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Rowena Gilbert Contemporary Ceramics
“Reef” / “Coast #1” /"Coast #2"
The main focus with my ceramic work is finding that perfect fusion of strong design, innovative style and spontaneous expression, that counterpoint of form, design, colour and texture. I love well-made things that hold a simple but powerful expression. I love working with a very simple colour palette but using different surface textures such as mattes and gloss, to give my work an extra depth. I also love simple but bold gestures, stylish yet artistic.
My ceramic work above all is a celebration of the natural world. I enjoy a mix of precision and playfulness, layers and layers of clay slips are built up in a very controlled manner, and then marks etched boldly into the surface are impulsive and free. Mimicking nature, the uniform precision of the pieces contrasts with the spontaneous designs engraved, scratched or etched into their surface, introducing a level of organic unpredictability into otherwise flawless objects. I liken this thought to geology, layers of clay echo periods of time, memories; slow, controlled, ordered. The surface evokes moods, tensions, actions, reactions.
My work is informed by my travels and my coastal hometown of Brighton, where the colours of the sea and beaches provide a continuous source of inspiration. Moods and personal experiences also influence my work in more subconscious ways. After recent travels in Southeast Asia, the beaches of the Thai coast provided fresh inspiration for pieces that have taken my work in a new direction. Following the trip, experiments with new colour palettes led to an unintentional spread of hundreds of turquoise blue swatches, spread out in my studio like an ocean of tiny tiles.
The Reef series pieces are a response to this time spent swimming and snorkelling in Thailand, and convey the mesmerising effect of spending hours under the water: forms flutter across the aquamarine surface of the pieces, fish darting between corals and aquatic plants; the glaze ripples like water. The Coast Series are a response to the skylines and shores of these tropical islands, capturing the constantly changing hues and movements of these spaces with accents of waves splashing against rocks and birds in flight.
The Reef and Coast Series mark a step away from the more controlled work of past years. Natural themes still dominate, but not the figurative forms of past work; this is a more abstract interpretation. The new pieces embrace intuitive mark-making, showing that even as the work has matured, it has become more playful.