JanKossen Contemporary is pleased to present UnBreakable - Ceramics Redefined, an exhibition of figurative and figurative abstract contemporary ceramics with work by Penny Byrne, Kathy Stecko, Claire Curneen, Cathy Lewis, and Keun Woo Lee.
The connotations surrounding the medium of ceramic have historically been associated with concepts of craft and vessel. This exhibition however, brings together six contemporary artists who break down these confines to create haunting, political, religious, and poignant sculptures. Their historical consequences, contemporary conceptualism and social relevance, adhere to and break historical molds of craft while standing on the forefront of trends in contemporary sculpture.
Australian artist Penny Byrne's sculptural works are politically charged, highly engaging and often disarmingly humorous. Using materials such as porcelain figurines, bronze, glass, vintage and found objects, Byrne's work presents an ongoing inquiry into popular culture and international politics. Though the themes of her work are dark and heavy, the lightness and treatment of the porcelain contrasts this, formulating a new perception of these themes.
Kathy Stecko’s humanoid porcelain sculptures resemble a party thrown at a haunted circus. The elongated yet truncated limbs recall elements of 16th century mannerism, while the bulging bellies and hallow eyes resemble the psychological undertones of an Edvard Munch. These tiny sculptures hang on the wall or stand on their own pedestals to create tiny clusters of figures both affecting and endearing. Stecko lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
UK-based artist Claire Curneen’s androgynous figures have always been a convergence of art history, ceramic history, and religious symbolism. Her single standing modeled figures, serve as a developed response to traditional ceramic objects such as the standing Vase, however draw upon medieval and renaissance approaches to depicting the human figure in painting. Often also referencing Medici Blue, Dutch pottery, or Japanese ceramics in her work, you will also often find gold fingers and lips recalling the important Japanese tradition of Kintsugi - the art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Taking one step further, Curneen often comments on religious concerns such as symbolic references to Christ, biblical interpretations, concepts of soul, and questions of mortality.
Cathy Lewis, trained at the Glasgow School of Art, Falmouth School of Art and The University of the West of England, is most known for her beautifully modelled life-sized figures of children with strong urban or tribal identities. Her work is concerned with ideas about culture, social history and self, and she often combines several ideas into one piece each influencing each other and asking and answering questions. Lewis’ work examines the importance of a cultural heritage and how this may be learnt and shared. Encouraging her audience to examine links between the past and the future, her works call into question how the future is consistently propped up by the past.
Figurative abstraction is courted, yet ultimately tempered in the work of Keun Woo Lee. Traces of plants, flowers, and other elemental features of landscape remain visible in Lee’s creations. These forms, however, serve as a mere framework for the “nothingness” that holds the artist’s true interest. Lee has developed a keen sensitivity for the exploration of absence’s impact on depth, successfully immersing the viewer’s attention in the concave reductions of the final image. Keun Woo Lee was born in Korea and currently lives and works in Kiel, Germany.