Delcy Morelos - Why I Create
Exploring the inspirations and attitudes of artists working with clay and ceramic, featured in Vitamin C
Red is ubiquitous in Colombian artist Delcy Morelos’s practice. In her early work, the pigment is used to speak of her native Colombia’s history of violence – notably in Color que soy - paintings of coffin-like forms depicted in various earthen tones – and then in works such as No es un río, es una madre to emphasize the vitality of blood rather than its darker connotations.
By bringing it into the exhibition display space, the artist brings the viewer into a direct relationship with the physicality and scale of that ‘redness’. Morelos initiates an encounter with nature, and a contemplation of our bodies in nature, blurring the limits between one and the other. For her, red signifies both our blood and the natural energy of a flowing river itself. Here, the Vitamin C: Clay and Ceramic in Contemporary Art featured artist tells us why she works in the medium, what particular challenges it holds for her and who she thinks always gets it right.
Who are you and what’s your relationship to clay and ceramics? I am living earth, creative, feeling and thinking earth. My relationship to earth and ceramics is deep. We are the same substance, except that ceramics has much less water than I do.
Why do you think there’s an increased interest around clay and ceramics right now? Because it is such an ancient technique, and the material is as abundant as it is expressive. The earth is both the stage and the protagonists of myths, history, origin and present. Plastic is also abundant, and present, but it has no relationship to our origin and materiality.
Ceramics is sometimes regarded as decorative, rather than fine arts. Does the distinction bother or annoy you? Anything can be considered decorative if we decide so: a car, a photograph, a cat, a piece of furniture, a painting, a tree, a forest, a man, a woman, a song, one or several books, an action, a posture, a gesture, and, why not, a work of ceramics but it doesn't have to be. It can also be utilitarian but it doesn't have to be. It can also be considered art or not, sacred or mundane. The possibilities are infinite, only intent matters.
Whose work in this field do you admire? More than a piece or series of ceramics, I am interested in a moment or series of moments: the moment of the first ceramics. A man, or a woman, or a group of women found that something strange would happen to clay in a fire, that it transformed, it became different, unrecognizable, more resistant and fragile - ambiguous. They were able to repeat the accident and make something completely new, resistant to fire and a container for liquids. The moment of the first ceramic work repeated itself in many places around the world, and was carried out by different people at different times, climates and circumstances.
What are the hardest things for you to get ‘right’ and what are your unique challenges? My challenge? To transform and show earth in a manner that is distinct, sacred, unexpected and distant; to find that moment in which something can come into being for the first time.
What part does the vulnerability of the material play in things? The eternal doesn’t exist, only an illusion of the eternal is possible, we as human beings are not eternal, we exist as ceramics do: mortal and vulnerable. It’s a dangerous metaphor that scares, confronts and attracts us.
Is how you display a piece an important element of the work itself? Do you ever suggest how something might be displayed? To display the work one must listen to it just as the space must be listened to. I don’t tell the collector how to display the piece; that problem is acquired along with the piece.
What’s next for you, and what’s next for ceramics? For me there is hard work to be done that is also my personal challenge: how to move spectators saturated with images, prejudices, and messages on their cell phone. Ceramics will be whatever us ceramicists make of it. Ceramics awaits intelligent ceramicists that bring it to intelligent places.
Clay and ceramics have in recent years been elevated from craft to high art material, with the resulting artworks being coveted by collectors and exhibited in museums around the world. Vitamin C: Clay and Ceramic in Contemporary Art celebrates the revival of clay as a material for contemporary artists, featuring a wide range of global talent selected by the world's leading curators, critics, and art professionals. Packed with illustrations, it's a vibrant and incredibly timely survey - the first of its kind. Buy Vitamin C here. And if you're quick, you can snap up work by some of the artists in it at Artspace here.