Skip to main content
Arts & Humanities Research (PhD)

Alison Rees

PhD Thesis – Turning the page: a new dimension to the language of ceramics with reference to wayfaring, porcelain paperclay and the archetype of the paper page

Supervisors – Professor Felicity Aylieff; Martina Margetts

About Alison Rees

Alison Rees grew up in the landscape of Cumbria before studying Archaeology at Nottingham University.  She now lives and works as an artist in London and recently completed her PhD in Ceramics.

Alison’s practice and research draws upon wayfaring and the language of the paper page.  She has developed a ceramic page, made from porcelain clay, whose form and surface tell an abstract story of self and place. Each page is made by hand and each page is unique. Multiple pages come together in wall-based compositions to explore themes such as repetition and variation, lightness and minimality, grids and edges, borders and framing, levels and layers, balanced tensions, colour and spatial organisation, series and progressions, arrangement and rearrangement, temporality and flexibility. 

Alison’s current work reflects the vibrant colours and the visual language of the city, as documented on her wayfaring journeys.


PhD Thesis – Turning the page: a new dimension to the language of ceramics with reference to wayfaring, porcelain paperclay and the archetype of the paper page

Summary

My research has established an original clay form – a clay page – that stands apart from traditional clay-based archetypes such as the vessel, the figurine and the tile.  The surface treatment and the presentation of the new clay page, formed from porcelain paperclay, correspond with the language of the paper page and wayfaring (as theorised by Tim Ingold).  Together, form and surface tell an abstract story of self and place.

Research Questions

First, how might a new physical form, based on the external archetype of the paper page, be developed?    

  • How would such a form be made?
  • What language could be developed on the surface of the clay page?
  • How would the clay page be presented? 

Secondly, what might a new clay page, its surface language and presentation, mean?

  • In what ways do the new clay page and its surface language and presentation draw on the language and characteristics of the paper page and wayfaring?
  • What would this new form in clay represent?
  • How would the new form relate to and differ from existing ceramic contexts?
  • What can be learnt about this new form by drawing connections with other theoretical frameworks?

Findings

Layers of coloured slip and glaze are applied to the clay page surface to construct abstract compositions that respond to the clay page form, and which reflect wayfaring.  The clay pages are then composed into a group, using the grid, and are presented on the wall.  

My research explores repetition and variation; grids and edges; borders and framing; levels and layers; lightness and minimality; the ordinary and the everyday; colour and spatial organisation; series and progressions; arrangement and rearrangement; temporality and flexibility.  It involves an ethos of working in a self-sufficient manner.  

The meaning of the clay page and its surface is interpreted as a story of the self, finding a place in the world, seeking joy and freedom within a framework of restricted order and balancing tensions, elevating ordinary, everyday experiences into the extraordinary.  

The interplay of subject, object and place is grounded in Modernist abstraction and colour theory (Itten) and later theoretical frameworks of the grid (Krauss), the parergon (Derrida) and the overlooked (Bryson). Besides fine art and anthropology, secondary research also draws on poetry, economic theory, philosophy and ceramics.

Continual processes of making and material thinking, alone in the street and the studio, are the means by which the new clay archetype develops. Through these collective research procedures, the clay page achieves the aim of the title: a new dimension to the language of ceramics.

Graffiti Spot 124 x 11 cm (2018)
Engineered Construction 121 x 37 cm (2020)
Not Absent, But Present221 x 17 cm (2017)
On The Road140 x 11 cm (2018)
Cut-Out32 x 24 cm (2018)
Tip Toe II145 x 11 cm (2019)
The Library of the Wayfaring Self I140 x 45 cm (2021)
The Library of the Wayfaring Self II140 x 95 cm (2021)
The Library of the Wayfaring Self III250 x 70 cm (2021)

Medium:

Porcelain; Porcelain Slip; Glaze