Ma Synopsis

Ma Synopsis

Proposed working title –

Has the philosophies of Abstract Art influenced Ceramic Sculpture intentionally or have artists been responsive to its ideologies.

Outline of Dissertation

In my dissertation I will be investigating the origins of abstract art, the interpretation and philosophy of individual artists.

How philosophies and influences have inspired past and present artists. How individual ceramists have interpreted philosophies and justified their work. To recognise artists styles and processes. To question the importance and relevance of their justification. How the processes of abstraction has achieved the desired outcome.

I will be contacting individual artists asking particular questions related to their own personal philosophy and their practice. I will be asking whether their work has an integral relationship to a source of inspiration or where in fact their inspiration comes from, coupled with the artist’s philosophies resulting in unique art work.

I will be identifying the abstraction process through my own Ma course work (case study). To assess the break down of information allowing me/ the artist to fully explore new avenues of expression. To determine or question how far the abstraction of information can be taken.  To question the relationship of functional and non-functional and whether surface decoration is as important as its form. I intend to question the use of material, appropriate to the making process. Via my case study, I will be looking at the types of material/ clays used by ceramic artists and the challenges incurred. How the material reflects or compliments the form and the degree of technical skill required.

My focus and investigation will look at the development of form through abstraction, shape and texture, derived from unsuspecting origins.  To question the relationship of the original influence and assess its importance and contribution to the end result.

The relationship

Writing this dissertation relates to my own personal development and practice as a ceramic artist. Through researching and acquiring a greater understanding of the history of abstract art, I hope to improve my own philosophies and processes of evaluation and making. By using my own work as a case study  and questioning other current artists, the feedback I get will be  invaluable and contribute greatly to the outcome of the dissertation.

Whilst on the Ma ceramic course I have been pleased with the transition of my work, from partial academic modelling to suggestive abstract sculpture. Working with fine porcelain clays which complement the sculptures form. Suggesting scale and monumental sizes.

The break down of information/ detail resulting in unique pieces of art work, yet derived from the same source is a fascinating process I wish to explore. To create sculptures influenced by one another, yet different through the process of abstraction.

Exploring the relevance, if any, in the relationship of the origin and final creation.

Writing the dissertation will be an avenue to further my own personal knowledge and creativity.

Main thrust of discussion and reasoning

The main area of investigation and discussion is to assess and acquire an understanding, with reasoning, of how ceramic artists, in particular, develop their abstract philosophies in relation to their practice.

To produce a body of work that identifies the key figures and founders of abstract art and the influences they have had on proceeding movements/ artists.

I hope to question current ceramists and discover their philosophies, and whether they feel you have to have an intellectually based justification of your work to be accredited. What makes or justifies true abstract art?

To discover and validate the origins of ideas in relation to the final outcome, whether it be functional or not. Whether there is a relationship from one point to another, or whether the initial influence has bearing and equal importance to the final outcome.

By writing this dissertation I hope to understand and learn from current artists, integral contributing factors and influences on their practice.

The sources

History of abstract art – Painting and sculpture

Philosophical processes – “What it means”

Theory of abstract art

Artists relating to the movement

Interviews with current artists, from ceramic artists to architectural.

Current artists philosophical theories and how they influence their work.

Current artists justification of abstract art.

Prosposed Dissertation Chapter headings

(1) Introduction and philosophies of Abstract Art.

(2) Philosophies and influences on idividual artists.

(3) Justification of individuals work – responsive to philosophies.

(4) Artists stlyes and processes of working/ making.

(5) Examining the processes of abstraction leading to completed work.

(6) Personal Case study

The relationship of  source of influence to completed work

Technical ability or intellectual analysis.

(7) Influencing factors of materials used

(8) Functional or non-functional

(9) Does Decoration contribute to the form, is it needed?


(10) Summary/ conclusion


The Methodology

The goals of the research is to study the process of how individual ceramic artists have interpreted philosophies, theories and justified their work“. Looking at/ understanding the abstraction of form with or without narrative.

