video: 3:41 min
Nuit Blanche, McEwan School of Architecture, 2019
Eco|Femin|Isms, The White House Studio Project, curated by Vicki Clough, 2018
Whippersnapper Gallery, 2014
University of Victoria, 2012
With claybank, Elyse spent several years engaged with an urban embankment near the University of Victoria. There, she would sit, contemplate, and listen to the qualities of waves. At times she thought she heard the formation of another language. If she sat long enough, she felt the presence of the bank – its age, its wisdom, its response to her stillness.
Other thoughts about claybank:
...I actually didn't do a structured dream journey here like I would do with plants. Rather, as a person with a deep appreciation for the earth, and resonance with the materiality of clay, I was struck when I happened upon this urban grey/blue embankment, next to the Pacific ocean. I wanted to approach the site respectfully. So, I adapted what I learned in Plant Spirit Medicine: I visited often, and held the intent to slow down, listen, and open a dialogue.
...during one on these sittings... I was compelled to cover myself in the eroded embankment. I didn't need to be naked, or wear something specific, I just needed to cover myself, and my clothes..feel the intense cold of the shaded bank smeared all over me ...and soon after… how the clay warmed in response to my body....
I had asked local environmentalists about the bank...and one also happened to be a potter. He told me how to clean the clay of shells...and how to fire it. And also about how people in the 60s and 70s had taken too much from the bank... without considering their impact…
After one of my sittings, I felt I needed to bring a small amount of the embankment into an installation I was working on called listening arms....after sifting the clay...and letting it dry, I formed it and fired it. The resulting rich and fragile red/brown clay made up one of the 28 arms featured in the piece. The work was shown at the University of Victoria, and later installed in a group show, within a forest next to the Pacific Ocean, where it remained.
While I was making this work, I was a visual arts student at the University of Victoria. Like many art institutions in Canada and abroad in the late 80s, the general attitude within the visual arts department toward clay and ceramics was that it was a lesser than, craft activity. Fortunately, Lynda Gammon became my advisor. While her main focus was interdisciplinary photography and temporal sculptural practices, she had been raised around ceramics. Her mother taught clay arts. Lynda could appreciate perspectives such as those of art critic Roberta Smith's that "the art-craft divide is a bogus concept regularly obliterated by the undeniable originality of individuals who may call themselves artists, designers, or artisans."
A Haptic Art by Clare Lilley:
"One of our most important archeological sources, revealing a plethora of prehistoric artefacts, is the Upper Paleolithic site of Doini Vestonice in what is now the Czech Republic. Giving insight into the culture of Ice Age people in central Europe, the finds include carved ivory likenesses of a man and a woman (she is possibly our earliest portrait) and the remains of a kiln, together with hundreds of fired ceramic figurines depicting humans and animals, including mammoth, rhinoceros, lion, owl and bear.
...Dated at 29000-25000 BCE, the Doini Vestonice clay 'Venus' is typically abundant, with large breasts, curvaceous thighs and slack belly.
...while the purpose of the prehistoric Venus is debated - they are variously considered to have engendered fertility or played a spiritual role in communities with shamanistic traditions - it is clear that they took many hours to make and much effort to create. The Doini Vestonice Venus and other figures testify to a human compulsion to create art, a hardwired need to render in material response to the world. They appear to be necessary things, indicating that the making of art has a social purpose imperative to our being. As such they offer a powerful endorsement of humanity."