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Ceramic Art London 2022 / ‘On Air’

Air pollution, the invisible killer, made poignantly visible by six artist-makers.

The Crossing, Central Saint Martins, London
8th– 10th April 2002

By Louis Barnard / 8th April 2022
Collected smog particles and associated glazes COURTESY: serVies

Collected smog particles and associated glazes
COURTESY: serVies

‘ON AIR’, CURATED by Smogware and London artist Jo Pearl, is hosted by Ceramic Art London at Central Saint Martins’ public foyer from 8th – 10th April. Described by London-based sculptor Jo Pearl as a “call to action”, the show seeks to “make visible the invisible issue of air pollution”.

The range of artist-makers featured in the show presents an eclectic range of perspectives and techniques. “The approaches interlace as a poem,” reflects participating artist Kim Abeles who’s been raising the issue of air pollution for over thirty years through her powerful work.

Linda Bloomfield, for instance, has made a series of petite, bulbous ceramics that represent lichens – whose sensitivity to air pollution means that they act as early-warning pollution monitors. Bloomfield, who trained as a scientist, is now a master of ceramic glazes. In this project she combines both her areas of expertise to full effect.

Linda Bloomfield, 'Lichen', 2022 COURTESY: Linda Bloomfield / PHOTOGRAPH: Henry Bloomfield

Linda Bloomfield, ‘Lichen’, 2022
COURTESY: Linda Bloomfield / PHOTOGRAPH: Henry Bloomfield

Jasmine Pradissitto – another artist with a strong scientific background – sculpts with the innovative ceramic geopolymer Noxtek. As well as having a marble-like aesthetic, Noxtek absorbs up to 15% of its weight of nitrogen dioxide pollution, simultaneously combining its value as an artistic material with direct environmental action. Her piece, entitled ‘Famine’, was prompted by her son’s asthma attack and poignantly illustrates how the asthma pump has become a widely recognised and sadly, accepted feature of our 21st century lives.

Jasmine Pradissitto, 'Famine', 2022 COURTESY: Jasmine Pradissitto

Jasmine Pradissitto, ‘Famine’, 2022
COURTESY: Jasmine Pradissitto

‘Gasping for Air’ is an intriguing fusion of ceramics and claymation by Jo Pearl, creatively visualising the problem of urban air pollution. Effectively exploring what it looks and feels like to struggle for breath, due to polluted air.

Jo Pearl, 'Gasping for Air' sequence, 2022 COURTESY: Jo Pearl

Jo Pearl, ‘Gasping for Air’ sequence, 2022
COURTESY: Jo Pearl

However, it is Smogware’s and Kim Abeles’s respective uses of ambient smog particulates, harvested in the urban environment that are particularly powerful.

The Dutch design-duo who comprise Smogware have devised an ingenious way to illustrate the soot, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter that we produce – and inhale – daily. Architect Iris de Kievith and designer Annemarie Piscaer collect the fine harvest of urban life and use it to glaze their ceramics. The beautiful range of orange and brown hues that cover their work give the impression of a wholesome, organic approach – belying their true origins.

Smogware collection, 2021 COURTESY: Smogware

Smogware collection, 2021
COURTESY: Smogware

Finally, this show is a great opportunity to see ‘Smog Collectors’, a series of commemorative plates that California-based Kim Abeles began in 1987. Initially collaborating with US air pollution control agencies, the scope of Abeles’s project has now extended globally. Each plate features a world leader and their various pledges regarding air quality – the beauty is that the illustration is created from the smog in the leaders’ respective cities. To do this, Abeles places stencils on top of the plates, leaving them in the urban environment to gather the pollution drifting in the breeze. The particulates eventually settle into the folds of Theresa May, or Emmanuel Macron’s, grinning faces. The resulting portraits are particularly emotionally and politically-charged.

Kim Abeles, 'Macron, Paris' from the 'Presidential Commemorative Smog Plates' collection, 1992 COURTESY: Kim Abeles

Kim Abeles, ‘Macron, Paris’ from the ‘Presidential Commemorative Smog Plates’ collection, 1992
COURTESY: Kim Abeles

Conversations around air pollution have advanced massively in the last three decades, yet the issue remains the biggest threat to public health in the UK after Covid. ‘On Air’ provides an invaluable space for the public to experience, absorb and hopefully act on this challenging topic.

The Crossing, Central St Martins, 1 Granary Square, London.
Opening hours: Friday and Saturday 10am – 6pm, Sunday 10am – 5pm

@ceramicartlondon

Jo Pearl
@jopearlceramics

Kim Abeles
@kimabeles

Linda Bloomfield
@lindathepotter

Jasmine Pradissitto
 @jasmine_pradissitto

Smogware
@smogware_london

@ser_vies

Article by Louis Barnard
Article by Louis Barnard
Louis Barnard is a Hackney-born and based writer, covering a range of disciplines within the visual arts. With a background in outreach and community-led programmes, Barnard has a soft spot for art that is socially engaged and empowering. View all articles by Louis Barnard