 Research defining abstraction

Interviews with current artists, history of art, my own case study, examining the development of abstraction. Articles and case studies. Visits to galleries, art forums/ youtube lectures, journals.

I hope to discover

I hope to gain a greater understanding of abstract art, the philosophies of individuals and their personal interpretation of this style/ making. To understand what makes abstract art and the justification of individuals art work. I hope to gain a greater insight into the artists out-look on the world and the influences on their work. Whether they create functional or non functional pieces, the relevance or importance. I be asking artists, how they come up with their ideas and the longevity of the source of influence. I hope to understand whether the decoration of a ceramic piece is as important as the form itself

I hope to discover a greater understanding and appreciation of the abstraction of detail and form. The opportunity of development from selective influences develop my own ceramic body of work with justification and honesty. To write a dissertation that allows the reader to challenge, argue, agree or disagree with my opinions, my investigation and conclusion. To personally challenge my understanding and concept of genuine abstraction.

Literature Review

Five Key Texts

(1) Barbara Hepworth: inspred by an ideal of ‘the thinking hand discovering the thoughts of the material’, has paid a very eloquent tribute to Brancusi; it must be quoted, if only because it reveals history at the moment of its making. Brancusi himself said that ‘it is while carving stone that you discover the spirit of your material and the properties peculiar to it. Your hand thinks and follows the thoughts of the material.’                                           ‘A concise history of Modern sculpture’ page 192-193 reference Barbara Hepworth Pierced Form 1931

(2) “Not being at all bothered about function, Eastman’s work with the pot form has been a consistent route into increasing abstraction, playing both with form and surface. That is what is potentially special about ceramics- you can have body and dress, sculpture and painting, essentially connected. Painting has always been a strong card for Eastman; he can be lyrical on the sheer walls of his objects. The gestures that are made with the brush are fluid and sensual, the colours rich and quiet.”                                                            reference = Profile

(3) “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterwards you can remove all traces of reality. There’s no danger then, anyway, because the idea of the object will have left an  indelible mark”     Pablo Picasso : Abstract Art by Dietmar Elger Book by Taschen. Page 26-27

(4) Sculptures from the transitional phase, notably Oculus (1947), Royal Incubator (1949) and Blackburn: Song of an Irish Blacksmith (1949-50), consist of disparate parts, including metal sheets and linear cage-work, compiled with nimbleness reminiscent of collage. The base of Oculus is a columnar pedestal inviting an all-round view even though the composition above is planar and manages to evoke landscape. a sentinel and an uplifted still life.    Abstract Expressionism – David Anfam – Thames and Hudson- World of Art page 117.

(5) Gordon Baldwin The role I take is Artist as Explorer with the vessel as my basic structure (like the structure of a Haiku). Each piece begins out of a strange compulsion to take a certain action.  I suppose the compulsion comes from things heard, things seen, things read and things done by drawing and previous work. I usually work in series constructing by the traditional method of coiling, discovering the piece as I proceed.  It is an intuitive process carried on without analytical thought. The piece is made when the resonances are right. The Titles hint at the effect the pieces have on me and the contacts that have been made within the soup of my experience. The surfaces are dealt with weeks or months later.  A lot of staring at the piece is involved – a sort of thoughtless gaze until there is a necessity for action. Of course each new piece is informed by the experiences I have already had in the studio. Different sorts of darkness and different sorts of silence are concepts that interest me. I work from an inner compulsion to explore my identity.

(6) Brian Harper – Oscillations.  In this work, each turn, each angle, and each junction effect all subsequent directions in these oscillating shapes.  Each part plays a role in the form of the whole, but more importantly, each part defines the direction of the whole.

Brief Outline

I have chosen the above texts as each example describes an area of future research and investigation. Developing my own personal understanding, and influencing my own work as I progress in the making of new ceramic pieces. Encouraging me to understand the materials I use.  I hope to question the relationship of final pieces of work to their origins, as Picasso says “There is no abstract art. You must always start with something”. Using my own work as a case study  i hope to demonstrate the connection between the two.

