Louise Boscacci: Form and Idea

By Ballard, Brett | Ceramics Art & Perception, December 2008 | Go to article overview
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Louise Boscacci: Form and Idea


Ballard, Brett, Ceramics Art & Perception


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The increments of meaning are to be found in the form. At first, walk around the object and feel as you do a sense of the place it occupies in space and how that space relates to you. Consider each movement and each glance to be part of a gestalt, one which is created not by a set formula or rigid perception, but by each small increment contributing to the effect of the whole.

I AM DRAWN BACK EXCITEDLY AND REVERENTIALLY TO THE ceramics of Louise Boscacci. What strikes one at first encounter is the facility Louise Boscacci has with form and the variety of finishes she brings to her ceramics. These external visual qualities are what make a Boscacci object immediately compelling and familiar. With each new encounter comes the confirmation of a ceramic language which is particular to Boscacci. It is a language which speaks dually of place and of the well-made object.

Perhaps, also, my ideas about Louise Boscacci have developed from an a priori sense of rigour in her work which was apparent from her earliest exhibitions. It is something Boscacci has developed through experience and the persistence of each new body of work--one theme redoubling the other--to create what we know as her signature look in porcelain.

While the Australian art public may now recognise Boscacci's ceramics, it is likely incognisant of the technical knowledge belying her forms: the essential nuts and bolts of making in porcelain. Boscacci's claim on the white and vitreous clay is emphatic but it is her embellishment of the medium with stencil, inlay and sgraffito which is exemplary. These techniques and those of porcelain, demand a thorough working knowledge of processes and their effective combination with forms. Porcelain can be a demanding medium but when harnessed it portrays a translucency unimaginable in other clays: fired forms appear solid yet are light of weight; walls--tensile of strength--became translucent when back lit. One thinks here of facsimile 19th century porcelain medallions of relief figures, made to be illuminated in sunlight.

We might also think of porcelain in the T'ang and Sung dynasties, arguably its greatest expression, and through time, to the factories of Sevres and Limoges when considering cultural and historical perceptions of porcelain. This resonance is something Boscacci acknowledges in her production and which she takes into her work, both practically, and at the level of metaphor:

"As in most of the series, translucent porcelain, simultaneously fragile, tough and culturally once as highly valued as gold, seems an apt material to speak of other fragile, precious and tough things." (1)

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The considerations Boscacci makes at the level of knowledge create interplay in her work. Boscacci is able to balance the visual and formal qualities of an object by intellectual associations. Her objects succeed, firstly, by invitation to the eye and senses, repaying the viewer with what Michael Cardew has described as 'the kindness of a pot'. But moreover, and perhaps most critically, Boscacci's ceramics engage the mind. How often can we say this of the many objects which we encounter in the world, those which we look upon, use and hold? It may seem a grand claim to make, perhaps an exhortation, but I feel confident in saying: to succeed, form must be realised as idea, simultaneously. Without this particular gestalt--one touched on in the introduction--where the greater effect is taken from the combination of parts, the qualities of form and idea are lost to us.

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To illustrate this point, if we look to Eight unsaid, made by Boscacci in 2007, it becomes clear that the eight palm cups are both to view in various possible configurations but also to be held. Individual surfaces suggest netting, some carry words. Here the interplay is between the casual placement of the forms and the suggestion that the cups make an eight word sentence.

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