12 Contemporary ceramic artists | Breathing new life into an age old tradition

The revival of Ceramic art in the world of fine arts is releasing the medium clay from its traditional functional imperative, and redefining the ancient art form in new ways. Clay has become a medium of sculptural expression, with remarkable breadth and approaches, telling stories, and depicting popular culture. Blending art design and also function with traditional, modern and experimental techniques. Here we share a selection of 12 artists we discovered during our open call on Instagram.

12 Contemporary ceramic artists | Breathing new life into an age old tradition

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Mira Makai | Chamber of Melting Sweets | Solo exhibition L21 Gallery | Images courtesy of the artist and L21 Gallery | Photography: Juan David Cortés

The revival of Ceramics | A dimensional presence in space

Over the past years, the appreciation for contemporary ceramics in the art world has received significant recognition, positioning itself as an art form equally relevant to painting and sculpture.

The path of contemporary ceramics has reshaped and expanded its audiences mainly because of the growth of figurative painting and sculpture, moving the medium into the mainstream of artistic practice

With the growth of representational ceramics into the artistic mainstream, ceramics are now included in exhibitions, contemporary museums, international art spaces and are being understood and collected within a much broader and more nuanced context.

Integrating figurative ceramics into contemporary art is important because it exemplifies the tilting away from traditional hierarchies of artistic practice.

A short while back, we had an open call for ceramic artists, opening up for us a larger spectrum of contemporary ceramics to discover and explore on Instagram.

We share with you our final selection of 12 contemporary ceramic artist and their work in alphabetical order. Cesc Abad, Onka Allmayer-Beck, Emily Counts, Cristina Fiorenza, George Gerontides, Isabell Kamp, Mira Makai, Warre Mulder, Katie Stone, Austyn Taylor, Jeanne Verdoux and Jonathan Voleppe.

CESC ABAD

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Cesc Abad | The Divine | Clay | 120 x 50 cm | Image credit the artist

Cesc Abad Statement

"As happens in Greek ceramics, the narrations that we can observe in the works of Cesc Abad, try to explain certain actions that can be as daily as desire, lust, mystery, or passion, all of the concepts that are intrinsically attached to human nature.

The reading or interpretation in his ceramics can be done from bottom to top, from right to left, or in the opposite direction, which allows the viewer to enjoy different stories or moments that enrich the condition of man.

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Cesc Abad | HOMBRE MISTICO | Clay | 72 x 25 x 20 cm | Image credit the artist

In a certain way, they are somewhat reminiscent of the Sumerian bas-reliefs, whose stories were configured in bands or registers around the vessel and whose initial content was very religious and votive.

Figures seated or in procession, as well as animals, also appear in them, transferring a narrative register to the pieces" -written by the art curator Mònica Marañón

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ONKA ALLMAYER-BECK

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Onka Allmayer-Beck | „92“ | 2019 | Photo credit Matthias Aschauer

Onka Allmayer-Beck statement

My ceramic is all hand build, glazed and fired twice, most of the time I like my vessels to have function such as vase, candle stick, fruit basket etc - but I have furthered myself from that a bit exploring form.

I love my ceramics to look very organic, almost frozen in mid movement.

I like them to have a playful effect and for each of them to be a „statement piece“ - as you would call it in fashion. I feel that my ceramic is very personal to me.

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Onka Allmayer-Beck | “177” | 2022 | Image courtesy the artist

I love ceramic as it is an all natural material- I'm fascinated to see how manifold it is and what people come up with, even everybody starts off with a wet lump of mud.

It holds a strong fascination to me, and I love that you can only control it to a certain extend, I feel one has to stay open and flexible whilst working.

Opening the kiln after a burn or a glaze is still a major event for me, and I will continue with my practice for as long as this excitement holds.

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EMILY COUNTS

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Emily Counts | Ghost Power Suit | 2021 | Glazed stoneware with gold luster, glass, electrical components and lighting | 16 x 11 x 4 inches | Image credit the artist

Emily Counts Statement

Drawing on craft traditions I create ceramic and mixed media sculptures that explore connectivity, identity, memory, and relationships to nature.

Electricity and illumination are often incorporated as I aim to aesthetically merge a sense of the past with the futuristic. 

My work is rooted in abstraction and geometry but includes representational and narrative imagery such as human anatomy, plant life, and everyday objects. 

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Emily Counts | Gathered Treasure | 2021 | Glazed stoneware with gold luster | Dimensions variable | Image credit the artist

Toys, games, and playgrounds are also referenced in an appreciation of play and the power of nostalgia. 

Recent bodies of work are primarily figurative or nature-based. The figures are self-portraits but additionally portray specific characteristics of people in my life that I have loved or lost. 

