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Account of the Scholarly Exhibition at the Centre of Ceramic Studies, Cardiff


Natasha Mayo Exhibited Works cont.

Detail of Trial Figure III Detail of History of Marks Trial Figure I
Detail of Trial Figure III Detail of History of Marks Trial Figure I, 2003. 85 x 26 x 28 cm
earthenware, terrasigilata

Fragmentation in Natasha Mayo’s Ceramics

Natasha Mayo


Correspondence between colours, textures and bodily states are extended through the way in which Mayo applies materials onto the body. In ‘Trial Figure III’ for example, the application of slip mimics the activity of the surface moving in response to the pressure of the body’s movement or bulk. Applied thinly and sparingly over both fleshy and stretched areas of skin, a rapid and vigorous action forces the brush hairs to separate and create light patchy marks over the buttocks or belly, giving the impression that the surface is breaking up a little under the stress – as if the pale upper layer can barely hold together – revealing a smoother, darker hue beneath.

Mayo’s figures not only express aspects of the fragmentary nature of skin, its response to the activity of the body by stretching, breaking open its multi-layers, they also demonstrate ways in which the successive stages in which we may perceive that activity can appear frozen, disjointed from their usual progression in nature. For example, those self-conscious, fidgeting activities of the hand across the body betraying nervousness or agitation, are made evident in ‘A History of Marks’. Rather than quickly fading away, as is our common experience of similar properties in nature, they appear accumulated on the surface, suggesting that a sudden surge of activity has just taken place. The moments in which these marks emerge on the skin appear as an intense, selected history of the body, and a viewer is almost caught within this limited time frame, their perception of skin’s activity suspended, serving to repeat a specific cycle of events.

The sense of activity involved in the creation of these marks can only be conveyed by the work through means of suggestion or invitation, by prompting a viewer to make connections between certain hues, brush-marks and the behaviour of flesh and skin. In ‘A History of Marks’, the brush marks are broadly spread across the belly, more closely aligned over the thigh and hip. This irregular application can attract our eyes to move with particular momentum, slower over denser areas and more quickly over texture where markings are multiple and the eye cannot rest. It is this particular movement that suggests a sudden surge of activity on the skin, in that our gaze is directed from these flatter areas toward more animated parts of the body, and back again. This movement can also disclose our emotional disposition in response to the figure, as every minor fluctuation on the skin surface can appear to manifest the condition of the body and the figures emotional state, in this case, despite the relaxed pose, a nervous anxiety or discomfort.

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