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Graham Marks reinstates his passion for ceramics with ‘It can be what it becomes’
sculpture ceramics presented by Graham Marks
Image: Courtesy of sculpture Space NYC

Graham Marks reinstates his passion for ceramics with ‘It can be what it becomes’

The sculptor and artist mark his return to the ceramic arts after a 30-year hiatus with otherworldly candelabras and sculptural vases at the Sculpture Space NYC.

by Ayushi Mathur
Published on : Nov 30, 2022

Renowned American artist and sculptor Graham Marks returns to the Sculpture Space NYC, United States after a 30-year-long hiatus. With his solo exhibition, It Can Be What It Becomes, Marks explores the creative process with captivating sculptural vases and candelabras. The illustrious exhibition reads through the chapters of Walt Disney’s enchanting fairy tales and the French Decorative arts that inspired the likes of the story’s accompaniments, which was also the theme of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition from last year titled Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts. The art exhibition, running from November 4, 2022, till December 3, 2022, marks the artist’s return to the creative industry post his rural private practice as an acupuncturist for over 25 years.

“This recent work is much more than the sum of its many parts. It conveys the sheer joy of an artist's reunion with medium and the formal intelligence that comes from a lifetime of looking,” says Glenn Adamson, a renowned curator, critic and author. The multicoloured ceramics from the exhibition speak volumes about the love that Marks holds for sculpting with clay, not just from the perspective of crafting functionality, but also for capturing the versatility that clay offers to shape and form expressions.

The show opens up the colourful world of Graham Marks’ ceramics, which preach the form and vibe of Walt Disney’s charismatic adaptation of the French decorative arts. While Disney's Lumiere the candelabra, Mrs Pots a sèvres porcelain, and Cogsworth; a grumpy-looking Boulle clock fashioned the intricacies of the decorative arts, the Rococo style of art, and the opulent Baroque elements in Beauty and the Beast, Marks' well-conceived contemporary adaptation of these art styles coloured the entire art exhibition space in wildly creative clay shapes. “I chose vases and candelabras because they are open-ended formats and have celebratory roles in our lives,” exclaims Marks. Not just the opulent European art styles, Marks’ cites the inspiration for the collection to be mapped through remote sources including the Jomon ware from Japan and ancient alabaster carvings from Egypt.

Moving through the American art gallery, different forms and shapes of ceramic vases and candelabras present themselves as completely contrasting pieces. Every exhibit is the opposite of the ceramics that Graham Marks’ has previously created and challenges the subtle design context that he earlier adhered to. He infuses unusual colour combinations into the categories of design accessories, twists and turns ordinary shapes, and crafts the essence of decorative artworks from a contemporary perspective. The result is a series of highly creative pieces that certainly rise beyond their functionality to be artistic while creating a poetic dialogue between Marks’ exceptional sculpting skills and clay’s versatility. These objects exemplify the adage (attributed to Paul Klee) of ‘taking a line for a walk.’ They swarm with sinuous elements which defy any easy categorisation,” says Adamson.

Graham started working with clay in 1967 when he established himself as a professional sculptor and arts educator. His coil-built ceramic sculptures were most often inspired by the conceptual essence of vessels and elements of nature. After pursuing a career in sculpting arts spanning two decades, the septuagenarian artist discovered his interest in healing and went on to pursue the healing sciences and acupuncture in 1992. “Coming back to the studio, in my 70s, I strive to listen and shift in response to what the material asks for. The idea is to improvise and stay out of my own way. way. I want the process to be joyful and the coils used in construction to be dynamic, playful and liberated,” says Marks.

The entire collection on view is an artistic transcription of Marks’ learnings from the past. It speaks at length about the ceramicist’s adoration for this medium of art and the magic that can be created through clay.

The exhibition ‘It can be what it becomes’, Graham Marks- New Work is currently on view at the Sculpture Space NYC from November 4, 2022, till December 3, 2022.

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