With these pieces I am examining the strength of memories, the process of ageing, and understanding identity through the depiction of bodies and garments.

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CRISTINA FIORENZA

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Cristina Fiorenza | Hand with care | 2021 | Stoneware with reactive glazes | 36x36x38 cm | Image credit @Kristina Bychkova

Cristina Fiorenza statement

I am an architect, artist and ceramist.
I have participated in numerous international group and individual exhibitions and I live between Naples and Vienna.
I grew up in Naples, and I carry with me the erosion of the rocks of the Amalfi Coast: a place where ceramics are part of traditional culture.
I have the sea inside, as well as the objects and colors that the sea gives back to the beaches of southern Italy.

Material has always played a very important role in my projects, both as an architect and as an artist, and ceramic has always been a material with which I feel comfortable.

The function of my vessels is not the end; they are a means to investigate the surface, respecting the traditional shapes of the container.

I experiment a lot on the use of enamel to create rough and jagged surfaces, which remind me of lava stones, erosion and the age-old sedimentation of rocks.

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Cristina Fiorenza | Fly vessel | 2021 | Stoneware, reactive glaze | 38x28x28 cm | Image credit @Kristina Bychkova

Ceramics

Cristina Fiorenza's works embody an “idea” of “vase” as an object far removed from its intended use.

They represent a conceptual and material hybrid between a sculptural object and a functional object.

The artist works the clay to obtain objects with a rough surface covered with several layers of glaze that can take on the appearance of bubbles or craters.

The artist thus avoids creating inanimate artistic objects, instead turning the material into a body free to perform its own metamorphosis. 

The work, which might appear formally finished, becomes instead something else, precisely through the crumbling of the glazes, which marks new aesthetic weaves on the surfaces. 

Cristina Fiorenza moves within the formal and technical boundaries of the ceramic tradition in a new territory of investigation full of expressive freedom, invention and play.

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GIORGOS GERONTIDES

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"toys&flames"  | Ceramic,clay,plaster,wood,stone | 2020 | Project title "teasing creatures" title from the illustrated story in verse Max and Moritz : A story of seven boyish pranks of Wilhelm Busch | Photo credits Michele Troiani

Giorgos Gerontides statement

Giorgos Gerontides (born in Athens 1987) he is a Cypriot visual artist living and working in Greece.

He studied at the School of Fine and Applied Arts in Thessaloniki 2007-12 and at ERSEP Plastic Arts School of Fine Arts in Lille, France 2009-10 .

He is represented by Athanasiadou Gallery in Thessaloniki and Paros island in Greece.

He has participated in numerous group show and residency programs, including: Coffins Of Black Coffins Of Luck at ILENA TOUNTA Gallery ,Athens GR(2019) and THE EQUILIBRISTS, Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece.

giorgos gerontides, greek contemporary artist, emerging, spotlight, plastic art
“Wrecked dinos" | Ceramic, resin | 30x30x20cm | 2020 | Project title "teasing creatures" title from the illustrated story in verse Max and Moritz : A story of seven boyish pranks of Wilhelm Busch | Photo credits Michele Troiani

His work has many references to the way museums -or even earlier than that with the Wunderkabinetts of the 16th century- shape our understanding of history, to the ways we accumulate knowledge and also on how we perceive the world. 

The appropriation of archeological and other scientific methods of collecting, archiving and exhibiting objects that he use create works that challenge the distinctions between an "objective" (rational) view of the world and a "subjective" (more absurd) version of it, based on fictional narrative - asking questions about the role of scientific knowledge in modern society.

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ISABELL KAMP

isabell kamp, female art, mixed media, keramik, skulptur, sammeln, zeitgenössisch
Touchable | 2021 | Ceramic, Fake Fur | ca. H123 x W68 x D13 cm | Image courtesy Isabell Kamp

Isabell Kamp statement

The work is a theoretical test of different thoughts about communicational structures of interpersonal relationships.

By pointing onto the human appearance and the body language I am introducing questions, ideas and perceptions.

The leitmotif is the search of visual analogy for emotional mental states.

Subjective superior theories of human interaction are built up into experimental arrangements.

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Chance | 2020 | Ceramic | ca. H37 x W35 x D23 cm | Image courtesy Isabell Kamp

Since 2012 I am working with ceramic including extensions like wood, metal, strings and fabric.

A main part of this material is its implicated high quality by being very fragile on the other hand.

An extraordinary image for being human - the high valuation for the psyche and physiology of everybody by being fragile by passing a crucial point of no return.

