COLOSSAL has, in this post about the ‘surgically altered ceramics’ of York artist Beccy Ridsdel, once again piqued my interest. Art, craft, ceramics, chintz, subversion: I’m up and alert, twitching pink nose sniffing the air like that of a cat who has heard a tin being opened and can just catch the scent of jellied animal bits.
The photographs of Ridsdel’s work are, in some ways, reminiscent of paintings of flowers and crockery by Fantin-Latour during the latter half of the nineteenth century.
In the painting above, Fantin-Latour’s simple white cup and saucer stand in stark contrast to their dark surroundings; one sure, solid, integral form, so everyday and plain as to be for many, rather boring, especially in contrast to the artist’s much celebrated depictions of flowers.
Yet, Ridsdel’s work is not photographic; by nature it’s effect is in it’s real-life physicality. The ceramic object is just that, it is object, though sculpted it is not Sculpture (with a capital ‘S’). It is aligned with the everyday, the useful, the boring, the overlooked; but also the beautiful, the decorative, and ultimately the necessary. Ridsdel make these objects mean more and be more than simple homely decorative vessels for food and drink; she retains and questions that heritage and the assumptions that come with it.
The Oxford English Dictionary (oed) defines ‘ceramic’ as: adj. (and n.) ‘Of or pertaining to pottery, esp. as an art.’
Those three little italicized letters ‘esp.’ introducing, almost as an afterthought, the impetus behind Ridsdel’s work: the ceramic ‘esp. as an art.’ Ridsdel brings desire for an acknowledgement of depth and the ‘artistic’ to the foreground by dissecting the form itself to reveal literal representations of the layers below.
There is something violent about the surgical interference. The associations with human flesh bring the idea of brutality but also healing; this interference and investigation will lead to greater understanding and to a greater appreciation of the whole. As in collage a cut and the promise or effect of pasting together can often mean more than something intact.
In the case of Ridsdel’s ceramics, there is something rotten, excessive, more. When solid flesh is cut into it bursts with brightly coloured life-force as these ceramics, when their porcelain skin is punctured, release a flood of chintzy floral patterning, an excess, their interiors promise more. Ceramics by Ridsdel promise more.