Interview with Jennifer Conroy
Jennifer Conroy makes intricate forms out of porcelain, giving ceramics an almost paper-like quality of delicacy and transparency. You can now view her Window Walk installation at Cumulus Inc. which is on now, until 21 September.
What do you make?
I work predominantly with Porcelain and Bone China (and sometimes glass too) to make Sculptures, Wall Pieces and Interior installations. My work is sculptural, and often involves hundreds of handmade pieces – together they make a whole sculptural form which take many guises, from suspended installations, such as the one in Cumulus, or framed wall pieces, to freestanding sculptures and wall art.
Inspired by tactile organic forms, my work explores curves, undulations, creases and crevices. Creating paper-thin forms in porcelain, the clay becomes semi translucent and explores the influence of light, shade and shadow on the forms and the interior environment.
My undergrad and post grad courses were both Fine Art courses, teaching you to think about the aesthetic and the concept first, and figure out the technical details later, something that I still carry through my work to this day!
Describe an average working day
I work from a studio in North Melbourne, just a five minute bike ride from home. Having previously lived in London for ten years, I would sometimes commute for hours – London is so big! I adore my sense of community in Melbourne and still have to pinch myself that I can just hop on my bike and be in the studio within minutes.
An average working day in the studio varies enormously, according to what stage my commissions are at. Having your own studio means wearing lots of different hats, from Studio Manager, to Project Manager, to PR and Marketing and of course Artist!
Today my Studio Manager hat is on, as I am finalising a big commission being shipped to London. I am in the midst of engaging a Fine Art shipping company. I need to organise the fine art packing and crating of the work, so they can get flown off to the U.K!
Wearing all the different hats of running a studio means you need to develop an array of skills across so many areas aside from the making of pieces!
Other days I could be in the studio all day slip casting or hand building. I often work on lots of projects and ideas at once, and love the variety.
Tell us about your Window Walk Installation at Cumulus
I’ve worked with the lovely team at Cumulus to make a suspended installation. It’s made up of over a thousand porcelain pieces, which are strung together and suspended above the bar area, and visible from the window.
Each porcelain piece is paper-thin and plays with light and shade, as shadows are cast from the curves of each piece. The piece occupies an interior space ten metres across and a metre and a half down.
The piece is called ‘Float’ and offers gentle minimal forms to sit within the beautiful aesthetic of the Cumulus interior.
The team were so welcoming and lovely to work with, from initial briefing, to the first site visit to do a test hang, and then the final installation.
What exhibition have you seen recently/in the past that has really inspired you.
I take inspiration from so many areas of Art and Design. I’d say my favourite ‘Artists’ are Sculptors, something which is perhaps carried through my work as I refer to my practice as Sculptural Ceramics, rather than studio production.
Anish Kapoor is one of my favourites, he’s had such an incredible International career, and always makes intriguing pieces. In a nature inspired sense, I love the work of Andy Goldsworthy, who takes natural elements and creates temporary and ephemeral sculptures, through to political Artists like Ai Weiwei, investigating human rights issues.
I recently had my first trip to MONA and absolutely loved it. Such an inspiring place, from the location, the Architecture, the Interior spaces, the spatial design of each exhibition, and of course such a varied collection of Art. I absolutely loved it.
In terms of Melbourne based exhibitions, Boyd’s Brides at Heide was such a powerful and emotive exhibition for me. It explored themes of cultural conflict, and offered a critique of Australia’s racial divide in the form of a love story. A very powerful exhibition.
I also loved Ernesto Neto’s installation at the NGV recently. Having seen his last exhibition in London, it was great to see one here in Melbourne. I love that it’s tactile, and interactive.
Very much looking forward to the forthcoming Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei exhibition too!
Internationally, I am loving Barnaby Barford’s exhibition at The V&A in London; ‘The Tower of Babel’ He’s made an installation of over three thousand bone china houses making a cityscape of London communities.
If you could instantly learn another skill, what would it be?
So so, many! But if I had to choose I’d say working with wood. I’m exploring lots of new ideas for Sculptural Wall Pieces and have a new collection coming soon.
I love how wood complements porcelain so well. I’ve been looking into sustainable dark woods, with lots of natural grains and they sit with the ice white porcelain forms beautifully. I have so many ideas of new pieces for the studio…..just not enough hours in my day for making them!
If I weren’t making I’d be…
Teaching! I’m a qualified Lecturer too, and used to teach in Universities, Colleges and with various community groups when I lived in London. I worked with people to develop creative projects. I used to tutor a variety of subjects from Sculpture, to Ceramics and Glass to Jewellery.
Teaching asylum seekers is very very close to my heart. I used to run creative classes with various groups in London and absolutely loved it. Playing a small part in helping someone to integrate into local community after experiencing extreme trauma is an absolute privilege. People develop so many skills in these groups, aside from the creative aspect, it develops social and communication skills, language and the confidence to interact in a new community.
What other events are you looking forward to as part of Craft Cubed 2015?
So many great events, it’s been incredible! I’ve enjoyed going to the Open Days, and top of my list is to go and see Akiko Nagino’s installation, it looks incredible and marries so many influences of my own, from light and shade to shadow patterns!