It is eminently fitting to describe Phil Brooks’ new pieces as a “body of work”. The ceramics draw upon the most basic of utilitarian forms and amplifies the strangely human characteristics they exhibit. PVC may have replaced terracotta or vitrified clay as the preferred material for water management, but what is striking is the linguistic system attached to them. Fittings might be male or female, they may sport an apron or a cowl or knee joints. They are active: connecting or disconnecting, opening or reducing, coupling, weathering, adapting.
Brooks introduces these concepts into her ceramics, each of which interrogates the relationships between form and space, interior and exterior, volume and surface. In addition to this, each piece interacts differently with its environment, establishing a range of sculptural possibilities.
Brooks has always been interested in playing with the boundaries between interior and exterior in her vessels. Please Stay and Reunited suggest the fusion - the coupling - of two works together, and as they embrace one another, it is not entirely clear where one element stops and the other begins. Like a Mobius band or Klein bottle, the outside of one becomes the inside of the other.
The actual bottle forms are guarded and inward-looking; we are keenly aware of the volume they enclose, but are given little access to this interior space. Our gaze is focused in the first instance on the subtle texture and colour of the clay, and we can appreciate how the artist uses these material attributes to enhance the sensuousness of the works.
In contrast, with their richly glazed interiors on full display, Dodecaduct and Tea Leaves have nothing to hide. They reach out into their surrounding space, broad mouths and open spouts suggesting generous abundance. Other pieces possess a self-contained quietude and offer themselves up more slowly. Content invites slow contemplation of its rounded, uninterrupted form. I’m Listening seems designed to receive rather than give up its secrets, bringing to mind fairy stories where confidences are whispered into the knots of trees.