Ceramics: Art and Perception

Isobel Egan inside out

’ve known of Egan’s work since 2005, and have watched her develop exponentially as an artist over the past decade. When Egan graduated with an MA in ceramics from the National College of Art & Design, Dublin, thirteen years ago she was producing a series of works focusing on fragility and memory. Using a combination of paper-thin porcelain structures and restrained copper shelving, Egan was heavily influenced by the writings Indeed Egan brought at that time and continues to incorporate a firm academic basis to her art . For example, in terms of the concept of personal space she has written: ‘The box structures are like micro works of architecture. They represent environments for the nurturing of imagination… The walls in these pieces, although somewhat malleable, represent the essential boundaries that define personal integrity’. By far the most impressive and visual-arresting material produced by Egan to date is her body of work titled The seven pieces are exceptional entities in their own right, but wall-mounted as a whole the overall impetus is one of uniform cohesion. Egan’s aim is to evoke the themes of space, stillness and containment through her sculptures. In addition she wishes to pique the curiosity of the viewer and invite them to explore initial hidden aspects within the work. Nowhere better was the latter exemplified than in the piece she calls , which comprises 112 porcelain boxes that together measure approx. 54cm across, all mounted onto a backing board. This is a staggering work by way of visual stimulus – the eye is drawn deep within its centre regardless of the viewing angle. Egan was inspired by the architecture of the Parthenon in Rome and further explores this premise explaining via her artist’s statement that oculus refers to a circular opening, especially one at the apex of a dome: ‘Oculus is a circular porcelain form, whose complex internal structure gradually reveals itself. The geometric, gridded interior is composed from a sequence of boxes, whose own inner spaces are visible through multiple small apertures. With this work, the viewer is invited to look below the surface to glimpse intimate elements that might normally be hidden’. The grid-like appearance both inside and outside as the title of these seven pieces refers, is no more apparent than in 2015 (80cm x 80cm, porcelain). It is an outstanding work, with modern Japanese architecture to thank by way of inspiration. Its effect of serene depth belies a complex grid-like arrangement, which has been painstakingly brought together by Egan. It is an artistic and structural triumph, but as has been denoted of Egan’s work in the past, there is a level of humility apparent throughout such spatial logistics.

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