EDINBURGH, Scotland — A while back on cfile.daily we profiled Damián Ortega’s exhibition CAPITAL Less at the Gladstone Gallery. It’s been almost too long, but we have a new collection of Ortega’s works to enjoy. His current exhibition at Fruitmarket (Edinburgh, Scotland, July 9 – October 23) diverges from the pillars we saw earlier.
Above image: Damián Ortega, Broken Sac. Installation views from his show at Fruitmarket. Images courtesy of the gallery unless otherwise noted.
Instead, his new sculptures focus on elements, not science elements but the classical ones: wind, water, earth and fire. The exhibition studies how these act on the earth both independently and in relation to humans, according to the gallery. This natural theme is boosted by his choice of clay as a sculpting medium. With this most basic and ancient of materials Ortega (b. 1967, Mexico City) formed natural features such as waves and icebergs.
In one of the works, water runs across a series of plains made from brick in order to display erosion. A couple things are at work here. The first is comparing sculpting by humans to the sculpting that takes place through nature. The second is humanity’s attempts to use the natural world for art.
We’ve been posting a lot of articles lately about contemporary ceramic art and design that has an archeological or anthropological thread. We were pleased to learn that that theme is present here, too. From the gallery:
A major new sculpture presents a bewildering array of tools, made from seemingly unfired clay and laid out on tables as if they had just been unearthed in an archaeological dig. The tools move from the most ‘primitive’ to the most ‘sophisticated’, from representations of flint arrowheads to clay facsimiles of mobile phones in a work that is both a celebration of the skill that sets us apart from other animals and a visual history of our exploitation of the natural world.
Ortega shows us clay as matter, as energy, as power. His is a restless imagination and the exhibition turns The Fruitmarket Gallery into an arena for the investigation of a world in flux.
In his review for the Scotsman, Duncan MacMillan highlighted another feature of the exhibition:
In other works, Ortega rejoices in the clay itself. Broken Sac, for instance, consists of rough balls of clay scattered around a hollow pot and is inspired by the behaviour of Mexican burrowing crabs. Elsewhere hundreds of little balls of clay are suspended on strings to look a bit like a spatial model of the asteroid belt.
This is interesting because up until this point in the show, Ortega explored sculpting from the point of view of intelligent humans and inert natural materials such as ice, wind, fire and water. The burrowing crabs add a third player, animals not quite as intelligent as we are but who are still engaged in the process of molding and shaping the Earth around them. Before, the theme was a contrast. Now it’s a spectrum. It suggests that the entirety of creation takes part in this same activity.
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily.
Do you love or loathe these works of contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.