I will be questioning the use of certain clays which completment the designs i have created. Are they sympathetic to each other (suitable or not), coupled with the ability of control and handling. As mentioned by Brancusi, “you discover the spirit of your material and the properties peculiar to it”.  How does the mind and hand reflect the sensitivity of the material used? I hope to gain a greater understanding and affinity for the complexities of clays in the relationship to the object/ form.

As mentioned by Ken Eastman, without focusing on functionality, this route allows him to persue the abstraction process. I suggest this allows him to truly explore the creation of form, over function. This is an area that I feel relates to my own work as form is more important to me than function (at present). I will be researching the theories used by artists whom decide on the use of functional or non-functional.

I intend to question whether and to what degree decoration contributes, as Gordon Baldwin informs us, “decoration is added weeks or months later”.  Is the surface/ decoration needed?  In the dissertation i will be questioning whether any decoration is required if the development of form is the main area of personal ambition and investiagtion.

A key area of study will be, how are abstract sculptures are looked at.  The sculptures I am currently making are not just to be viewed from one single angle, but from various angles, appreciating the undulating curves in harmony with light and shade. My work relates to Brian Harper – Oscillations. A piece of work to be viewed from a variety of angles. I personally find that the work itself is, as a whole, when viewed from different angles.

Five Relevant non-texts sources

(1) Brian Harper   Oscillation (oblique, compact, folding, 55) ceramic, epoxy, pigment 20″ x 21″ x 23″

Oscillation (oblique, compact, folding, 55)Oscillation (oblique, compact, folding, 55)Oscillation (oblique, compact, folding, 55) - detail

(2) Barbara Hepworth pierced form 1 – 1931

(3) Gordon Baldwin – Vessel in the Form of a Primitive Voice 1983

(4) Ken Eastman, Looking North, Donation collection Petra Verberne 2010

(5) Henry Moore


  • The Abstarct Vessel –  Ceramics In Studio – John Houston -Bellew Publishing  (1991) with Oriel/ Welsh Arts Council
  • Abstract Art – Dietmar Elgar – Taschen
  • Abstract Epressionism – Thames and Hudson ltd (1990) – World of Art
  • Herbert Read  – A concise History of Modern Sculpture – Thames and Hudson (1964)
  • Gordon Baldwin – Objects for a Landscape, edited by David Whiting
  • Abstract Expressionist Ceramics (Author John Coplans) Art Gallery, University of California, Irvine & The San Francisco Museum of Art; First Edition 1/1000 edition (1966)
  • Minimalism and Ceramics –  The sculptural perplex of Brian Harper – Article by Adam Welch
  •  Peter Beard –
  • Contemporary Ceramics by Emmanuel Cooper (Thames & Hudson)
  • Naked Clay: Ceramics without Glaze by Jane Perryman (A&C Black) University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008
  • The Ceramics Design Course- Anthony Quinn -published 2007  Thames & Hudson
  • Studio Pottery in Britain 1900-2005 Jeffery Jones A & C Black Publishers Ltd (30 Nov 2007)
  • Alison Britton in Studio by Peter Domer. Bellew Publishing Co Ltd; First Edition edition (30 May 1985)
  • Britsish Studio Ceramics by Paul Rice The Crowood Press Ltd (23 Sep 2002)
  • Henry Moore: Sculpture and Environment by David Finn Thames & Hudson Ltd; First Edition edition (30 May 1977)
  • Picasso – His Life His Art Edited by Domenico Porzio and Marco Valsecchi. Published 1974 by Book Club Associates.
  • Herbert Read. A Concise History Of Modern Painting. New England Edition Thames and Hudson 1974
  • Kandinsky Compositions by Magdalena Dabrowski Publisher: Museum of Modern Art; illustrated edition edition (15 Feb 1999)
  • Abstract Art Anna Moszyska – Thames and Hudson 1990



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