A Studio Note

 Now the light that falls on a building makes a silhouette in the darkness it fails to reach. I always consider how the architect forms a series of shadow zones. A friend said that, “the pots carry the shade as darkness that gently wraps and releases things in the Japanese tradition. Casting shades, darkness as a shade, darkness as a shape, shadow as shape (or sign) of something else.”

 The shapes and patterns of mangrove trees are a midden of shells and grit, the remnants of something obsolete: how the undulations and the rise and fall of land might consciously come to mark the shape of things.

 That gaseous space between the frames of things, between the structures of the internal chaos and the patience of green spaces and tidal plantings, the wall of traces that frames the water of the bay. I think of a range of points residing in an artistic and environmental network of circumstance and points in time, and developments that progress and recede. Should we need to name those markers that configure in the work of art?

 Collage is what an entire century of visual thinking has been about. From the invention of film and radio, to the cubist acts of Picasso, Kurt Schwitters and Hanna Hoch or the Prouns of El Lissitzky, and the assembled writings of William Burroughs. These are the sort of precursors to the everyday visual quotational surface of post-modern digital media that surround artists and consumers alike today — It seems that it is this sort of remarkable series of shifts in continuity that we are viewing in the cross-cultural ceramics of Jane Barrow. The bucket forms (Téoké) are expanded expressions of traditional pottery transcribed across artistic frontiers and landscapes. That a translation is at all possible or effected convincingly is referred often to the movement of water, and the crossing of it. In that passage a type of conversion occurs. So we find some of these curious referenced elements in the way the potter adopts Bizen markings and shapes and continues with those forms as a plastic way of thinking to produce a contemporary art. And it is an art of water too, marked and drawn upon a surface in a calligraphy that after some delay appears as a revelation. Is that determining the efforts of the potter too much? Is it (the studio) a palimpsest of ideas being output on the top of the shell midden at the bottom of the garden, a state of cultural fusion?

 The remarkable quality of line. Barrow concerns herself with those two axes continually. There is the elemental and profound cosmology of forms within forms with fusion of colours and glazes, clay made into and out of space. So the drawing remarks about something hybridized from the lexicon of traditional techniques that collide with another environment on another continent. The vessel is shaped in this place without the tradition and language of Japanese culture and ceramics to corroborate it. We might call this metamorphosis a fish out-of-water.

 Others have commented about the studio location of bayside oyster shed and walls of glass, the back drop of the mangroves at the waters edge. It’s a very seductive combination of physical elements to be faced with as an artist, but remember the artist is not a camera. We might think that this screen of visual stimuli is somehow recorded in the decorative elements made of brush strokes, the curvatures, colour and patterning that fuses these vessels. More powerful than these light plays on location, what is instinctively conveyed in the making of pots is the potter’s very significant experiences of the traditions of Japanese pottery. In these vessels before us is a disciplined knowledge — an encrypted universe that operates a whole language of subtly acquired gestures, signs and sequences. This is what makes the form legible at an alpha level. The pots play a part in an artistic ritual of relationships and that’s why we can consider the making of these vessels as a kind of cultural crossing.

 Constructivism – volume, mass, colour, space and rhythm. What makes these objects so special is that they are fusions of a significant group of artistic motivations all at once. The artist is also an architect in the sense of building, timber, light and sound and engineering. Trained in fibre and textile design the artist brings that broader configuration of tactility into her studio productions. It’s no surprise that her pots are collected and admired by many architects. There is a robust confidence in the construction of these forms that would translate ideally to the built environment. Maybe that fluid ability to cross-over and encrypt the culture of the other is what inspires the poets and architects in us all.

Ruark Lewis