Now into the 8th year of our partnership with the British Ceramics Biennial, we are excited to present FOUNT as our partner exhibition for this the 5th installment of the BCB. Presenting brand new and contrasting works by Elena Gileva
and Mark Malarko
, FOUNT is a site-specific response to the processes and challenges involved in the approach to, and commissioning and delivery of Public Realm development.
From their ancient origins as functional structures built to provide a source of clean drinking and bathing water, sanitary improvements meant that the ubiquitous public fountain developed into representations of a city’s status – grand landmarks and creative symbols of authoritative or industrial power, wealth and prosperity.
For Stoke-on-Trent, historically a manufacturer and global exporter of ceramic fountains, there is a particular resonance. Connotative notions of life-source and wellspring are important for a city emerging from a difficult post-industrial stage of development, and seeking a new identity as a city of culture.
Right in the centre of Stoke’s City Centre is a public space called Fountain Square. Historically, a meeting place and trading area, the Square has hosted several different fountains over the last 2 centuries, but in recent years, for various reasons, Fountain Square has been without its eponymous feature.
The fountain as a public realm feature is once again gaining popularity in city centres all over the country. For FOUNT, we have asked Elena Gileva and Mark Malarko - artists with contrasting ceramic backgrounds, but complementary working approaches - to consider the function, purpose and relevance of a contemporary public fountain, and for each to offer a proposal for a replacement fountain for Fountain Square. In doing so we are looking to explore a series of concerns - the utility of public sculpture, and the role of artists in Public Policy. What purpose should our public spaces serve to a city’s residents? Can sculpture and installation help create successful public space? Where is the balance between functionality and craft? How should a city’s stakeholders, planners and decision makers approach the commissioning of Public Realm development and what might emerge when artists are offered such commissioning possibilities?
The Artists and Proposals
A symbolic meander. A water flow enticing to enter and take the path through. A flow engulfing the landscape and creating a context of its own. An imaginary space where one can walk on water. Public space being a myth of the old times. Fountain as a story. Fountain as a symbol. Fountain as a myth of community. Fountain is a
holy grail of a public space, a waterfall of pubic conscious. The water represents the energy, the ambrosia of eternity pouring into the field of time. The endless flowing represents the eternal nature of this mystical dimension and also the infinite nature of its source. The inside of the bowl or pool is sacred space that represents the transcendence of duality or on a psychological level, the gap between our thoughts. It is exactly this gap that the flowing water fills. A pragmatic use of a fountain as a water source for hydration is long gone and redundant, but its conceptual purpose of a social centre and a nourishment to the common conscious of a community is ever more relevant.
A flow of subconscious a representation of communal environment expressed through the hidden and the behind the scenes. Created not as a functional water source but as an emblem for the citizens and a space to be. I see a fountain as a claim to prosperity and continuity and as a result of that I see the symbol of Cornucopia as a very fitting image to represent that and wish to create a place of rest and pleasure , an environment to recharge and engage invigorated by the sight of the soul replenishing water flow. The architecture of a water system, the entanglement of the pipework creating the web of the fountain universe.
A fascination with history and culture contained in objects is expressed throughout Gileva's work. Observing and studying formal aspects of artifacts as well as learning their meanings and histories drives an interest in the material as culture, in its expression and interpretation. Decoration and surface are the main basis for the transmission of a concept. Abandoning current trends of minimal, modern/postmodern and the purely conceptual, Gileva takes ORNAMENTAL as a subject and symbol of the old and new - the spiral movement of history.
Russian-born, Gileva is widely exhibited natiuonally and internationally, and has recently finished her MA in Ceramics at the Royal College of Art.
The Water in Majorca Don’t Taste Like What it Ought To
I remember seeing a council sign above the last remaining bench on the Limehouse Cut canal a few years ago detailing reasons for its proposed removal. Listed as a main reason was that it encouraged anti-social behaviour. I thought it was funny that the bench, through fulfilling its social purpose was being labelled as anti-social. A few months later the seat of the bench was sawn-off, leaving two stumps.
The calamities of action all arise from the human condition of plurality, which is the condition sine qua non [essential] for that space of appearance which is the public realm. Hence to do away with this plurality is always tantamount to the abolition of the public realm itself.
A fountain invites plurality, and the unpredictability, moral irresponsibility and haphazardness that go with it
The points of reference for the fountain come from the casual and vernacular ways people use public space. This design for The Water in Majorca Don’t Taste Like What it Ought To inverts the traditional form of a fountain: rather than being expected to look up and admire the water cascading down towards us, here we are invited to step inside and become a social focal point within the wider public realm. This fountain can be thought of as a series of loose parts within a space that is enclosed but also open. People are invited to enter through the gumper thumbs arch, which is flanked on one side by fishy palm trees, and on the other by a triplet of sad dogs spitting water. The focus of the enclave is a floor mosaic which reads ‘The Fire Burns Upwards’ . On the mosaic sits the various rocket stoves, kettles and tea cups surrounded by a number of low moveable stools.
Mark Malarko is a British artist currently working in London. Introduced to the world of alternative culture through his years spent as a skateboarder in London during the 90s, Malarko gained notoriety in the noughties for his prolific output of public mural works both sanctioned and unsanctioned. Malarko’s obsession with bricks and pots began when he moved to Stoke-On-Trent during 2013. He has since developed a loose and energetic style that merges traditional glazing and casting techniques with unconventional references to popular culture. His ceramics slip between the abstract and the familiar, creating a unique and peculiar contemporary visual language.
FOUNT is the 5th exhibition AirSpace Gallery has held in partnership with the British Ceramics Biennial (BCB). Since 2009, we have worked with over 20 ceramicists and artists working within a ceramic tradition or in response to clay as a main material. Of course, ceramics and its core constituent – clay – are irrevocably linked with Stoke-on-Trent, and the BCB has been at the forefront of the recent renaissance of ceramic activity in the city and a raised interest all over the world.
The British Ceramics Biennial launched in 2009 as a new initiative of residencies, fellowships, commissions, education and enterprise projects running year-round with a major festival every two years. 2017 is the 5th edition. The Biennial draws on the historical strengths of the past in championing new future directions for the cityand was always intended to be a catalyst for regeneration in the region and to create a platform for innovation and excellence celebrating the best in current ceramic practice, both nationally and internationally. The six-week long festival presents work from the UK’s leading contemporary ceramic artists in a series of new exhibitions and special events across the city, embracing the heritage of Stoke-on-Trent as the home of British ceramics, and celebrating the city’s creative edge as an international centre for excellence in contemporary ceramics.
For its fifth edition, running from 23 September to 5 November 2017, this six week international ceramics festival animates the city with exhibitions, installations, new commissions and hands-on activities that will showcase the creative potential of clay, reflecting and stimulating the resurgence of contemporary ceramics.
The former Spode Factory site in the heart of Stoke Town forms the main hub of the festival, with the cultural quarter of Hanley forming a significant second hub across venues including the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, AirSpace Gallery, Bethesda Chapel and City Central Central Library. The festival programme also links with some of the city’s key industry players: Emma Bridgewater, Burleigh at Middleport Pottery, World of Wedgwood and Johnson Tiles.
Artistic Director Barney Hare Duke comments: "Launching the fifth iteration of BCB is something of a milestone. This year’s festival is as ambitious as ever with over 100 artists involved in exhibitions and events taking place in 9 venues across the city. It’s a particularly exciting and important time for the city and we are proud to present our 2017 programme to stoke the flames of the bid for Stoke-on-Trent to become UK City of Culture 2021."
For more information on the Biennial’s programme please visit http://www.britishceramicsbiennial.com/