Jessica Harrison is a ceramic artist specialized in creating porcelain dolls that are very distinctive from all the classical porcelain dolls style.
Born in St Bees in 1982, Jessica moved to Scotland to study sculpture at Edinburgh College of Art in 2000. Working with a wide variety of materials from ceramics and marble to paint and digital collage, her practice explores the mechanics of perception and fallibility of observation through an examination of the interaction between the visual and the tactile.
ARTICLE ORIGINALLY POSTED ON FEBRUARY 17, 2016
Her interest lies in how we handle, interpret, and navigate materials, objects, and space and how this process can define the shape of the body. The things she makes propose a re-imagining of these definitions, offering an alternative shape to our perception of things, using the simplicity of materials to explore the complexity of the sensory body.
She transforms the collectible ceramic ladies that populate grandmothers’ china cabinets into spectacles of gore. These elegant abominations were already exhibited at several art museums in the world.
“Through clay, the figure becomes the catalyst for addressing the emotional impact of contemporary pressures that confront our society today.”
Victorian elegance and sophistication get a dab of the macabre in Edinburgh-based artist collectible ceramic ladies. Her ceramic ladies sport neck wounds, ripped hearts, chopped off heads, and misplaced body parts, all ruining their beautiful dresses. But you have to hand it to the ladies, they still managed to keep their poise and smile for the camera.
However, the found figures in Harrison’s work are mass-produced, the personal emotion of clay-work eschewed in favor of a machine process. Through Harrison’s alterations, some of that emotion of the body returns, although in a very visceral way. And that’s meant quite literally: the collectible ladies cradle their spilled guts or present their extracted hearts while maintaining cheery visages.
Harrison says: That series is called ‘Broken’ as the pieces are made using found ceramics that I have quite literally taken a hammer and chisel to. They present an impossibly fair-skinned ‘perfect’ woman and my attraction to these works was precise because of this image they portray of the female body – my aim was to counter it and present its opposite within itself. This was simple to do, by breaking apart the hollow cast pieces and ‘revealing’ the interior, a standard formula in Western knowledge for making discoveries about the body. The female interior is a space still laced with taboo in a way that the male interior is not, and for me, this gender bias of what is most often an invisible space in our everyday lives was a fascinating and important one to address. This series, like my other works in stone, ceramics, silicone, and ink comes from exploring shared ideas about the body, unraveling shared experiences of different spaces, textures, and shapes.