Geoff Cox - playing with clay
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About the work

I specialised in silversmithing to degree level and even though I had used clay I knew little of pottery. In some ways, the lack of a formal education in ceramics can be quite liberating. When there's no one to say "you can't do that" or "that's already been done", every new idea is a personal voyage of discovery uncluttered by work that's gone before. Perhaps without a map it's easier to find your own unique path.

 

Early work - 1974

At college I'd used metal in a different way, crushing, melting, stretching etc. I began to do the same with clay, distorting sheets of it by bending, twisting, stretching and squashing - exploring its manipulative quality. I loved playing with the material and made free form dishes and bowls - at that time the work was unusual as I wasn't aware of what other potters were doing. The work slowly developed over the next few years as my confidence and expertise began to grow.

Some time later I began to use the same techniques to make figurative work, manipulating textured and distorted sheets to make costume onto cylinders of clay. Hands and faces were modelled individually to make each piece unique. The human figure has been an important element in my work ever since.


Warriors - 1980 / 2000

The figures I made were heroic in character but purely imaginary. Costumes suggested an ethnicity but their origins were open to speculation. I wanted people to create their own stories. Each year I designed another figure and slowly a collection developed. I made other work at the same time but continued developing the warrior series for the next two decades - sometimes larger, sometimes smaller but always enigmatic, of another time and place - open to debate.

Eventually I felt I'd been there, done that [for now]. Time to take stock and start again.


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Aztecs 1995 / 2005

In the mid 90s I began a series of heads [life size and bigger] with a South American feel. Features modelled individually, costumes from rolled out and textured sheets. These pieces suggested remnants of an actual culture though still purely imaginery - a sort of mixture of Aztec and Conquestador.

One thing I've noticed over the years is at a certain point in the process an interesting thing happens. The figure takes on a life of it's own. At that moment it's as if I hadn't made it - it exists completely independent of me. This came as a shock and a revelation. Would it still happen with more abstract figures? Perhaps another area to explore ?




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Cylinder Figures - 2000 / 2006

In 2000 I began playing with the idea of very simple figures - no arms or legs, no features. How abstract could they become and still have human attributes. Was it recogniseable human features that gave them life or was it something more intangible ?.

I began to became more aware of the relationship of two figures - the way they interacted. As humans we learn to read the subtleties of body language. Perhaps the voices of these new figures standing side by side appeared as conspiratorial whispers.

 

The figures never come fully formed. They start with a vague idea but are elusive and often the harder you try to reach a resolution the more they slip and slide away. In the end you have to relinquish control and let the material decide. It's an ongoing process that can't be rushed. Keep making them and they slowly resolve themselves in their own time.


Soda fired - 2007

I'd only ever fired in an electric kiln but in 2006 I built a small gas kiln to experiment with direct flame onto the work. Having always relied on the clay to play a major part in the design process maybe the kiln would provide a new dimension. And so I began to use washing soda as a glazing medium. When this is dissolved in water then squirted through a garden sprayer directly into the kiln at top temperature it's deposited on the work through the path of the flame. Where it touches the figure, the soda combines with the silica of the clay body to form a natural glaze. As it does this most effectively on thin edges it suggested ways to develop the figures to take best advantage of the process.


 


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Figures on stage - 2008

Although I never design work on paper, for many years I've drawn from life. I didn't consciously do this as an aid to making figurative work but for the academic discipline of observation and eye hand co-ordination. A way to ground the figure in a life drawing and place it in space is to indicate it's surroundings - the floor, seat, etc.

I've now begun to explore the idea of placing figures in an environment. This to potentially put them in a context. With little in the way of costume their surroundings might suggest a story to an observer. This work is still in its development stages and the environments become more theatrical.

 

 


Reading the above would suggest that things were the result of a natural progression but ideas never come in straight lines and several other projects sprang up along the way. Some were obviously connected some less so. Some were short lived one offs others
re-occuring from time to time.

1995 / 2000 / 2009 - Standing stones
1997 - Ethinic containers
1999 / 2009 - Helmet forms
2004 - Star gazers
2002 / 2007 / 2009 - mixed media portraits
2005 - Wall masks
2008 - Busts

Do we need to know why we make what we do or is it enough to live our own story and let others make of it what they will ?