At first glance, Phil Brooks’ ceramic pieces seem at home in the long tradition of ceramic vessels. Whether empty or filled, functional pieces - beakers, vases, bowls - contain and give form to volume. Brooks confounds this simple concept however, and it soon becomes clear that clay extrusions often disrupt the volume contained by her ceramics and in some cases the inner space escapes the vessel entirely.
Their sharp-edged shapes and smoothly finished planes seem designed to interlock with one another to serve an indeterminate mechanical purpose. It might come as a surprise to discover that Brooks’ works are the result of the age-old technique of hand-coiling. Once coils are stacked and merged, the resultant form is pared back and smoothed out. Some works are left unadorned, others feature restrained underglazes and clear glazing. Where surface decoration is applied, it creates a tension between the ceramic as a two-dimensional surface and the ceramic as a three-dimensional drawing.
This tension is grounded in Brooks’ background in architecture and design and can be seen in the way she blurs the lines between interior and exterior. Like a Mobius strip or an Escher staircase, the delineation between outer and inner surfaces is unfixed. This in turn disrupts both the space the works enclose and and the space they displace. On occasion, the exterior surfaces penetrate the space contained within the work; outer walls curve inwards to become part of the interior volume - or do they?
London-born Brooks studied at the Chelsea School of Art and the Architectural Association School of Architecture. After a career in interior design, she started working with clay in 2014 and followed this up with study towards the Diploma in Ceramic Arts at the Otago Polytechnic in 2015. Phil Brooks was a finalist in the Portage Ceramic Awards in 2017 and 2018, she has exhibited at the Pah Homestead and her solo show Pots I Couldn’t Draw was shown at Studio One Toi Tū in 2018.