JS: This interview took place in 2016, when the initial pangs of an idea for Asparagus came about. Paloma was the first artist I thought of inviting into the zine because of her series ‘There’s One Missing From Your Bunch’ – a beautiful, tactile and sensitive body of work – which I had seen in London a few months earlier. This was our first meeting and, as you can see, Paloma was incredibly generous with her time and insightful answers.
From the artist’s website:
Paloma Proudfoot (b.1992, London) is a London-based artist and clothesmaker, studying MA Sculpture at the Royal College of Art. Works with the artist and choreographer Aniela Piasecka as Proudfoot and Piasecka, as well as part of the performance group Stasis.
Asparagus Zine: Your single asparagus stalks are removed from their bunch. What does the individual object mean to you?
Paloma Proudfoot: The asparagus works were initially inspired by the story of a gift Edouard Manet gave to his dealer Charles Ephrussi. Ephrussi had overpaid Manet for a larger still life of a whole bunch of asparagus, and as a thank you Manet gave Ephrussi a painting of a single asparagus spear with a note saying ‘There is one missing from your bunch’. I was really taken by the romance of this story and it got me thinking about the gestural quality of the single object removed from its implied bunch. The individual can be singled out as an exemplar of it’s kind, such as the individual rose stem given to a crush, or because it doesn’t conform to the expected standards, such as the double-yolk egg that falls short of the supermarket grade. Whether the prize or the anomaly, there is a romance or mystique to the object that doesn’t fit with its expected standard and that is what I am interested in playing with.
For my show There’s One Missing From Your Bunch [May Project, 2016], I presented the imperfect or mutant individual object –deflated eggs and conjoined asparaguses – as these prized, up-on-a-pedestal, fettered things. I wanted the soft, almost saccharine Neapolitan palette and the glazed lustre of the ceramics to lure people into the space, but then to find themselves also perturbed by the unsettling sexuality of the drooling yolks and phallic asparagus.
AZ: Material, as well as process, is important in your work, especially your ceramics as far as I can tell. Can you explain your relationships to your materials?
PP: Materials and process are incredibly important to me, both as a means of communicating ideas, and a method to provoke new ones. I spend periods not making, reading and going on research visits to houses, museums or factories; as well as gathering images of things from day to day life. I eventually reach research saturation point and start making as a way of computing this melange of influences. I like to see materials this way, as a sort of unconscious conduit for my thoughts rather than a means to directly illustrate any one idea. If a work can be translated in a blurb on the gallery wall, I don’t think there’s much point in it existing as a physical object.
That is what I love (and also quite often hate!) about ceramics, is that so much of the process is beyond my control. Clay behaves in such odd ways, and allowing it to do so takes the work into that untranslatable realm where I want my work to sit. At every stage from opening the mould and cradling the malleable still-wet slip object to opening the kiln to reveal it’s final hardened glazed form, the work almost never goes in the way you expect. It’s the element of surprise that makes ceramics both so infuriating and addictive.
AZ: Why do you like to bring living elements – performance, flora, raw food and ecosystems of decay – into your sculptural work?
PP: The Rook and Raven show (‘Sunny Side Up!’, June – July 2016) made me realise that these transitory or perishable parts of my work are really important in off-setting the static quality of the ceramics and prevent them from being purely decorative.
I borrow from the aesthetic of the fetishised design object but it is also important to interrupt or dismantle that, with flowers or food that wilt or decay, or in performance that opens the ceramics up to the precariousness of being used, touched and broken. In my Edinburgh Arts Festival piece Made to Be Broken, a collaboration with Aniela Piasecka and martial artist Jamie Robson, I was able to resolve the issues with the Rook and Raven installation. I used the same bowling pin and ball sculptures and pistachio green floor, but the interaction of Piasecka and Robson fighting, and eventually smashing, the work, brought the tension I felt was missing at Rook and Raven.
Paloma Proudfoot is a London-based artist. Paloma Proudfoot’s website.
This interview was conducted in 2016 and was originally published, in an edited form, in Asparagus Issue 1.