Scorch Marks, Accumulations of Ash and Fissures: The Work of Jonathan Cross Studio
Jonathan Cross is an artist and ceramicist based out of Southern California. Using sedimentary clay and atmospheric firing techniques, the artist creates sculptures and vessels that bear witness to the transformative qualities of the material itself.
The artist begins each piece by compressing the semi-wet clay into a solid, malleable mass and carving forms into it. The process, which he likens to excavation and discovery the way an archeologist might, derives from the artist's aesthetic judgment, his intuition guiding what may typically be seen as elements of design, such as surface and proportion.
Where other ceramic techniques require the application of glaze to the piece before it enters the furnace, atmospheric firings affect the atmospheric condition within the kiln and create unique types of patina on the clay bodies as they harden into stone. These chemical reactions and their associated glazings are determined by the different kinds of fuels used - fire, soda, or salt - and produce the final colours and textures that inform the pieces' characters. Cross uses salt and wood firings in particular, directing but never entirely controlling the heat applied to the pieces, resulting in inimitable patterns that recall the distinct parts of geological formations.
Some of the final textures and finishes left on Cross's work are scorch marks, accumulations of ash, and fissures on the pieces, complementing the rough and smooth dichotomies inherent to the hardened stone. The jagged edges are a testament of the sedimentary material into its new life as ceramic object, doubly-transformed by its time in the kiln. By balancing raw edges and fire-scorched surfaces with elegant lines and planes, the artist creates a tension in his work that makes the objects appear as though suspended in time.
Though the artist mentions architectural and geological influences are not at the forefront of his mind when creating his work, his work is largely influenced by the relationship he cultivates with the art and architecture he studies - naming the works of Richard Serra as an influence - and the natural landscapes he chooses to visit and absorb, such as the Mojave desert, where he maintains his studio and kiln.
All images courtesy of Jonathan Cross
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