WHAT I LOVE ABOUT RAKU BY CRAIG HOY
There is something mesmerising, maddening and enlightening about raku firing. I love its elemental connectedness, its exciting immediacy, its predictable unpredictability that taps into something ancient. I love the scars the pots bear – testament to their experiences and survival.
The physical nature of the groggy clay body (an ironically controlled portion of the very planet we live on) brings back memories of lessons learnt about respect from a dear old friend, Thancoupie, who said to me, “Bala Boy, who am I to tell the Earth what to do?”
I love the extreme heat of the kiln, rapidly pushing the clay to its limits, reconnecting it to the molten soul of the Earth from which it came. Then comes the jolting temperature change as the glowing forms are exposed to the air we breathe – it’s an audible shock; the crazing and tinkling of glazes and the cracking of the forms themselves can be clearly heard.
There is respite in the combustion bin, albeit ever so brief. The very things that gave them comfort are soon set ablaze by the pots themselves, and they’re surrounded by flames again. The cocoon is sealed, and the volatile saps in the Mango and Flame Tree leaves add to the thick choking yellow smoke as the bins buckle and bend inward from the reduction pressure – what (or who) could survive such chaos?
From the ash and smoulder the pieces emerge scarred, blemished, dirtied and transformed.
Water is the great healer. It soothes the aching forms, calming them. They are cradled with apologetic delicacy, their drenched surfaces scrubbed raw, cracks entrenched, cleansed. What an ordeal. Yet the pots emerge as though being born, even resurrected. Brand new and yet ancient.
They bare their scars for all to see. For some the damage can be incidental and for others catastrophic, fatal. For most however, their survival is testament to their endurance. In all this smoke and flame I can’t help but see the humanistic metaphors.
I’m interested in human experiences. What we can endure amazes me and continually inspires my work. I’m especially drawn to hardships and stories of endurance, suffering and loss. I find it intriguing how we carry these experiences.
Take, for example, the Afghanistan veteran I know. He is full of smiles and he lives life, hits the gym, and loves. But privately he discloses his anguish and reveals bullet wound scars. He will never let himself forget the loss of his mates under fire. Or there’s the ex-student who left me with a sense of his overwhelming human compassion and awesomeness (it’s a real word, honest). He met the girl of his dreams, his soul-mate who became the mother of his child, only to have her taken from the world too soon. A young man in his prime, full of life and oozing love, transformed into a mourning single dad. I’m so proud of the man he is.
There is an exhibition in Cairns every year called The Blunt Edge of Portraiture. One year my sitter was an interesting character and I began to delve deeper into his story. It was by exploring the complexities of character that led me to cutting out shapes in my work, which enables a kind of layering within the forms for us to look in, under, through and around the works.
There is darkness in the world. How much creative energy should be spent on documenting it? Regardless of how intriguing the story, by dwelling on it am I simply adding to it? So I try to balance my subjects and celebrate the strength, joy and and triumphs of family groups, determined young women, and teenagers.
Around the time I began exploring ceramics, I was gifted a raku kiln following the death of a dear friend. In the beginning I thought I was just making the most of what I had on hand. Though perhaps it was meant to be that my first kiln was a raku kiln. Perhaps it was the kiln, its alchemical furnace and the associated smoke and flame that transformed me – a molten safety blanket that melted me down but made me new, whole again, cracks and all.
Craig Hoy is a Cairns-based artist and potter. Over the past twenty years he has exhibited in numerous solo and group shows and his work is held in public and corporate collections. His recent solo show Sur(face) Value was held at Makers Gallery, Brisbane. He is part of Pop Up North Queensland Arts Festival from 28 July – 6 August, and will exhibit new work in Outstanding Australian Contemporary Ceramics from 5–19 August at Skepsi @ Montsalvat, VIC.