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MIRA MAKAI

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Collecting glazed ceramic relief | Chambers of Melting Sweets | ca.50x70x5 cm| 2022 | Images courtesy of the artist and L21 Gallery | Photography: Juan David Cortés

Mira Makai statement

Lately, I’m making figural works, I have started building an imaginary universe of my own with these new characters. I enjoy immersing myself in the similarities and differences in the relationship of my works.

I like to search for the little formal and compositional matches between sculptural and painting results.

Every work of art is a new opportunity, which I think is more like a game with materials and free associations. For me, a day is joyful and balanced if I can spend hours in my studio surrounded by my charmingly smiling sculptures. 

After a long process, the biggest surprise is coming when I open the kiln, and the finished work’s colour and qualities come across to me. 

Since I started working with ceramic, I have been constantly fighting and playing with this material.

I really enjoy this process.

I let the clay get the shape that it can have, and I wanted to coordinate it strictly at the same time. I am always trying to expand the physical possibilities, and create new ways to control sculptural forms. 

In my opinion, the process of making these works reflects well on the situations and compositions displayed by the works themselves.

If I would have to highlight two words in relation to my process, it would be a contrast: combat and joy. I think it matches perfectly for the compositions as well. 

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Palma Boogie | Chambers of Melting Sweets | Glazed ceramic | 40x40x100 cm | 2022 | Images courtesy of the artist and L21 Gallery | Photography: Juan David Cortés

My biggest goal is to revive the common memories and associations.

I like to be compared to something that the viewers know from their own past, their own memories, for example, an animation movie, a cartoon, or toys from their childhood. It’s always interesting to talk about this. I love when they say something in relation to the sculptures or painted compositions I didn’t know and yet we find a connection. 

And also I love the greatness and seriousness of this traditional material, and it is also important to me, if someone sees these values in it, as the classical aesthetics of artwork like composition, dynamics of colour and glazing and finishing of an object. Always good to create a connection with other people through artworks.

Bio

Mira Makai (b.1990, Budapest, Hungary) is an artist based in Budapest. Makai works across ceramic, acrylic painting, and oil pastel drawings.

Moving away from the world of organic abstraction that previously characterized her works, she found a new home in a world of hybrid-like, magnified comic book miniatures intertwining of mythological and Pop culture influences.

Her works have been presented in several group exhibitions in museums and non-profit exhibition spaces like Hungarian National Museum, Küntslerhaus KM Graz, Collegium Hungaricum Berlin, Modern and Contemporary Arts Centre (MODEM) Debrecen. She also exhibited her creatures with art galleries in different cities of the European countries and art fairs.

She is represented by L21 Gallery and Galerie Droste. Her works can be seen in Esterhazy Private Collection and the Janus Pannonius Museum’s ceramic collection.

An Esterhazy Art Award winner (2015).

Text credit: Enrique Suasi

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WARRE MULDER

warre mulder, sculptural expression, revival of ceramics, popular culture
Warre Mulder | Canned energy freedom wizard 2020 | 160 x 54 x 54 cm (with base) | Ceramic, paint, Base: painted wood | Courtesy Whitehouse Gallery

Warre Mulder Biography

The sculptures of Warre Mulder (Belgium, °1984) playfully combine form and technique.

From combinations of ceramic, wood and synthetic, colourful creatures originate that appear to hail from the world of the absurd.

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Warre Mulder | King Over Nature | 2021 | 138 x 47 x 47 cm (with base) | Ceramic, paint, Base: painted wood  | Courtesy Whitehouse Gallery

Warre Mulder sets out to imbue his sculptures with a soul.

To reach this goal, the artist samples from the vast archive of sculptural traditions, disregarding any distinction between religious sculptures and the spirited world of children’s toys.

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KATIE STONE

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Katie Stone | "OK, Boomer | "9" x 5" x 14" | 2022 | Image credit the artist

Katie Stone statement

My sculptures exist as storytelling devices, recounting the feeling of coming of age amongst Y2K's contemporary structures. 

Through the lens of a non-binary individual, these works address how gender is harnessed.

Our economy, and the hierarchies that proceed it, thrive on inherently weaponizing the vulnerability of femininity.

The subversive nuances of "cute" are employed throughout the narratives to challenge past and present systems. Ultimately, dressing the concerns of equity and equality with an intentional feminine politeness.

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Katie Stone | "Pasture Puff" | 12" x 5" x 18" | 2021 | Image credit the artist

Short Bio

Katie Stone originally hails from a rural farming region of Connecticut.

They spent their childhood sneaking through barbed wire fences to pet dairy cows.

As a working artist, Katie has lived across the United States and Canada in pursuit of their art career.

They presently reside in New York where they are a first year MFA candidate at Syracuse University. 

A contemporary sculptor, they work primarily in clay and have spent the better part of the last decade in educational roles within ceramics.

