John Souter is a Helena, Montana-based sculptor creating curious objects of pop-abstraction. His current exhibition, Forbidden Fruit (Philadelphia, December 4, 2015 to January 30, 201), at Snyderman-Works Galleries is a culmination of 3 years of intensive research into color, form, and language, a major accomplishment for the young artist. Souter received his BFA from the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, and launched into the art world with a Windgate Foundation Fellowship and residencies at the Guldagergaard International Ceramic Research Center in Denmark, Anderson Ranch Art Center, and at the Archie Bray Foundation in Montana, where he will continue to work through 2016. Forbidden Fruit is Souter’s second solo-exhibition at Snyderman-Works Galleries, which shows his sculpture alongside his (nearly) two-dimensional mixed-media wall pieces.
Above Image: John Souter, Hang Tough, Clay, glaze, enamel, fabric, plastic, ink, 9” x 11” x 11”, 2015. Photo courtesy of Snyderman-Works Galleries.
Souter works in the realm of artists like Ron Nagle, Ken Price, Takuro Kuwata, and Nathan Prouty, creating curiosities with bright pop colors, one of the prominent trends in contemporary ceramic art today. Souter uses the properties of his media for an exploration of its natural phenomena that presents an undeniable sense of familiarity. In Hang Tough one already possess knowledge of the viscosity of a drip, the wispiness of a feather-ball, and the reflection in the plastic platform. It is the intention and odd specificity that give this work its insatiable sense of mystery. You want to give reason to the pop-absurdities as home-decor, technology objects, sex toys, or containers. Unfolding in the same way as Nathan Prouty’s sculpture, Souter’s work gives the necessary clues to a solution that is impossible to reach.
Souter explains the importance of color in his practice:
“I have chosen to deeply investigate the materiality, embodiment, and phenomenological nature of color. It defines, destroys, and creates our ocular field while producing our response to settings and objects. Color can open, close or alter our perception of spatial relationships and shape emotional reactions. It is necessary to our perceptual experience of existence.”
In Souter’s work, color and material are one. When the green surface cracks in Endless Mountain, exposing the interior, you see that the “green” is not just a surface or decoration, it is what the object is made up of. He gives objecthood to color by showing that it is not a coating, but the essence of the thing. The cell phone is a unique experience in our modern culture; it is comprised of shiny casings that conceal a mess of chips, batteries, and processors that we don’t understand. Despite the infuriating unanswered questions of purpose and function, his sculpture is likely to be the most transparent, understood object that one would encounter in an average day. The juxtaposing feelings of complete material understanding and unsolvable practical purpose is the apex where Souter’s work exposes compelling layers of mystery.
Justin Crowe is a Writer and Director of Operations at cfile.daily
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