Shane Porter's practice explores the realms of ceramics, toying with the ideas of in-between forms and the blending of an object with its environment. Originally from Northern Ireland, he graduated from the University of Ulster with a first class in Fine and Applied Art, and has since exhibited throughout the UK. He has work in the permanent collection of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland as well as private collections throughout the UK and is currently studying his MA in Ceramics & Glass at the Royal College of Art in London. He has recently been awarded the Charlotte Fraser Award for Ceramics at the annual RCA School of Material Work in Progress Show.
With his final exhibition SHOW RCA 2015 planned for later in the year, we caught up with him about his process and fascination with the perhaps lesser known medium of ceramics.
You’re studying Ceramics and Glass at the RCA – can you talk a little about the medium? Many people would hear those words and instantly think of pottery, but the possibilities must be endless?
I work mainly with ceramic because, quite simply, I am in love with the materiality of clay and the ceramic process. I enjoy making objects as much as I do thinking about them. Clay has the unique ability to replicate other materials and is a kind of chameleon in that way. It is quite difficult to get away from it – we use it, mostly unconsciously, in almost everything we do – from eating, drinking and washing to name but a few – but ceramics is much more than the functional and utilitarian. It is an exciting time to be a maker as the boundaries of craft, design and 'fine art' blur. It is a truly diverse and contemporary art form.
You studied Fine and Applied Art at undergraduate level – what kind of work were you making back then?
After my Foundation Art course, I knew that I wanted to go to art college and concentrate mainly on ceramics – I wanted it to be my 'core' and to build up a practice that had it at the heart of it. I experimented a lot during my undergraduate studies with printing on ceramic, installation that included both ceramic and video, and also the use of industrial manufacturing techniques and how they could be used to create installation. After a while I got hooked, and I've never looked back.
What kind of methods and processes do you use on a regular basis?
Usually the first thing I will do when I am making a new piece of work is to create a model in plaster. I rarely draw in 2D as I need to see the thing quickly in three-dimensions before I can make any decisions. Depending on the size or shape this may be turned on a plaster-lathe, or cut using a diamond saw from a large block of cast plaster. Alternatively what I have began doing is designing forms on Rhino and then have them milled.
The majority of my ceramic work is slip-cast. This is an industrial technique used in industry to create large quantities of the same thing over and over – plates, cups, bowls, baths, toilets, sinks etc. It is a relativity quick process and enables you to make replicas of plaster models quite simply. I use an earthenware clay that has little shrinkage and behaves nicely in the kiln.
Glass has became an evermore important part of the sculpture I create. It is almost the opposite of clay yet works so well with it. It is a relatively new material for me to work with and this combination will form the basis of my show at SHOW RCA 2015.
What sorts of themes does you explore in your work?
At present I am exploring the notion of 'in-betweenness' – moments, situations, objects which are transitory and between states, in a strange world which is neither truth or fiction, real or fake, but somewhere in between. This directly relates to my use of glass as I am using it almost as a lens to blur structures which are monumental in their form and hopefully, scale.
What kind of work will you be exhibiting this year at SHOW RCA 2015? Do you know yet or is it all a work in progress?
A combination of ceramic and glass work, larger than I have worked before. I am interested in how the work can blend into its surroundings – so I am going to avoid the use of plinths or shelves – so you almost stumble across it or find work unexpectedly.
Why do you make art?
Sometimes I ask myself this as well. I think im just addicted to getting my hands dirty, and that excitement (and terror) of opening the door of a kiln at the end of a firing that can only be understood if experienced.
Shane works at Cass Art Soho - drop by to ask him any questions about his practice or browse the art materials in the shop.
Visit Shane Porter's website to find out more about his art here.