Katie’s work has been exhibited in national and international exhibitions including Aqua Art Miami and The Archie Bray.   

Katie has been recently featured as one of the “20 Best Sculptors to Follow” by Art is My Career. 

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Austyn Taylor

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Austyn Taylor | July | 21" x 13.5" x 7.5" | 2022 | Photo by the Artist

Austyn Taylor Bio

A painter and philosopher from New York, once an art teacher of Denver, CO, Austyn Taylor is a nomadic lecturer on sculpture theory and art history speaking at such institutions as UCLA, CCA, SFAI, MSU, CCAFA and Alfred University.

Currently based in Mendocino, CA, USA where she is a sculpture resident at the Mendocino Art Center.

Taylor says about her work:

I use imagery from animation, modern art and animist folkart to create my work. The theme is cognitive dissonance and hope. The pieces welcome the viewer and accept their own predicament as lifeless sculptures. All the animative possibilities of clay has been vitrified out of them, the sculptures are cheery husks of life, existing as a memory of freedom.

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Austyn Taylor | Samuel | 3.25" x 13" x 8" | 2022 | Photo by the Artist

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JEANNE VERDOUX

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Jeanne Verdoux | Head in the sand cup | Ceramics and glaze | 15 x 6.5 x 7 in | 2020 | Image © Jeanne Verdoux

Jeanne Verdoux statement

Jeanne Verdoux is a French mixed media visual artist focused on drawing, printmaking and ceramics.

She received grants and fellowships from the NY City Artist Corps, The French Ministry of Culture, The Bronx Museum, New York Foundation for the Arts,  Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, The French Institute. Her work has been exhibited in the US, Canada, France and China and reviewed in The New York Times, Huffington Post and Boston Globe.

She earned an MFA from The Royal College of Art (London) and a BFA from Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Appliqués (Paris).

She is a Professor at Parsons The New School and NYU. She lives and works in Brooklyn.

The ceramics sculptures ‘Head in the sand cup’ and ‘Gold Milk’ are part of a project titled 'Female vaisselle’. 'Female vaisselle’ is a body of works comprising of ceramics, large-scale drawings on mattress paper and paintings on cardboard.

Jeanne Verdoux | Gold Milk | Ceramics and glaze | 16.5 x 4.5x 8.5 in | 2022 | Image credit © Jeanne Verdoux

The project explores the theme of the female figure in connection to life experiences interiorized in one’s body.

The ceramics are heavily inspired by personal experiences felt through the artist own body.

But Jeanne Verdoux is also fascinated by ancient greek, roman and Persian ceramics figurines and animal shaped vessels. Every ’Female vaisselle' ceramic sculpture is a functional vessel.

It can contain, pour or receive liquids. The vessels ranged in size from 2 to 19 inches high. They are hand build and glazed. Together, they form a collection of ceramics suggesting an eclectic family with members of all shapes, sizes and colors.

Jeanne Verdoux will be showing her ceramic sculptures at Future fairs in NY, May 4-7, represented by Frosch&Co Gallery.

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JONATHAN VOLEPPE

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Jonathan Voleppe | Wolves series

Jonathan Voleppe statement

Reporting on an artistic practice means evoking encounters and experiences that have guided the choice of materials and ways of investigating and shaping the material and affective space. 

A master's degree in sculpture at the BAL was to make J.V. a visual artist.

Subsequently, he let himself be jostled by less academic languages: as a teacher, he discovered the expressive and immediate potential of ceramics as a means of artistic expression; in contact with children, autistic people or new learners, he (re)learns the freedom of raw art which offers unconventional readings of the world. 

The execution in 5' of small pieces that take on a monumental aspect, the integration of personal mythologies, stories of heroes and quests, or totemic animals have made his work more intuitive and more narrative.

Jonathan Voleppe | Wolves series

The series of wolves concretises this source of inspiration. At the formal level, the speed of execution of the modelling preserves the spontaneity of the first gesture and facilitates the schematisation of the animal, in motion (the protruding shoulder blades, the elongated muzzle, tense towards a smell) or motionless (standing, very high on its stilt-legs), or even sitting, tail curled, talking to the moon. 

The creative process is also inflected, joins the personal and the intimate: exploring the attitudes and behaviours of the wolf, experiencing its particularities, recognising affinities with its way of managing its life, leads to progress in the exploration of oneself, to become aware of the animality which continues in humanity.

If the ceramic object is the product of a body-earth relationship, both in its materiality and in its symbolism, it is also the work of firing. The ultimate metamorphosis takes place in the oven; the piece hardens, vitrifies, takes on sometimes unexpected aspects.

The work gradually escapes its creator.

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A huge thank you to all the participating artists, and also a big thank you to all who tagged and shared ceramic artworks and their artist.