Australian ceramist Graham Hay at the National College of Arts, Lahore
Head of the Ceramic Design Department at the National College of Arts in Pakistan, Shazia Mirza, invited paperclay pioneer Graham Hay to spend a month working with her staff and students at their Lahore campus.
Shazia Mirza described what happened: “When I first came across Mr. Hay’s work in Anne Lightwood’s very valuable book “Working with Paper Clay and Additives”, I immediately decided to get in touch with him. I searched for his name on Internet, found his website, which is a world in its own, and asked for his availability. His response was prompt and here we are sharing very different experiences from across the continents.
The Artist-in-Residence program is an interactive learning experience for both the students at the college and the artist in residence.
We get to see the “living product of a different environment” operate in our own system. The larger host group is effected in a very positive manner, through their shared experiences and projects they exchange ideas and collaborate events, conferences and research which results in new creative work, and in this case we were introduced to unbounded imagination with visions refreshed.
It was amazing to know through his slideshows that one of his famous works that actually made me invite him, got broken many times before it was finally photographed, was mended back to perfection every time, and was never fired, but recycled instead!
So this material makes you feel so comfortable with your work. Fear about losing your work seems irrelevant, less emotional attachment to work helps you develop at an accelerated pace. For all of us it has been an endeavour, a learning experience and a new opening of possibilities in the clay world.”
Graham Hay described how it was for him: “It is always a stimulating experience accepting an invitation to place myself within a different environment, language and culture, with different people, clays and kilns. New ideas, perspectives, directions and friendships, are just some of the outcomes.
It is a stimulating experience introducing a new art medium, which does not have an established cannon of aesthetics or techniques, to a group of bright students and staff. The experiences and work challenges students, teachers, curators, and audiences. The fun for audiences is trying to understand ‘what happened’ and to guess where it will eventually lead.
Paperclay, in case you haven’t heard already, is processed cellulosed fibre (generally beaten paper pulp) added to any clay. In some regions of Australia between a third and a half of clay bought by teachers is paperclay. Similar patterns are appearing around the world. And for good reasons too: mechanicaly recycling clay either by hand or pug mill is no longer necessary (just drop firm or dry paperclay into water to soften). Small air bubbles in the clay body can be ignored (the fibre acts as vents), repairs/alterations to dry work can be made and final works don’t always need to be fired. Works can be left to dry, and resumed weeks later after soaking in water.
One of the directions taken up with enthusiasm by staff and students at the National College of Arts, Lahore, has been to explore the unfired paperclay option. That is, make objects from paperclay, dip or coat various materials with paperclay, and not fire the work. In a sense art is not just imitating life, it has become a thin surface skin on nature. Aside from the technical interest, this metaphor for our species living off animals and plants on the thin crust of this planet, is but one of many interpretation which may be drawn from this work.”
The Paperclay Practice, an exhibition of work created by Graham Hay, NCA staff and students was held at the Zahoor ul Akhlaq Art Gallery, Lahore, 8 to 22 April 2006. For more details visit www.grahamhay.com.au and www.nca.edu.pk.