Ceramic Sculptor
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Eileen Nisbet: Ceramic Sculpture - Exhibition Statements.


Statement for British Craft Centre. 1979. EN.

"My work at the moment covers a variety of subjects, e.g. aeroplanes, flowers, jugs, abstracts, games, etc. although I frequently re-investigate the same or similar subject. This variety of subject matter is unified by a connecting thread of thought running through all of the works. It is to take the ceramic medium towards the suggestive freedom of the graphic artist or painter who extends a two dimensional working surface into a multidimensional effect in the mind of the spectator. Thus my jug is not meant to be a container but a flat drawing with implied depth of three dimensions. The aeroplane may not seem complete but I aim at harmonising the complexity of lines, angles, shafts, angular flats against a curved cloud. The flowers with no suggestion of colour aim not to be a recognisable flower or seed but imply a fragile strength and growth."


Statement for Anatol Orient. 1983. EN.

'The interests and influences of most practicing artists are usually intensely varied. Often these interests will appear contradictory and difficult to recognize in the actual work. This is very much the case with my work. I can list Braque, Egyptian painting, the glass painters of medieval France, Brancussi, Arp, Klee, Matisse and Motherwell; these spring to mind but the list is extensive. Matisse's work is one of these interests, particularly his drawings in which he presents us with an object transformed. By his ability to select the essence or 'living spirit' of a person or object, to convey a message or feeling (e.g. The Swimmers), and his understanding of form translated by means of his drawn line, a transformation in the simplest and most direct way gives us the 'idea' about his work.This idea interests me very much. I have found in his work some echo of what I am thinking and making in mine.

With a continuing interest in seeing, thinking, drawing, printing, painting and sculpture, and having been trained as a potter, my work is both flat and three dimensional, or neither of those two. It is about a visual idea, e.g. a growing seed, an alighted aeroplane, a flower blown by the wind. The sculptures are about a living quality with a suggestion of movement inherent in the design. The silhouette; cut out shapes and drawn and inlayed coloured lines are the Language with which I try to convey these ideas.

(Pot with) Flyer - As this pot is not meant to contain anything, I do not need to make it round or join the sides, my visual image is clearer this way. It is also logical to me that the decoration can be used in any direction. The painted stripes are used across a suggested round form of the pot or bowl shape in a graphic way and become another form like a flag, flying off the pot and giving a sense of movement to a static form.

Germinating Seed (metamorphosis from seed to flower) - This sculpture does not represent a flower, nor is it a 'new' flower, but about a flower. It contains some of the ideas about a plant from a seed with a single wriggling root, transforming into a bud, bursting into flower, showing first signs of coloured petals. In the minds eye, the root then becomes a curling stalk.'


Statement for Artist Potters Now. 1984-5.

Written by Susan O'Reilly, Jane Taylor and Paul Atterbury with quotes by EN.

As a student, Eileen Nisbet aspired to be a painter, but found herself 'relegated' to the pottery department. After leaving college she continued to throw pots and also undertook architectural commissions which included the making of large tiled panels. She felt increasingly unhappy and tried to express her ideas by experimenting with drawing on to slabs of clay, developing towards her current work, in which she uses wafer thin slabs of porcelain clay as a sculptor like Anthony Caro might use sheet metal to develop a theme.

"I often express my ideas about an object, not by copying its form directly, but by hinting at its shape and the shadow it creates. I might refer to the qualities of a flower rather than attempting to reproduce a particular pattern of stamens and petals." Reference to natural and historical forms, as well as mechanical objects, such as aeroplanes, can frequently be found in her work. "Time spent in museums is very rewarding. I've been visiting different collections since my student days and I take my students there now. The range of galleries is one of the bonuses of living in London."

Eileen works in porcelain clay to create pieces of great fragility. She begins by rolling out thin sheets, letting them dry a little before cutting out the shapes. "I don't use paper patterns, but rely on my eye. I suppose it might be easier to make a cardboard model first and use the sections as a template, but I don't often."

The edges of the sections are thinned down, or broken away to resemble the eroded edges of slate, then linear decoration is incised and filled with coloured slip and areas are painted in, using a very restricted palette, with a carefully balanced tonal range. Colour is applied in bands, linking together the component shapes.

"I didn't colour my early work at all, I used varying thicknesses of white porcelain, pierced in places to let the light through. "These monochrome pieces were dependent totally on the light and shade created in this way. The qualities of porcelain are still important, but translucency as an end in itself is not sufficient."