Metamerism: Why Make It So Difficult

The works in porcelain are hard to do because of my process. Why make my life difficult and not model them as I would a figure, or anything else for that matter?

The answer is simple, the consequences for me are not. Life has evolved so that each and every animal more advanced than the simplest forms has a body plan organised in segments or somites. These are repeating units which can be identical to one another or structurally very different. Segmentation or metamerism can be clearly seen in arthropods and earthworms but is less obvious in vertebrates. differentiation takes place at the embryo stage and is something we have in common with all complex animals.

My process involves building the body with coils of porcelain in much the same way as a basic ceramic pot is built without using a wheel. A pot is more or less symmetrical and it is relatively easy to control its shape as it is being made. However, building the bodies is a much more difficult thing to do because they are very asymmetrical and the flow of lines depend on fine adjustments. As I build the body, I have to imagine cross-sections of the piece as it is built and visualise how it will be several layers on or when completed.

As the porcelain dries and after it is fired, the traces of the coiling show through as the material shrinks. This trace of how the form was made renders visible its making. It brings to focus a reflection I wrote back in August,

‘As I work, I continually rediscover that to leave traces of how a work has been done, is to allow its continual remaking once my part is completed.’

This trace corresponds to the trace of metazoan evolution, our evolution. It is seeing the making under an opaque skin rendered visible. The layered coiling correlates with the physical way in which a 3D printer layers or disintegrates material to build or reveal the form.

I have never worked in this way but it does extend the process when I was compiling Chaos Contained. Then, it was molecular accretion to build complex structures. The result was organic but architectural in form. Now, the forms are organic, felt from the gut and not the head: preparing the way for another form of living-presence.