Every Habitual Action
Alexandra Standen’s vessels have the intensity of a haiku poem. Placed all together in this exhibition in neat rows, the installation seems like an anthology, a collection of friends and moments. The pots are idiosyncratic holders of memory. Coil-built the works highlight their process and time put into making. As Standen herself writes:
It’s quite meditative and lengthy at times. The ideas and thoughts I have while making kind of transfer into the forms in quite a personal way (but I guess that’s a little hard to convey to the viewer.)
It is almost like the pots themselves absorb and respond to the surrounding. The Lopsided Hoya, for example, the vessel for Standen is a souvenir of a conversation with a friend about the asymmetry of her Hoya plant sitting quietly in the corner of the studio. The work becomes a marker of this conversation, that time, but also iconographically approaches some sort of response. The vessel extrudes past a more traditional neck length, like a plant growing, and then falls away, lopsided.
There is an earnestness then that underpins the work; there is a real attempt to account for personal history and story. On the other hand, as Standen highlights, there is a degree of impossibility to fully account for this subject matter. The pots, in the end, are whimsical and lyrical. The contours are not neat and made on the mechanical potter’s wheel (let alone on the factory floor). They almost seem like expressionist illustrations; the colours too link to traditional vessels but are hyperbolic and cartooned. The artist’s hand, her gesture and style come forward as artifice.
The show has a contemporary equivocation. Set out neatly in rows, on their steel pedestal each work is treated as a sacred placeholder, almost like a reliquary for a personal but special thing. The works are like the memories themselves: sometimes serious, sometimes fun, sometimes a passing fancy sometimes seemingly more meaningful, black and dark.
As a viewer, you can not help trying to read Standen’s peculiar sign system (What does the shape, the colour allude to? What has accrued to the vessel from the past? What does the pot mean for me now that Standen has let it free?). Sitting upon those plinths, fragile and brittle, the pots ask us to be careful, quiet and attentive. Standen has created a space that reminds us to remember and cherish intimate moments.