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Jan Guy

Artist's Work

Birth of Death (3 Elements)

    Work introduction

    Jan Guy

    Artist’s Statement

    In the last decade, my ceramic works have explored an emotional life, but not as a linear, representational narrative. The work draws on extractions and filtering of the textures, spacial tensions and intimacies of a moment. A moment is never singular though it is a singularity. A moment is a complexity that reaches into past events and draws the future closer. I find the medium of clay allows this re-membering and prophesising in the creative process more than any other material I have encountered. Working with clay seems even more important to me today because it slows contemporary time and opens a deep well of connection to myself and others. This is a rare experience in a daily life dominated by valuing of the image and the instantaneous.

    Thoughts and feelings of a moment, as if high tides, wash and lap against the epidermis. Sometimes, they appear far off in the distance – dry and low, but with the space between them and the world marked by the soft, undulating traces of their retreat. Sometimes, they traverse the skin’s dam, seeping, bleeding, rushing out to meet the world; there they find their kindred in the damp formlessness of clay. They shape the clay and the clay with its chameleonic nature reveals their endless faces.

    These flows between the visible and the invisible, the harsh and the soft, the flesh and the mud - they are my process, they are my history, they are my kindred.

    I work with different clay bodies and methods in each work; they come together in assemblage. Each work can be reconfigured in different ways, mirroring the idea of a moment’s complexity.

    Birth of Death draws on the experience of grief, the realisation of one’s mortality and the revitalisation found in such moments.

    Artist Biography


    Jan Guy has been an Australian artist, writer, teacher and sometimes, curator for about 30 years. The field of Ceramics has been the main focus of her art practice with an emphasis on sculptural, assembled and installed works. The various methods of ceramic production, including wheel throwing, hand building, slip casting, are the vocabulary for her creative works and different clays and surface treatments provide the individual intonations of this vocabulary. She received a National Craft Acquisition Award in 1989 (Australia), a Yingge Ceramics Museum Artist-in-Resident Award in 2016 (Taiwan) and most recently was an exhibiting finalist in the 11th Mino International Ceramics Competition in 2017 (Japan). She has

    also been an invited resident to the Arctic Ceramics Centre in Finland (2015) and Sean Gallery in Hong Kong (2018). She was a committee member for the 2009 Australian Ceramics Triennale during which she organised Young Guns, an international recent graduate exhibition and the publication of Celsius, an online journal of the peer-reviewed conference papers of the Triennale. In 2011, she spoke at the Ceramics and Tea Symposium in Taipei and in 2014 at Ceramics in the Expanded Field conference Westminster University, London. And delivered papers at the Australian Ceramics Triennale’s in Adelaide (2012) and Hobart (2019). Her path as an artist is coupled with her work as a full time academic at Sydney College of the Arts, the art school of the University of Sydney where she teaches ceramics and other forms of contemporary art. One of her greatest passions is supporting the work of emerging and mid-term contemporary artists through the writing of catalogue essays and journal articles. Since the late 80s, she has shown her work in over 50 exhibitions.

    She believes that art is life and life is art. No lie.