Shaun Hayes

Issue 41 Discovery artist Shaun Hayes creates otherworldly ceramic sculptures using imagery taken from toys, popular culture and traditional vessels to create trans-cultural narratives that fuse ancient history with the everyday.

I am a ceramic artist.

The conceptual framework of my current practice was shaped during trips to Jingdezhen, China in 2011 and 2013, and influenced by a juxtaposition of past, present, new and old in the everyday environment.

The experience exposed me to traditional ceramic techniques and modern methods of production that cater to a contemporary market. I became interested in the visual dynamic between the unchanging permanence of traditional wares and the seeming impermanence of mass-produced miscellanea that creates simultaneous unease and harmony.

My process takes imagery from toys, popular culture and found figurines. By cutting-up, exchanging, adding and altering elements, I create narrative sculptures, often with an unearthly quality. Found objects are the starting point to creating plaster moulds; then by using slip casting and sculpting methods, I transform the original medium into clay. In doing so, the object can be distorted and built upon in the initial stages of forming.

My most recent work uses classical ceramic forms as the base onto which other parts are joined, to create satirical objects that merge nonsensical combinations of objects with seemingly unrelated subject matters. These combinations speak of a modern global condition whereby traditional and historic customs are replaced and often continue alongside modern innovations and new ways of living. Using vessels that hold significant reference to cultural history and the past, and combining them with contemporary objects, my work responds to this blend of past and present, adored and discarded.

The work ‘Chomp-Chomp’ combines a classical oriental form with slip-cast Tyrranosaurus rex heads moulded from a plastic toy. The vessel is a typical Chinese-influenced lidded vase with a high shoulder and slender, narrow base. The toy T. rex parts act as decorative adornments surrounding the body of the work. The piece is made from white stoneware and is created using traditional methods and techniques I studied at the Australian National University School of Art and Design in Canberra. A sprayed porcelain finish further instils the notion of tradition and history. The surface finish is matte and sandy, which looks soft and engaging, but once up close it becomes apparent the surface is rough and abrasive, reinforcing the duality within the work.

The same Chinese vessel is used as the base for the piece ‘Baby, Baby Ohh’ (pictured above). This work is decorated with baby heads moulded from a doll, cut and arranged to act as a decorative feature encasing the work. Through the surreal imagery of dissected doll parts and the use of repetition, the work creates a tension that conveys the sense of unsettlement and balance that drives my current practice.

‘Nip-Nip’ employs toy lobster claws to produce an object with equally curious ornamentation. The use of these claws as decoration plays on the contradictory nature of a luxury item rendered in cheaply manufactured plastic. The repetitive arrangement of pieces across the surface of the pot emphasises the scale and creates depth and texture.

‘Rat Race’ is a more recent evolution using Greco-Roman-inspired forms instead of oriental ones. The work uses miniature busts, originally used to make doll’s house models, and arranges them en masse around a rat figure to create a busy, chaotic and playful narrative. Creating stories in my work by pushing the medium and the technical challenges faced remains a driving force in my conceptual practice, making each new piece a thrilling feat to produce.

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