MAstars 2010: Zoe Preece, MA Ceramics

MAstars 2010: Zoe Preece, MA Ceramics Zoe Preece, Threshold 1, 2010. Porcelain, kiln shelf. Credit: Mal Bennett

David Trigg selects Zoe Preece from Cardiff School of Art & Design for MAstars

It's the mundane, domestic rituals that we perform daily yet barely give a second thought to that fascinate ceramicist Zoe Preece. These usually overlooked moments – such as making a cup of tea, preparing a meal or washing up the dishes – are the focus of the artist's compelling work, which reconsiders the significance of the intermediate, quotidian moments that fill up the spaces between the landmarks of our lives.

For Preece, the unseen, habitual and often disregarded events that punctuate life's narrative occur in what she terms 'liminal spaces'. These are indeterminate, in-between spaces, which the artist has chosen to explore through an examination of the domestic arena. Ceramic objects are, of course, ubiquitous in this realm; a fact that Preece emphasises in works such as 'Becoming' (2010) or 'Threshold 1' (2010), which both take the form of a humble tea cup that appears to be slowly liquifying like a hunk of warm Camembert. Preece achieves this effect by exploiting the highly transformative nature of ceramic processes; as the artist has noted, 'within the confines of a kiln, solids can become liquid, clay can become glaze, enabling the resulting artefacts the potential of displaying a mid-state condition.' By manipulating the kiln's temperature and using varying degrees of ceramic flux applied to the porcelain clay, Preece is able to arrest the process at a point where the object's form has started to disintegrate. The resultant works appear caught between states, teetering on the threshold between solidity and fluidity. In this way Preece's ceramics give the notion of liminality or in-betweenness concrete form.

Domestic events are the focus of Preece's multi-panel works such as 'tuesday 6th July, 8.34am – sunny outside' (2010), in which the various sounds overheard at specific points in time are described. Each piece comprises a grid of twenty tiles on which partially melted ceramic tablets are attached (though some appear to have fallen off). With an appearance somewhere between jelly and half used bars of soap, each tablet has been inscribed with text. Laconic statements such as 'television playing' or 'kettle boiling' are juxtaposed with longer texts recounting dialogues between anonymous characters such as 'Mum' and 'Gabe'. Many of these texts are crisp and clear, though others, like fading memories, have virtually melted away in the kiln and as a result are barely legible. Like listening to muffled voices through a bedroom wall or far off sounds only just perceived, so we have to focus hard to comprehend these nebulous words. With her quiet, unassuming work, Preece reminds us that it is often in the mundanity of life that we find some of the most poignant and poetic moments.

Selected by David Trigg
Published October, 2010

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