Penelope Van Grinsven
Choosing to work with clay for its symbolic attributes of permanence and inheritance, and its profound connection with the everyday, I find myself engaging with this material at a critical distance.
In questioning why certain histories are recorded and the way they are archived and remembered, I share my own versions of old stories, desperate to fill in the personal anecdotes of relatively obscure makers. I have inserted myself into the narrative by writing letters between long-dead potters and cutting up audio of ceramic critics to create fictitious roundtables.
Pots are described by potters in a curious way – there is a recorded vernacular of functional wares that anthropomorphizes and describes them with references to the human body and allusions to human emotion and psychology. I install pots and ask viewers to engage with these descriptions and make their own judgments on form.
Tapping into the ceremonial power of ceramic objects, I make participatory pieces that share common ground with cultural rituals. I set up interactions that are egalitarian in their principles: all participants have access to the information they need in order to partake in an invented ceremony. Through viewer participation, the objects and actions rise to the level of communal expression and symbolism.
Approaching ceramics with a mix of reverence and irreverence, I oscillate between enthrallment and disbelief at this material and its surrounding culture. The viewer’s mode of behavior is often conceptually included in my work and in this way we journey together for deeper understanding.