Hannah Tounsend in conversation with Contemporary Ceramics

Hannah Tounsend : Photograph Leah Wareham
Our March exhibition, Hannah Tounsend: Marking Time, is one of many across the country, and across the world to have been affected by the temporary closure of a gallery space. This weekend (Saturday 4th April) would have been the final weekend to visit Contemporary Ceramics to see Hannah's outstanding work. Instead, as with the rest of the UK, we are all in lockdown with digital access through photographs and writing. We are aware that many of our customers and Hannah's followers missed the opportunity to see her work. Although not the same as being there in person, we asked Hannah a few questions which arose in response to the works on display and also in response to an interview by Dominique Corlett in Ceramic Review, March/April 2019. The blog feature includes a selection of images from the exhibition.
Our post opens with how Hannah is responding to the current lock-down.

'Lock-down has meant some big changes to how I work. My large city studio and new kiln are out of bounds, so I have retreated to the old outbuilding in my garden to make and experiment. Without assistants, my large forms are impossible to make, so I am using the time to experiment with small scale works and of course lots of glaze tests! I am also, rather more reluctantly, applying myself to the admin work that in the usual course of events is pushed to the bottom of my to-do list - my job for this week is to revamp my website and I will soon be adding an online ceramics store. '

Hannah Tounsend : Material Testing : Image Leah Wareham

Hannah Tounsend in conversation with Contemporary Ceramics

Hannah Tounsend : Marking Time at Contemporary Ceramics
Contemporary Ceramics: In this exhibition there is a strong sense of movement expressed through your brush marks and mark-making which runs through both the clay work and the printmaking. Can you tell us more about the relationship between clay and print.

Hannah Tounsend: The two disciplines of ceramics and printmaking are inextricably linked in my work. Initially my paper monoprints were created as a way to explore surface and mark-making; confined to my sketchbooks they were precursors to ceramic outcomes. However, I quickly came to view these 2D pieces as works in their own right and to present them alongside my vessels as having equal significance. The dual nature of my practice has driven much of my development as an artist. Over the years the conventions, tools and techniques of the print room have marked my ceramic work, whilst aspects of working with clay have widened my approach to print. This crossover has resulted in richer, more complex ceramic, paper and canvas surfaces than I could otherwise have achieved.
Hannah Tounsend : Marking Time : Exhibition Image
Hannah Tounsend : Marking Time : Exhibition Image
CC: Can you tell us more about the things that inspire your practice. Dominique Corlett tells us about the importance of a trip to St. Ives and your annual return to sketch the seascapes which have become inspiration for your work. How do these sketches find their way into your ceramics and print?

HT: Ideas for both my ceramics and monoprints derive from my fascination with the seashore; this area of contrasts that is continually reshaping itself with the passage of light, weather and time. It also provides the muted colour scheme that I work within. My inspiration starts right here where the sea meets the land- sketching details of the landscape, jotting down short descriptions of what lies before me, taking photographs and experimenting with overlays of watercolour washes in my sketch book. I might collect interesting finds; smooth washed pebbles, pieces of tumbled glass or perhaps rusted iron bolts or fixings. All this comes back into my studio to help shape my next series of works. Abstraction allows me to interpret landscape in a very personal way. Freedom from representation gives me the space to respond to place in a broader manner; using colour, gesture, composition and text to capture my experience of a particular site within my work.

CC: In the same interview, you explain of your hybrid platters that they ‘will be all the more precious for being so difficult. Is the visibility of the technical challenges in the finished piece important for the viewer to see, or do you want your work to appear effortless?
Hannah Tounsend : Marking Time : Exhibition Image

HT: The technical challenge is for myself alone - I would hate any effort to be apparent in the final vessel. When creating work my key concerns are composition, mark and surface; the complex making method I have adopted is a way to explore these themes. I hope the final forms have a tranquillity to them.

CC: What images keep you company in the space where you work?

HT: I have two watercolours by Salliann Putman that hang beside my computer. The vivid colours of her abstracted landscapes are always cheering and evocative.

Photographs: Dee Honeybun


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