Born in Poland, Aneta Regel graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2006 with a Masters in Ceramics and Glass. She describes her work as ceramic sculpture instead of pottery, arguing that the former is more accurate for her style. She exhibited most of her art in the UK, where she became a member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors in 2014. She works in Stoke Newington, London.
The following is an essay by John Christian about Regel’s sculptures. Her latest exhibition, Gneiss, is currently on view at Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris (November 26, 2015 – January 9, 2016).
“Art,” said Oscar Wilde, “is entirely useless.” Indeed, he argued that uselessness is one of its defining characteristics, and that once it becomes ‘useful’ in some sense, it loses its authenticity. Aneta Regel’s work suggests that she would agree. Not for her that earnest concern with function that so many potters profess, as if this in itself gave their products aesthetic and moral worth. Nor is she inclined to follow those who, less puritanically but perhaps even more self-consciously, kick over the traces and push functional forms to ever more extreme limits of independence.
In fact it could be claimed that she is not a potter at all but a sculptor who happens to use clay, just as other sculptors use wood, stone or welded iron. This is not of course an untrodden path, even within the ceramic tradition. China alone offers many precedents, from the tombwares of the Han dynasty to the famous blanc-de-chine figures of deities made at Dehua almost two millennia later. As for sculptors, they have always used clay, whether sketching their first ideas in terracotta or making a more substantial model to be cast in bronze.
Where Regel differs from her artistic forbears is in not choosing to make the human figure her vehicle of expression. Trees, rocks, fields, river-beds – these and other aspects of landscape are the images through which she seeks to convey her vision. A romantic to the core, she wants not only to capture the forms, energies and rhythms of these natural phenomena but to suggest the emotional response they evoke in her. Growing up in her native northern Poland, she was often confronted by the large stones, smooth round excrescences left behind by glacier action, that abound in the forests and have become the focus of legends, being endowed with anthropomorphic and quasi-magical powers. Her own work is informed by something of the same sense of awe in the face of nature, a similar openness to its transcendental dimension.
Given Regel’s objectives, it was almost inevitable that her formal language should be abstract, creating a sort of equivalent to the natural world rather than attempting to describe it. Into these abstracted images she distils her vivid perceptions of form and movement, as well as her almost Wordsworthian sense of the numinous. They provide, in other words, space for the imagination, and not only hers but the viewer’s. For, like all romantic art, these sculptures demand an empathy on our part to match their maker’s commitment. They represent, as it were, one side of a contract, almost, it might be said, a collusion; and, as this implies, they are not for the visually lazy or faint-hearted.
Yet Regel’s work amply rewards our involvement. Usually unglazed but occasionally partly coloured to dramatic effect, her finely crafted pieces have that dynamic tension between power and finesse that is always aesthetically exciting. If they sometimes hint at influences (Claudi Casanovas, for example), these are thoroughly absorbed and in no way compromise her own quite distinctive voice. Not that that voice is in the least shrill or strident. On the contrary, in a field that is all too often ready to settle for some freakish eccentricity, it is immensely refreshing to encounter an artist who is stylistically so relaxed, content to let her work evolve from large ideas and inclusive, time-honoured values.
Regel’s integrity and conviction have gained her many adherents since she graduated from the Royal College in 2006, and she is rapidly making her mark as a rare talent fraught with promise for the future. Quite how that future will unfold, only time can tell; and then time, an artist’s most precious possession, is on her side.
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