Islas Balears, Spain
Alana Wilson at Potter's House Mallorca
2022 Residency & exhibition
The works for Potter’s House highlight the importance of expression, gesture, movement and bodily presence.
I have been attempting to divert away from the automatic mode of creating a vessel and leaving more gestural impressions within the surface, striving to highlight nuances of the process so that the pieces become about touch, feel, and humanity more than just a functional form.
Simultaneously, I have been thinking about physical presence, feelings and thoughts that need to be felt spatially - which have been missing throughout the pandemic. We could not be in the same spaces as family and friends, long distance relationships become filled with words, speaking, FaceTiming but never actually in each other’s presence. I wanted to investigate the lack of this closeness and intimacy in the world.
After more than two years of the distanced, the virtual and a reliance on words, there is a kind of electricity in encountering the charged heft of Alana Wilson’s hand built clay forms, so rooted in the physical reality of touch and place. We feel the exhilaration of objects that need no explanation, that speak the language of mass, texture, light and shadow. This is work whose creation narrative is written into its skin, each surface revealing traces of hand gestures, fingerprints, movement within the clay body and interactions within the kiln, reflecting Wilson’s belief that there are no mistakes, only the accumulation of individual characteristics that is the essence of identity.
Wilson’s residency has been long in the planning. While the pandemic stilled movement around the world, she spent time in her studio in a seaside suburb of Sydney, poring over photographs of Potter’s House, studying the quality of its light and textures. Honouring an instinct that this was an opportunity she wanted to meet with the freshest of responses, she purposefully held back on making any pieces until she was confident there would be no further false starts - that there was finally friction in the moment. Only then was she ready to proceed, immersing herself in her studio practice in a spirit of exploration, experimentation, observation and reflection, with the goal of using process itself as a medium for sensory experience and emotion.
While Wilson’s usual approach is to think about a particular body of work conceptually, for Potter’s House intention relating to the character of the installation itself has provided powerful creative impetus. Her response to recent experiences of absence has been to make work that is so viscerally present it takes on the magical intensity of a dream. In their form the individual elements adhere to functional archetypes, but function is not the primary driver. Wildly disparate in scale, even the smallest carries intimations of the heroic. In a defining move, the glazing is pared right back, so that no mark or imperfection is covered, muted or masked, echoing the house and the way it reveals its truth.
In the course of my first conversation with Wilson, I found myself mentioning a dream I’d had a few nights before, in which I’d been at Potter’s House for the installation of her work. She asked me if the house of the dream had been different in any way and in that instant I remembered with total clarity that there had been an additional room, seamlessly part of the house I know so well, whose ceiling was the sky. These are the moments that remind us of how we are enriched by our interactions with people, places and objects - of their power to connect us with memory and emotion. As Wilson’s work is the outcome of her ceaseless meditations on the nature of gesture, so we are each the sum of everything that has touched us and a part of everything we have touched. Every contact leaves a trace.
Words by Alison Morris