• The Poetics of Glaze: Ceramics Surface and the Perception of Depth

Boos, Emmanuel, 2011, Thesis, The Poetics of Glaze: Ceramics Surface and the Perception of Depth PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This research by practice into the visual and aesthetic qualities of ceramic glaze investigates
its ability to create an impression of depth. Because perspectival depth alone can not fully
account for my artistic concerns, and the requirements of perspectival illusion are at odds
with some of my major artistic preoccupations, such as an interest in accidents and
imprecision in material rendering, I raised the hypothesis of a poetic dimension of depth,
posing the research question for this project:

“What is poetic depth in a ceramic glaze?”

Traditionally, research into glazes focuses on aspects of material science, craftsmanship,
archaeology or art history, and optical depth has been the subject of investigations into the
microstructure of glaze. By seeking to address the aesthetic dimension of glaze I am moving
away from such concerns. While the aesthetics of ceramic glaze is a new field of research,
with little existing material, I am seeking to find parallels with practice, theories and research
from the field of literary poetry, even though by ‘poetic’ I am referring to a quality that is not
only mediated by language and goes beyond the field of literature. Further, I am also
referring to Gaston Bachelard’s approach to material imagination through his poetics of the
natural elements and to the concept of transitional space developed by psychoanalysts of the
British Independent Group, Donald Winnicott and Marion Milner.

My thesis consists of a threefold dialogue between my artistic practice of glaze, theories and
practices of literary poetry and the concept of the transitional phenomenon.
My findings are at the intersection of those three elements, and they are the results of my
investigations through both making and writing:
• ‘Poetic tension’ is a paradoxical and conflicting process between authority – the ability
to control – and subjectivity on the one hand and factors of dissent, questioning the
very possibility of authorship, on the other: among these are the unconscious and the
materiality of the glaze.
• The concern for interiority is a central element of poetry, the transitional phenomenon
and my works.
• My practice of glaze is an attempt to re-enact and objectify the fusion between the
self and the world, addressing the issues of the illusion of all-encompassing
subjectivity and the disillusion of objectivity, both key elements of the transitional
• Play has been a natural development of my practice of glaze and I further established
parallels with the literary poetic in a shared aspiration for subversion, dissent and
• The concept of the formless permeates Bachelard’s material imagination and my
practice of glaze. Moreover it is often a prerequisite for Winnicott’s and Milner’s
approach to creativity and play.
• Failure is the essence of a certain form of poetry, which Georges Bataille summed up
as the ‘Impossible’. It is also a key aspect of my practice of glaze: an essence of flux
or a further element of play whose irresolution or unlikely balance can create yet
another dimension of the poetic.
• Flux is a necessary element of glazes but it also summarizes the dynamics and
dialectics of the transitional phenomenon and of the Bataillean ‘Impossible’ and the
playful poetic.

All three strands: my practice of glaze, the literary poetic and the transitional
phenomenon intertwine, cross-fertilize and develop in parallel. Together, they have
helped articulate the concepts and the artistic vocabulary through which the poetic and
the transitional phenomenon have become operative categories of aesthetics, artistic
practice, and of research processes.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W700 Crafts > W750 Clay and Stone Crafts > W751 Pottery
School or Centre: School of Material
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2012 10:41
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2013 12:38
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/1131

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