Claire Curneen – Beyond the Vessel – Q&A


What does a day in the studio look like?

I have occupied many studios over the years, some wonderfully atmospheric, although freezing cold, others exciting and edgy but somewhat challenging after dark. My studio at the moment is at the end of my house, it is warm and bright, I built it there as it was a perfect solution when rearing a small child. As the teenager years loom, I’m I now ready for the new larger studio away from domesticity. I expect this will be my last studio.

What is your first memory of ceramic?

My father brought home a ceramic bird when I was 10 years old. He had been visiting his brother in Madrid and discovered his wife had been making ceramics. It was a round plump shape, which felt good in the hand. What seemed significant at the time was the fact that this object was made by someone I knew and better still a family relation. The Bird joined the collection of other random objects that came home after my father’s many visits.

What was your first use of clay?

When I was 19, I made a series of teapots with varying spouts, handles and lids and they clearly demonstrated no function at all. I loved their sculptural possibilities and the problems a teapot body, spout, handle and lid presented. These limitations provided endless permutations on form, yet the teapot was always there.

What is the most challenging element to your practice?

The endless self doubt.

What is your favourite fable?

Bluebeard. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber is a wonderful unsettling interpretation of this fable.

What thing or person is your greatest influence?

Piero della Francesca’s The Baptism of Christ in the National Gallery has been a constant go-to reference for me. It challenges every aspect of my being, a painting that is utterly beautiful and complex. The skin of the Christ figure is translucent and fragile, very much like porcelain. The whole scene depicted has a uniquely charged presence.

What is the relevance of myth today?

Myth is a good way for us to be able to explain the unexplainable.

Are you an artist or a ceramicist?

Artist is my preferred term, but ceramics is a way into how one reads and understands my work.

What is the argument for learning / honing technical skills in today’s world?

Skill is vital for us to articulate our ideas and this enriches the experience of what is being communicated, but it is not everything.

Have we moved beyond the need to make with our hands?

No and this is very unlikely to happen, although the media would like you to believe otherwise.

Why do you think there is such an international vogue for ceramics today?

Ceramics is visceral and has a certain honesty which is rooted in craft. Crafted objects give you something to believe and the world of art needs that now more than ever, ceramics is a good antidote.

Why is your studio where it is and what does it mean to you?

I have occupied many studios over the years, some wonderfully atmospheric, although freezing cold, others exciting and edgy but somewhat challenging after dark. My studio at the moment is at the end of my house, it is warm and bright, I built it there as it was a perfect solution when rearing a small child. As the teenager years loom, I’m I now ready for the new larger studio away from domesticity. I expect this will be my last studio.

What technological or other advances have made you able to push the boundaries of your material / practice?

Not much has changed in technology when working with clay, my hands are my tools.

Why do you think ceramics has endured from ancient times?

Because it is ancient and still bound up with mysteries and it tells us so much about the past. For us to understand ourselves we must delve into the past and ceramics holds many of those histories.

Who would be in your ceramics collection?

Johann Joachim Kändler in particular the Meissen goat at the V&A.

What is your philosophical approach to making?

I think Woody Allen says it all in this quote: ‘To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering, one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer, to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love, to be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy, therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness – I hope you’re getting this down.’ Woody Allen, Love and Death

      

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