Steven Geddes 'Bathing Venus'  Porcelain Sculpture photograph by Cameron McNee_cropped

Steven Geddes

Geddes incorporates a wide range of materials in his practice, but one of the most striking and compelling features of his work is the level of immersion and commitment to any particular material in any given period.The generative potential of materiality itself has been a guiding principle from the beginning of his career. Initially training in ‘surface detail’ at The London College of Fashion, he was able to experience and explore a very direct engagement with making – a hands-on questioning of the tactile, textural, sensuous formal and expressive possibilities of textile as medium.  The rich language of the long history of textile opened up endlessly fertile ground for bringing visual ideas from across place, time and cultures into relation with Steven’s own time and place (including the strong influence of growing up in the Scottish Highlands).

Encountering the work of the ceramicist Colin Pearson, Steven was then seduced by the beauty and possibility of porcelain.He embarked on an apprenticeship with Colin and quickly became deeply immersed in this new, very different, material. Like textile, however, porcelain is one of the oldest material in the history of making and so, similarly carries a strongly evocative freight of meanings and associations.  Steven quickly took free-rein with the heritage of language and generated compelling and potent reformations. Figures that would draw association with Cycladic and early Greek funerary figures, Neolithic fertility figurines like the Willendorf Venus, hand-thrown vases harking back to Japanese ceramics are shifted into playful and often unsettling or dissonant territory with the injection of a very contemporary heat and dynamic.

The association of porcelain with death – it’s implicit purity and timelessness, stillness, it’s blank whiteness – is taken into more directly violent and provocative terrain. A lovely hand-thrown and painted vessel at first sight has the beauty and serenity of a Japanese tea bowl but on closer inspection the hand-painted decoration reveals an orgy of sexual activity in calligraphic turmoil.  An exquisite porcelain skull, with subtlety of expression hovering like the ghost or memory of a face has the back it’s form smashed in like a broken egg, the fragility and stillness of it’s quiet stuff blown away by something sudden and violent and shocking. In his sculpture ‘Mother and Child’ Geddes provocatively brings together into the two separated compartments of a cold,hard breeze block (serving as some sort of deathly crypt)  an incongruously solitary, disembodied breast and a hungry, tooth-filled otherwise featureless ‘head’ that might have escaped from a Frances Bacon.

More recently Steven has become enamoured by ink on paper. Again, a medium that has a long and rich history.  Having extensively explored opening up spaces for unexpected collision, disruption and recombinations, ink and paper allows for the unfolding of new paths. Importantly there is the collapsing down of the figure/ground relation: the ways in which ink can be made to penetrate and travel through the fibre and texture of the paper, traversing the plane/surface but also sinking into it’s fabric. The ink is transmitted across the surface and the paper reasserts to create space, blockage, rupture, silences in the flow. Inks fluidity makes it a highly responsive medium, a very direct ‘carrier’ of energy that requires a sensitivity of manipulation – rhythms and dynamics yielded through a sensitised engagement in relation to it’s inherent properties rather than through over-control or mastery.

Geddes plays out again and again in an open-ended series of drawing a traversal of the paper by the flow of the ink. The traversal, from one side of the page to the other, from left to right, in itself carries freight that Geddes takes advantage of and plays with, ideas associated with passage, with textuality, with writings and readings,oscillations, notation, code, transmission, seismic tremors, stammers, stutters, ruptures and flow, signalling of all sorts, all playing out in spaces that slip between landscape and text.The rhythmic spectrum of ink, of water, across the plane of the paper carries the potential of transmissions of anxiety and grace, blockage and flow, communications and silences which Geddes is still in the process of unfurling.