Central China Ceramics Biennale 2017

All photographs by Alistair Blair

Artist’s Statement for Cont{r}act Earth

Biannale curated by Wendy Gers

Sounding Ground engages many layers of thought whilst taking the form of an undulating landscape of small round human constructions in clay that whirl amongst a gathering of stones. Painted replicas of selected stones hover as a dialectical question about the physical nature of matter and what is real. A soundscape of stone rubbing on stone, the clink of clay vessels and the human voice flows from five microphones placed in front of the glass of the museum display. A progressive aural sequence follows the tonal range of the installation. The artist aims thereby at involving the viewer’s emotions and vibratory body so that the work as a whole attains a quiet and intense contact.


Stones have always been markers of journey, of memory, of intent and of territory even in cities. They ask to be picked up; they lure us with their beauty and because we have responded, they travel. We engage them as road markers, pathfinders or to carry thoughts, messages and secrets. We hold onto our chosen stones as we hold onto our thoughts, feelings and personal covenants.

Carl Jung speaks of the search for the philosopher’s stone and the process of psychological individuation as an alchemical process of transformation and purification. Potters are alchemists and earth people. We engage the material of our own beings as we make contact with the soils and minerals, the composition of our earth. These materials have been made from the firings and sedimentations of geological time; and potters reorganise and recompose them. Our research and observation pertains to the materiality and immediacy of the medium, often with unexpected and enlivening results from the kiln.

Sounding ground offers contact with the artist’s personal sediment – the accretion of skills, collected signposts and artefacts, constructions and musings, and much time with her own body in close contact with the earth’s substances, with its malleable clay bodies.

Making the small, lidded clay ‘stones’ bears testimony to moments of skill as well as to moments of inattention. Some are fine and light whilst purporting to be stones; and some are heavy and grave. These vessels bear the thumb whorls and wheel spins that synthesise as marks of human mimicry. In the best making moments, mimicry gives way to sheer osmosis. These are the moments of deep contact.

The ground these paintings and vessels lie on is composed of elements sieved from ash and salt; from ochre and carbon; from magnetic particles of iron, mica, and silica sands. The contact, gathering, sorting and refining are part of this work.


Also gathered here is a community of friends and family who offered particular stones and their associated journeys. Two musicians responsible for the soundscape – Christina Goodall and Stuart Zeneka – spent many hours playing, singing and making sound recordings with stones, metal gongs, and these small clay vessels.

These people have therefore also engaged in a contract with this work. In this way it has become collaborative, a sounding in many directions.

In recent years the field of astrophysics has developed instruments that record the sonification of ancient stars. We can now hear transpositions of stellar music. Two thousand four hundred years ago Plato spoke of the sounding of the spheres. This notion filled me with longing when I was a child.

It seems that the views of ancient wisdom and the current approach of the scientific world can now perhaps find places of convergence. The wisdom of aboriginal cultures who live in close observant proximity with the earth is being validated at last.

Vibrational or wavelike interconnection calls up urgent questions of context as opposed to focusing on and measuring disparate particles of observed matter. This deep shift in the Zeitgeist cannot come quickly enough. It is a matter of urgency as we attempt to reverse an attitudinal unconsciousness around the truth of interrelationship. Previous prevailing philosophies have assumed the use of the earth entirely for “man’s” benefit. Humankind is now watching the degradation of many species and the disruption of the earth’s biomes and enduring discord amongst the earth’s inhabitants.

Claude Levy Strauss, the father of structural anthropology proposed in the early 1960’s that it is not the social phenomenon that shapes the cultural and intellectual phenomenon, but vice versa.

ALL living things are in vibratory and contractual interdependence. There is growing evidence from every field of scientific research to support this. The thought forms governing this research are starting to shift so that new findings can emerge.

Sounding Ground proposes that the great leap for humankind needs to be an integrated, sensate and hyper aware walk on the material ground of our being. It requires an attitude of listening, where we place one foot after the next asking questions regarding our contractual interdependence on the sustaining ground.

Katherine Glenday, 2016

for the First Central China International Ceramics Biennale, Zhengzhou, Henan province, China. 2016 – 2017



  1. Jung, C.G. (1968). Psychology and Alchemy, Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 12, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-09771-8
  1. Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind, tr. George Weidenfeld and Nicolson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966); Claude Lévi-Strauss, Totemism, tr. Rodney Needham (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963).