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IRON: Translating Territories

Updated: Feb 27, 2022

I am delighted to take part in this exhibition in the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh starting on the 8th January until 6th February 2022.

IRON: Translating Territories examines iron’s multiple facets and roles by seeking new routes and practices to map unfamiliar territories and possibilities through art practice. The exhibition will unveil diverse understandings of the physical world around us and explore the creative potential and complexity in this singular material. Academician Gordon Munro RSA has assembled a pan-European group of artists, each bringing a unique perspective in their responses to the place of iron in our lives and its use as an artistic medium.

Artists: Paweł Czekański | Clare Flatley | Gordon Munro RSA | Rachel Nolan | Ewan Robertson | Oana Stanciu | Michał Staszczak

Planetary Bodies

Planetary Bodies is a project I have been developing for the past year involving research into the role of iron in ceramics. The resulting work uses iron glazes and clays to allude to the structure of planets and to wider perspective of the material.

My experience of working with iron is mainly through the ceramic and glass making process as iron oxide powder that is added to glazes and clays. I have been researching glazes that contain iron and building a collection that shows the spectrum of colours that iron can create when it is fired in certain ways. Iron plays a central role in ceramic making, in clays it is the determining factor of the lightness or darkness of the clay type. In glazes it is the main colouring ingredient for several historically significant glazes such as Tenmoku (rich brown) and celadon (pale blue/green), it is also possible to achieve a variety of yellows, rust reds and black/browns.

Photo credit Julie Howden

This work is draws on the wider context of iron and its role in the geology of our planet. The structure of planets such as ours is moulded by the force of gravity, which draws the heavier materials to its centre, creating a liquid metallic core and lighter rocky outer layers that have continuous cycles of growth and decay.

More generally in my practice I have been interested in linking materials I use, such as iron, to research into the hermetic tradition and philosophy of alchemy. This involves using the language of material transformation to describe an inner experience or physiological development, and also relate to the wider sphere of the cosmos. Certain metals in alchemy are associated with planets, iron for example is associated with Mars, and shares with it a common symbolism.

I wanted to draw on this connection between materials and planetary forms, and to our relation to the stars and planets. I am fascinated by the imagery we have acquired from satellites of planets and moons that have vibrantly patterned surfaces and turbulent atmospheres. This otherworldly imagery is alluded to through the form of these pieces and the textures and colours of what are quite traditional ceramic glazes.

I am hugely grateful to Gordon Munro who invited me to take part in this exhibition and brought this show into being. Also to Sandy Wood and everyone at the royal Scottish Academy, it was especially rewarding for me to exhibit here almost exactly 10 years since I was part of RSA New Contemporaries 2012.

The Royal Scottish Academy have an exhibition viewing page here, which also includes a film interviewing each of the artists about their work made by Rachel Nolan.

Exhibition Dates: 8 January 2022 - 6 February 2022

Opening Times: Mon to Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12-5pm

Finlay Room and Members Lobby, RSA Lower Galleries

RSA, The Mound, Edinburgh

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