Artist Aneta Regel builds nature from fired and re-fired clay.
The natural world is filled with exquisite geometries, alongside irregular forms that grow and erode in unpredictable ways. The latter are what inspire London artist Aneta Regel. With her raw, sculptural objects made of clay, rocks, and pigment, Regel conjures up poetry in the misshapen. “I am trying to challenge our conventions of beauty,” she writes to The Creators Project. “In fact, some pieces are on the edge of being almost repulsive—like, unwell...and yet, they attract.”
Regel’s sculptures loosely reference nature and the human body, at times resembling contorted branches or fragments of arteries, limbs and organs. Her process pairs innovative practices with pottery’s centuries-old traditions. Initially hand-formed, coiled and slab-built, the objects are fired multiple times, pushing the material to its limits. Chunks from other pieces, which have already been fired and glazed, are incorporated, as are crushed rocks and other unprocessed ceramic materials.
This creates dramatically different textures within a single object, which provide clues to its inner history. “Often, materials ooze from beneath the skin of outer layers,” Regel explains. The artist’s own memories are also incorporated—floral patterns from her grandmother’s kitchen tablecloth, for example, or allusions to the post-glacial landscapes of her native Poland.
While sculptors that use ceramics too often get cornered in the world of craft, where the conversation can focus on technique and materials, Regel’s work defies categorization, and the artist is clear that she wants her work to be understood on a deeper level. To work with clay and stone is to dialogue with nature, and she is after that “direct, primal, almost primitive response to the matter.”
The transformative aspect of pottery also provides conceptual significance. The objects “capture a strong sense of inner life—that moment of transition from one state to another, from raw to ‘ripened,’ solid to fluid, rough to smooth...” Regel finds inspiration in the sculptures’ endless “potential for remaking,” and in the magic of discovering and rediscovering the unpredictable effects of the kiln. “I control most of the process, but what’s most exciting is the uncontrollable, something that comes out from within the form and materials. A secret.”
Arranged in groups, in man-made settings where they appear displaced, Regel’s pieces paint surreal landscapes. “It’s almost a psychedelic world,” the artist remarks. Some seem to be in the midst of intense inner conflict (and fittingly, the artist cites Francis Bacon as one influence among many). The sculptures exist both inside and outside the natural world, in a kind of between state—just as the artist straddles the worlds of art and craft, and of tradition and innovation.
Aneta Regel’s work is currently on view at Puls Gallery in Brussels, though we are unsure how the gallery’s schedule has been affected by the recent attacks in that city. A solo show is coming up in Berlin, at WeGallery. To learn more about her work, click here.