PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston May 2023

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U K artist Phoebe Cummings, who works in raw unfired clay, often spends weeks sculpting highly detailed flora — only to destroy her elaborate installations afterward. For a 2017 show at the V&A London, Cummings designed an ornate floral fountain from raw clay that gradually dissolved itself. And for a 2012 group show at New York's Phoebe Cummings, in the raw REBECCA'S RADAR to reuse it. What started out as a necessity has since turned into a highly original creative process that has brought her accolades. In addition to showing her work in museums and galleries around the world, Cummings has received a raft of awards, including the 2011 British Ceramics Biennial Award and the V&A's inaugural Woman's Hour Craft Prize, presented in 2018. Her most recent shows include a joint exhibition with painter Mübin Orhon presented by Galerist and Galeri Nev, Ankara, and the group exhibition "A Matter of Life and Death" at Thomas Dane Gallery in Naples, Italy. Cummings' flora is often modeled after real botanical specimens, but she also dreams up imaginary blooms and life-size surrealist landscapes. But as beautiful and labor-intensive as her work is, she remains unsentimental. "I am often asked if I am sad when the work is destroyed. I think this is specific to our expectation of experiencing an object — that there should be an emotional response to its loss rather than an emphasis on our experience of it," she told Sculpture magazine in 2013. "What draws me to work with clay is that it changes, and it has the potential for endless remaking." Rebecca Sherman Museum of Arts and Design, Cummings' bouquet of raw clay flowers slowly dried and crumbled over the course of the exhibit. After each installation, the artist retrieves the clay and recycles it into something new. Like nature, her poetic and performative sculptures are in a constant state of decay and renewal. Cummings, who has an MA in ceramics and glass from the Royal College of Art, began working with raw clay after graduating in 2005 because she couldn't afford a studio or a kiln; also, clay was expensive, so she had Phoebe Cummings at work Triumph of the Immaterial, winner of the Woman's Hour Craft Prize, Victoria & Albert Museum, 2017 A detail from one of Phoebe Cummings' raw clay sculptures SYLVAIN DELEU ALUN CALLENDER 48

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