft practice to seek predictability and reproducible results.
Instead, I engage in a type of artistic decision making that favors chance and the unknowable outcome. When I open a kiln, I am seeking results I have never seen. To achieve this, I intentionally subvert and steer the process off course in numerous ways so that I am positioned with the opportunity to solve technical and aesthetic problems in an idiosyncratic case-by-case basis. While this type of decision-making calls on a deep reservoir of experience with ceramic materials and processes, the reward of alchemical discovery generates tremendous energy to work. I bring rigor to this process by making the cylinder, a base, archetypal form the constant while the surface is the variable.
I apply assorted mineral concoctions in incongruous, counter intuitive layers on the surface of each work in between as many as 5 successive firings. This amalgamation subjected to heat will melt in varying degrees and become unstable as the assorted earth based materials fuse, flow and combine in new unpredictable ways on the surface of a vessel. Because thermal adversity is a crucially important element throughout the firing process a single work will be fired at multiple temperatures. I record no notes that might lead me back through a multi-stepped process to re-achieve a particularly favorable result, unless I remember it!
Working with a material base that is so transformational in nature presents challenges that are as satisfying as they are confounding. In this body of work there are both real and imagined allusions to the physical sciences, geographic phenomenon, force, time, pyroclastic process and landscape formation.
New topographies take form as odd combinations of materials, under the action of gravity plus heat and cooling cycles, slip, flow, boil, collide, crystalize and stack into new dynamic forms. Not lost on me is the material fact that I am working with the very stuff of the earth’s crust and when subjected to heat each work engenders a rich metaphor about geophysical and artistic creation.
As I subject each work to successive firings, I am pushing at times to collapse the boundary between material destruction and creative renewal. It is important to me that many works do not survive the process. The ones that do make it to the other side will be utterly unique objects. The possibility to identify a history of adversity as it is indexed through the form and surface of an object ‘at rest’ is compelling to me.
Forms are signifiers and have always been omnipresent in my work. Crucibles have always employed simple straight walled cylinders of differing proportions and represent the constant in this ongoing body of work. It is the unique application of glaze materials and firing practice that provides the variables that makes each work unique. I work in the interstitial gaps between intuitive wisdom and scientific knowledge. I activate the interiors of the crucibles in different ways as a device to enrich the Crucible narrative……A Crucible: The subjection of thought or matter to a severe trial leading to the creation of something new.
When the entire process is at its best, I find myself at the dynamic intersection of nature and culture both consciously and unselfconsciously orchestrating outcomes with one eye open for the unplanned fortuitous results that allow me to call a work complete. In this process it is every bit as important that I exercise all that I know as well as to continue to learn from the process. As much as I shape my work, the experience shapes me. - TONY MARSH