By Keisha Oliver
This time last year Bahamian ceramicist Alistair D. Stevenson was preparing for his solo exhibition ‘Pomp & Pageantry’ at Doongalik Art Gallery. Stevenson’s practice at the time was concerned with translating fine art and organic forms into man-made designs in his effort to explore the commercial ceramics market. His work examined the burden of beauty through ornate sculptural objects and elegant statement necklaces, which personified flamboyance and egoism.
Although Stevenson’s style of work over the years has consistently referenced aesthetics and beauty through investigations of mythology, culture and the environment, recently there has been a shift. Still revisiting past techniques and forms, we see how his conceptual interests are more focused on very personal experiences. Later this month Stevenson will open one of his most sentimental exhibitions to date entitled “All of My Emotions”. The materiality of the new work is used to address emotional fragility making connections to the sensitivity of human emotion.
Keisha Oliver: How has your creative practice developed since our interview last year?
Alistair D. Stevenson: Since last year I returned to the Jingdezhen Ceramic Institute where classes started in September. Our curriculum was more focused on conceptual development. I continued to expand on last year’s ‘Pomp and Pageantry’ collection. I mainly explored new objects for the mould-making and casting process. After a few months, I decided to take a break from casting to revisit ceramic painting. I‘ve also been looking at the Bahamian mythological creature the ’lusca’. Over the summer, I visited London to network and see a few exhibitions, namely the Grayson Perry exhibition. While there I connected with a few established artists, gallerists and dealers. Just before returning home I completed a three-week Residency in Denmark.
KO: Tell me more about your residency in Denmark. How did the opportunity come about?
AS: I came across the opportunity through an artist and visiting professor at Jingdezhen. I told her that I was interested in travelling to Denmark and hopefully pursuing a residency there. She made a recommendation. I applied and was accepted. This opportunity was made possible through the support of The D'Aguilar Art Foundation’s Global Discovery Program, patrons of my work, and funds from my last solo exhibition. The residency was at the Guldagergaard International Ceramic Research Center in a small town called Skælskør. They offer a state-of-the-art facility with professional support and a stimulating creative environment. I loved the experience! I produced a third of my work for my upcoming show during my three-week stay. These pieces are the more sculptural abstract works.
KO: The pieces you produced in Denmark are similar to works produced during your Exnihilo Residency in 2015. Are you expanding on the concept or revisiting the forms?
AS: We all work in patterns in one way or the other and I think that I’m still building my style. The texture of this work was crafted during my first year in university. I was in a clay sculpture class where the instructor asked for us to find an object we liked and to recreate the texture. I chose a used sponge and fell in love with the outcome. When revisiting this texture, it refers to the natural sponge and coral. Equally important is the structure of the objects which stem from dying leaves. What I appreciate most about these structures is that there is so much going on. Although withered and frail they are still very beautiful.
KO: What sparked the title for your upcoming show?
AS: The theme for this show has a lot to do with me recognising myself more and more as a sensitive individual. It’s also interesting for me to watch myself and watch how others interact with me. It was when I was going to fire the pieces in Denmark that the name for the show came to me. Another artist at my residency asked if I had done all of the intricate details by hand and I replied ‘Yes, it was all of my emotions”. She said.’ I can see it now; you should call the show that’. I agreed and smiled.
KO: What is the theme behind this new work?
AS: Fragility. The use of ceramics as the primary medium for the objects emphasises the delicacy of human emotion, supporting the idea of sensitivity and tenderness. Fragility for me is one aspect of our everyday life that drives our physical and emotional responses based on any given situation. It is a very sensitive way of being, in that regardless of how secure we believe life is, we are always emotionally subject to the effects of our surrounding and distant environments. The slightest of words, smallest of issues and seemingly irrelevant occurrences can affect our emotional state and completely disrupt our way of thinking. That is not to say that there aren’t those individuals who are rarely disturbed by such experiences however I do believe that most of us are indeed very temperamental creatures, spiritually and emotionally speaking.
Stevenson will give an artist talk for All of My Emotions on Sunday, 27th August at 3 pm and the exhibition’s opening will be held on Tuesday, 29th August at 6 pm, both events at Doongalik Art Gallery and Studios located on Village Road.