Greetings Brian, we are pleased to have this conversation to appreciate both your mind and passions. Ceramists are a combination artificer, one part chemist, one part mineralogist, one part fine artist, and another part conceptual dreamer (not limited to these). Do you find that the nature of your work is often under-appreciated when seeing how technically demanding its processes are? This is to ask when the beauty of your outcomes overshadow the beauty of your processes do you wish more people understood all that goes into your work? Please enlighten us.
More and more people are starting to see the time I put into each of these artworks. At first glance, they may appear accidental or experimental but they are carefully thought out and meticulously airbrushed and glazed. I work with 20-30 different glazes and colors that I have developed over the years to react in certain ways at different temperatures. This does not mean there is no chance involved with my work, it just means there is more control of the material than expected. I think people who see my work in person understand right away the dedication I put into my work.
Your forms have been applauded for their organic qualities coupled with their vibrant expressionism. This meeting of human capability with nature’s innate productions seem to highlight a relationship to the world and its processes that many have become detached from. With this in mind – and to use the benefits of Nano tech’s biomimetics as just one example – how do you think a return to the pre-enlightenment notion of nature as a book can elevate us further as a species?
I use nature as inspiration for all of my Crater sculptures but find it impossible to mimic anything I have seen in Africa or the Amazon in my work. My sculptures are abstract representations of places I have visited, memories or waterfalls in Nicaragua, Jaguars in Bolivian Amazon, Craters in Tanzania, etc. I spent three years traveling South and Central America, and East Africa, visiting the remotest tropical cloud forests and volcanoes. In between each trip, I developed this body of work which evolved from small works to large multi-dimensional sculptures. I think everyone should take note and try to get away from the city, suburbs, social media, and politics and submerse themselves in the isolated natural world. Not only is it enlightening, it is a critical part of our psyche which we are largely neglecting for material gain.
What does inspiration mean to you? Is originality and innovation the highest form of aesthetic conquest? Is prior derivation in the arts (or standing on the shoulders of giants) a thing to reject or embrace in your view?
Inspiration comes in all forms. Lately, since quarantine, I have doubled the size of my rare plant collection. Since I cannot travel to South America and Africa, I have brought some inspiration to my front steps. I think my plant collection and use of it as inspiration original and innovative. I believe there will always be a connection to other artists no matter how hard you try to distance yourself from the mainstream or history books. It’s best to embrace this and make art historical reference to giants whether spoken or unspoken. My work is loaded with nods to AbEx and contemporary painting.
As a world traveler who has appreciated the striking and remote as more than just a disinterested tourist, have you learned any technical approaches in ceramic fabrication from obscure cultures? If not, is such studied in your field? If no, do you think such would hold any benefits?
When I travel I try not to look at art or even think about it, unless I am traveling through Europe. I know while I am hiking in the Amazon that I will be inspired enormously but I am not looking for ways to change my techniques or materials. I believe in organic evolution in studio, I try not to force anything. Since I travel mostly to Latin America, I would shy away from reappropriating traditional Latin American methods, patterns, or techniques.
Your art-form possesses an ancient pedigree, and your techniques can be found in disconnected phases throughout its history: such as in West Germany through the crater glaze (fat lava) effect, etc. What does your combination of crackle and crawl, with the addition of novel coloration and a scientific search for pure vibrancy in color say about the limitations of the past (seeing that your combinations did not exist there)? This is to ask, do you think traditions in creativity serve to limit or push us today?
I’ve always wanted to push the material as far as possible. I do not care about traditional glazes and what they mean to certain cultures in the past. Or if a Japanese artist 600 years ago made a crack in a glaze and for generations used it as his signature. Since I am making work in contemporary art, the materials I use can be pushed and pulled in any direction I feel like without constraints. It is only the old-guard conservative design and craft people who want to tell you about glaze history. I know about it, but I don’t care.
What do you think it is about our cultural moment that has allowed your “unorthodox” approach of injecting a youthful Pop sensibility into a craft that has for so long been dominated by its more demure incarnations?
It’s been allowed for a long time but mostly by the younger generation. I think many young people are tired of the old guard creating rules that shouldn’t be broken under the term “craft”, which is a field that died a long time ago. There are still a handful of dominant writers in this field who still think that George Ohr is edgy and that design is the same as contemporary art. I would like to see more of a line between art and design.
You have recently finished a collaboration with the legendary Kris Van Assche at the fashion house of Berluti, this collection will introduce your work to a different global segment of beauty appreciating taste agents. He has applauded your handcraft and spoke to its importance in fashion proper. What are your views on fashion as an art-form?
I’ve seen fashion as purely sculptural and vise versa. I believe artists and designers can influence each other and also play the same roles, undoubtedly. This project was incredibly exciting because it was a transformation of materials and a flattening of my work from 3 dimension to 2 dimension. Berluti is known for its highest quality materials and craft, which translates well to how I perceive my own work. I manipulate a historically craft-based material and elevate it to fine art, this is a common theme amongst contemporary artists. When I see a masterfully crafted Alexander McQueen bag I can see a small masterpiece. Same with Berluti.
Please inform us about any new exhibition or gallery show that you have coming up where we can appreciate your craft for not only its beauty but also its technical achievements.
I have a museum show opening on September 17th in Monte Carlo at the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco. A solo exhibition opening in January at Massimo De Carlo, Milan, Belgioso Gallery space. In February I am opening another solo show at Bernier Eliades Gallery in Athens Greece.
All images with courtesy of Brian Rochefort