Theatrical Ceramic Masks

Term: 4 Year: 2013

The Year 9 ceramic task was to explore and push the clay to its limits with manipulation and the creation of facial expression.

Research into “Commedia dell ‘arte” and artists such as Francis Bacon and Edvard Munch was undertaken as a source of inspiration. Girls were encouraged to use each other to capture the detail of facial features and the way they move. Many ideas were married together; combining more than one mask was also explored.

The building of the mask structure was covered with a practical demonstration. Multiple plastic masks were spliced and overlapped. Cardboard extensions and supporting structures of newspaper were added for greater expression of the idea. Animal and human features were mutated; sometimes four masks were fused together.

The basis of the clay construction was a slab. Textural fabrics were impressed into one layer then stretched and ripped to create interesting edges. Fine grog was impressed into the clay to suggest another theatrical element. Glass buttons, luminescent shapes and fine glass stringers were utilised to create reflections, luminous shape and linear patterns. The students were encouraged to build ‘theatre’ into their ideas through their use of colour. Viponds high gloss paint and crackle mediums were used and the feathering of colour harmonies was explored.

The ceramic work was removed from the supporting armature when leather hard. Crumpled newspaper was used underneath the work where required for extra support. Drying was very important so the work was left to air dry on the slatted shelves before a day of kiln drying with pilot lights.

Display of the work was totally student driven. The venue, Hillsley, a church interior was splendid as the light was able to be artificially spotlighted together with filtered sunlight through stained glass windows. The girls labelled and arranged the work for the 110th Birthday Visual Arts Exhibition featuring Prep to Year 11 work. The exhibition design of the show showcased the girls’ skills as practising artists.

Kathleen Nowak
Ivanhoe Grammar Girls
Suitable for level 6