Over two galleries at the Institute of Contemporary Arts -ICA- in London, and until may 10th 2016, is exhibited -Theatre of the Domestic-; a retrospective exhibition showcasing the last 10 years of work of ceramic experimental, american-born artist Betty Woodman.
Both galleries on the ICA are dedicated to specific ranges of work, having in the first one a collection of sculptures-three dimensional-collages she has developed in the past years as part of solo exhibitions and art fairs over the world; and on the second gallery, on the top floor, a stock of sketches and mixed-media pictures that have been made parallel to the sculptures but as a separate field of work.
The press release mentions the vase as the primary object of her work; the vase as a metaphor, as a vessel, as a human body or animal figure and as an arthistorical reference. This is an accurate conception since the base of all her scope of work in fabricated with ceramic and the different processes a material can be treated to achieve diverse matters.
Ceramic is, by default, the man-made finish that has evolved in conjunction with humanity and it´s production and elaboration has responded to each era´s necessity and request. See decorative elements made from ceramic in ancient royalty museums, Greek blue-and-white ceramic cookware and 3d printed models whose material is a ceramic-based polymer. Woodman, as every culture who has used ceramic to satisfy particular uses, has dominated the material and appropriated it´s properties for her own benefit and her work´s. Her collection comprises, in part, molded vases and sculptures but she also treats ceramic as a canvas, such as any other artist with it´s preferred surface. Her works take advantage of the ceramic flexibility to build volumetric forms that can structurally hold themselves, but also takes advantage of other properties of this material that, in may cases, have been ignored; it´s plastic and aesthetic properties, it´s and capability to glow, it´s tint absorption and adaptability to have diversity of finishes.
Woodman feels as confortable with ceramic as any other artists feels with paper or fabric. She experiments on colour and reflection, on how rough or polished the surface is, on the benefits of it´s weight, thickness and width, on its ability to bend and it´s spatial presence on a room.
The importance of her work is not how a simple vase becomes an object with protruding wings coming from it or the layering of contrasting materials on a picture create more emphasis on a subject. There is not particular story behing the collection, there is an unrelated narrative behind each piece, but in conjunction, her works can´t be read as other than the material experimentation and the versatility that it has to allow for floor collages, wall collages, sculptures that require the viewer to turn 360 degrees around to be fully appreciated, wallpapers, sketches and big mixed media murals.
If the title of the exhibition isn’t clear so far, think of the dramatism and excessiveness in theatre; how it is overloaded with colour and light and it doesn’t reproduce nature but an echo of human perceptions; think then on the base of the exhibition; the connecting thread throughout the gallery and the element that differs from any other artwork collection, how this recalls the home-made, the familiar, the school project, the domestic.