A Journey Painted on Clay - Agalis Manessi

Posted by Cigdem Baker on

From ancient cultures, across continents and civilizations, the art of clay has been practiced throughout Greek culture for centuries, tracing a long and interesting course through antiquity to today. The first basic material of potter’s expression is clay in all it’s forms, with a huge diversity of properties. These present complex characteristics that enable the creation of an immense wealth of ceramic artefacts.

My making process is simple and as timeless as the medium itself. Coils of clay rolled out, joined and pinched between the fingers evolve into a range of forms; vessels, dishes and platters. Animals and figures are modelled from solid clay squeezed into shape to give life to the nascent form within before being hollowed and fired. The next part of the process involves glazing with the white tin glaze and painted to reveal their final character. A process known as Maiolica.

Maiolica has been practiced since 900AD in Mesopotamia and later from 1500AD in Spain and Italy with its ornate Istoritao  dishes. Objects are made using a red terracotta or similar earthenware clay, which once fired is dipped in a glazing solution containing tin oxide that gives its characteristic white opaque finish. The object is subsequently painted with a mixture of metal oxides such as copper, cobalt, iron, manganese that give a wonderful range of colours after firing.

Perhaps of all the ceramic processes Maiolica requires a painter’s touch. A confident sensitivity of brushwork balanced with a vision of what might be, once the subtle blends of oxides fuse with the tin glaze in the firing, it is both a rewarding and unforgiving art form. It is a technique that transforms a monochrome object into a sophisticated creation where the result oscillates between a utilitarian object and one that could be defined as a work of art.

Inspiration for the work comes from many historical sources, a fusion of my Mediterranean heritage and annual travels across Europe to London. Ideas are drawn from the experience of viewing subjects in churches, museums and galleries and observations directly from life. The images are inspired by portraits and animals depicted by a variety of Renaissance painters such as Pisanello and Gentile di Fabriano, Flemish masters like Lucas Cranach, English artists Edwin Landseer, George Stubbs, and the Fauvist work of Maurice Dennis and Franz Marc. Contemporary subjects may be from fleeting observations in the newspaper or on tv.

Marina Papasotiriou.     Curator, National Gallery of Art - Corfu

Except from the introduction to the solo exhibition held in Municipal Gallery, Corfu, Greece. 

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