Art Wall Camperdown
The Art Wall project for Bridge Housing on Paramatta Road building by PTW Architects in Camperdown was an invitation competition based commission that we won displaying a concept that comprised hand made high colour tile elements tessellated in a random repeating pattern.
Ceramic tiles have been used in architecture to enrich environments for at least 4000 years. It has been found that the use of coloured tiles especially hand made or painted enhance the feeling of social safety in the public domain and have been found to increase the involvement of residents in their living environment. Through learning this it confirmed for me that this was the right medium for this piece being such a public thoroughfare both for vehicles and pedestrians.
About the piece:
This abstract composition is prepared with individual ceramic elements with high colour glaze and subtle tactile qualities. The fluid forms and strong colour communicate the energy and dynamism of Sydney also inspired by the natural elements, colours and seasons of our Australian environment. The structure and sequencing bring an order and a sense of unity to the piece. The lines, drops, marks and impressions applied through working clay and the coloured glaze bring vibrancy and movement to the piece. The vibration of the colour is uplifting and seeks to make the piece widely accessible to those who live around it and move past it.
It was important for the piece to have a certain universality about it as people of different cultures will inhabit and use the building. To be enjoyed from many different points of view but also as one human kind. The colours and arrangements of the fragments are metaphoric for disparate cultural identities and people in co-existance like pixels that make a whole. The piece has been made to be enjoyed from a distance, fragments of colour like confetti between street trees, vehicles and people; then also up close to feel, touch look into one piece or a colour series as you move past it on foot, the micro and macro.
The making of the piece was a very physical experience, it was important for me to hand make each piece from start to finish, forming the clay, rolling, cutting, pressing into, laying out to dry, firing, glazing, arranging and sequencing. A long, slow, repetitive, rhythmic, old process. The application of the glaze, the colour. Aiming for this lightness and reflectivity. There is a pattern even though tiles appear to be randomly applied. This pattern was essential to keep the proportion of large and small elements in balance through the piece. The application of the tiles to the wall had to be carefully organised as we did not want there to be any cut tiles. All of the spacing and junctures had to be measured and calculated accommodating imperfection. On the corners the tiles were mitred at the back edge so that they lined up and joined perfectly.
It was important for the piece to be vandal resistant, coloured and worked surfaces that often deter graffitti artists and vandals, the vitreous glaze is easy to clean. The imperfection of the hand made, the batches of clay, differential shrinkage and slightly inconsistent form of each piece brings this very human quality to the work as a whole, a contrast to the modern clean lines of the building with which it sits.
Statistics and information:
This piece is made from locally made glazes and clay in the white raku style by Blackwattle Pottery. 2 tonne of clay used and one pair of hands (my own). 2 kiln firings one for bisque and on for glaze for preparation for firing and actual firing I was assisted. 2756 successful tiles, large size 220mm square, small size 110mm square. 13 colour sequences, 5 glaze colours used. 10% loss overall. Total square metres 56. Making the tiles drying and firing took 6 months, installation of the piece to the wall with 1 tiler, 1 helper and myself laying out, took 1 week.