Published 28th September 2022
by TDE Editorial Team
IN 1975, JANET Lines arrived at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in London determined to become an illustrator. A chance visit to a friend studying in the ceramics department changed her mind. This week, in a calm sunlit space above the elegant Mayfair shop floor of British luxury brand Connolly, a whole new collection of ceramic sculptures by Lines, entitled ‘Unknown to Me’, are displayed for the first time. From a distance you might think ‘Shelter No. 6’ was a large leather bag – perhaps one made from Connolly’s famously soft leathers. It has the rippling folds and accidental posture of textile, and gathers in a little at the neck as a stiff sack might do. But come closer, and you see that this vessel is made of clay, ribbons of a combination of stoneware and porcelain, balancing refinement with strength, hand-pinched together in an organic process of form-making that Lines describes as a “a kind of unknowing”. As the form emerges, Lines leaves the marks of her pinching like vertical runes, working at right angles to the horizontal contours of her sculptures, enhancing their undulating rhythms and reinforcing the lively, improvisatory quality of the composition. As the piece becomes bigger, the process of building becomes, in Lines’s words, “much more of a dance,” as she tries to maintain the balance of the piece whilst controlling its energy and vigour. To the surface, once finished, she adds terra sigillata, a light slip of fine clay particles that gives the piece radiance without blunting the stone-like matt finish of the material. After a first firing, for this piece, she has then buried the vessel in sand up to its neck, before setting fire to wood shavings in a final elemental gesture that binds the black line around the sculpture’s opening deep into the material. Through these processes, the space inside becomes a potent, pregnant mystery, sheltered from scrutiny, wrapped in clay. The collusion Lines brings about between nature and culture in the work’s formation echoes back to man’s earliest art making, even as the play of black line and white surface shows its kinship with other highly sophisticated expressions of twentieth and twenty-first century abstraction.