Mark Mitchell's organic ceramics are a wealth of contradictions. They appear delicate, yet have both physical and spiritual strength. Their interiors show the fine craquelure associated with age, yet this exquisite spidery glaze is entirely deliberate. They are worked in intricate geometric forms, yet these patterns change and blend in an entirely painterly fashion.
Mitchell has stated that his interests lie in drawing out the relationships between the different features of the ceramic object, whilst simultaneously simplifying its form. (1) The emphasis shifts and turns between the features of line, surface, and volume, and also between the positive patterns and negative space created by his repeated geometries. This is in keeping with the thought behind the exhibition's title, taken from E.H. Gombrich's seminal 1979 book on the psychology of decorative arts, in which the author suggests that there is a universal human impulse to seek order and rhythm. (2)
The artist uses a restrained palette and bold line to enhance the sense of volume in his works, a feature further enhanced by the eggshell-like interiors and metallic flashes. Mitchell is not afraid to use many approaches to his surface patterns, his rich, gold-flecked Waro, gentle Ma, and rhythmic Truss each revealing a strikingly different aspect of Mitchell's art.
It was musician, artist, and social observer Brian Eno who coined the concept "Repetition is a form of change". By this apparent oxymoron, Eno was suggesting that any attempt to recreate a pattern will introduce minor variations, and that such variations will often become more interesting that the pattern itself. (3) Mitchell's works are sculptural, in that there is no attempt to create perfectly round or perfectly smooth bowls. Neither, too, is there any attempt to be anything other than human in his elegantly painted designs.
Mitchell's patterns shift and shatter, drawing our eyes again and again to the subtle differences in his repeated geometries. There is an old adage about jazz, that it is the art of playing the wrong note at exactly the right time, or the right note at exactly the wrong time. In the fluctuations of his painted designs, Mitchell has produced just such visual jazz.
1, 2. Artist's statements, 2015.
3. Brian Eno and Russell Mills, More Dark Than Shark, Faber and Faber, London, 1986.