Zara Nicole Smith
The growth of my practice is to open conversations on personal and local lives, touching on proximities and absences as a way to find my voice in contemporary society. My work is dependent upon environmental factors or site-specificity and explores themes of impermanence, grief and making new connections to reflect the wider themes of personal and community identity while contemplating ideas of a ‘contemporary history’ or a ‘lost present’.
My work has become heavily process based and I am interested in the meditative process of making, most recently while exploring the properties of different clay bodies and the ritualistic nature of alternative firing techniques.
I am intrigued in the ephemeral nature within work that can exist in the reliance of others and in the flux of impermanence within nature.
As a result, my work is interdisciplinary, working in a range of mediums from ceramics, performance art, site specific work to ephemeral forms and their points of intersection. The social connection being an essential element that is present in all works while focusing on the importance of connectivity within my practice, whether this be to the land or to people or poetics.
‘Mother Plant’ began life as an everyday object, a small cutting from my late mother’s spider plant that she had gifted me not long before her sudden passing. I turned to this simple object in a time of great anxiety and social unrest during a pandemic. With a need to connect to nature and others, the plant was used as a metaphor for branching out, growing bigger and making new connections by taking cuttings from the plant, making pots to re-home them and passing them on to a web of participants with an invitation to share cuttings back to me in the hope of making a larger web of connections.
I then returned to the potters wheel, something which I had briefly explored, to now create pots to house the plantlets from the “Mother Plant”. This meditative process of throwing and manipulating clay was therapeutic for both the time of uncertainty and also through a grieving period for my mother.
To deepen my practice within sustainable parameters, I chose to use a ’natural glaze’ to decorate the pots by using waste matter for colouration and also through the study of alternative firing techniques.
Returning back to a socially orientated practice, these were then distributed to participants and documented through social media and an interactive map. The relationship between myself as an artist, the artwork and the viewer become intertwined. The sharing of the plant, receiving photos back or participants adding to the interactive map becomes a collaboration that brings a flux and uncertainty, an unknown that gives the work autonomy of which I can’t predict the outcome between myself, viewer and whether the artwork will shift into something new.
Don’t Drink The Wa’er
In my third year of study, I had become more aware of environmental factors concerning land within my artwork. Working closely with the land on site at Lang Craig’s, I dug up the ground, collected water from the burn and turned it into clay back at the studio. The vessels made were left unfired and returned to the land, in a soft performative manner in which they ultimately met their demise, dissipating back into the land in which they came. This became a circular process in the relationship between making artwork and the use of materials, while contemplating themes of loss and the cycle of life.
For my practice, this was the conception of clay exploration and more specifically with wild clay and the focus on a more process based way of working. This project changed the way I now approach the idea of the site within a work, with a shift from using man-made materials to a far more organic response to site and materials.