Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dublin Biennial vs Florence Biennale score: 7 : 5

Ireland: 7
Florence: 5
In the second Dublin Biennial I was one of over 50 artists from 20 countries, compared to 450 artists from over 50 countries in the humongous 2013 Florence Biennale.  

Dublin was much more intimate, with activities focused upon the artists and ideas, and less on the event administrator, judges and awards.  The panel discussions also seemed better at Dublin.  This may be simply due to language:  In Italy almost all of the speeches, talks and discussions were solely in Italian, with no translators.  Plus, I gave a short talk and was a panel member in Dublin (i.e. a little biased) and the smaller audiences fostered more informal panel audience conversations. 

Dublin: 1, Florence: 0.

Two months ago, in June, it was sunny and warm in Ireland.  (Contrast to a wet and cold visit two decades ago when we cycled and free camped the length of the country-you have no idea how nice the first hot shower in Scotland felt!). 

Italy in December 2013 was bitterly cold and damp.  

Dublin: 2,  Florence: 0.

Both used a combination of invitation and selected from applications to create the group of exhibition artists.

Perhaps due to its smaller scale, the Dublin exhibition appeared artistically superior.  

I don't think any curators can really meaningfully ensure high artistic standards across 450 artists from 50 countries and dozens of languages, cultures and styles, and the Florence Biennale suffered for it.

Dublin: 3, Florence: 0.

The Florence Biennale organisers claimed that over 10,000 tickets were sold, but this vast audience number was inflated by many school and university group tours.  The Dublin organisers had neither the resources or past experience to organise this sort of thing.  Also, I saw a lot more media photos and stories about the Italian event.  

Dublin: 3, Florence: 1.

Art critic response to both events was difficult to find after the events, as neither organisers provided any copies of media and critic responses.  I only found a singular, mildly critical review of the second Biennial online.

Dublin: 3, Florence: 1.

Online artist criticism ignores the fact that many commercial galleries more discretely ask for an upfront fee, and/or high commission on all sales.  Similarly, given the number of artists invited and  that were involved over the many years in the Florence events, the number of online criticisms was quiet small.  Those who criticise it, without going, may also be rationalising their inability (due to resources and time) to participate.

The cost of hiring a space in any Art trade fair in Australia is similar.  However, when adding on airline tickets, hotel accommodation and lost income back home, both events were expensive.  However, to find new audiences, and to build global artist-to-artist networks, face to face contact is essential.  Only online interaction is a poor substitute, but a good complimentary activity.

Dublin: 4, Florence: 2.

What both have in common, apart from being biennial/biennale, is they are predominately artist initiated and funded, as opposed to government art bodies organised and funded events.  This makes them more artistic-centric rather than nationalistic contests.  Participants are obviously international in focus, well resourced, often PC and "art speak" incorrect, and all with a certain "fire-in-their-belly".  For someone like myself, who have spent decades within the warm comradeship of the ceramic making and exhibiting community, it is great to experience a similar ethos in a much wider art event.   

Dublin: 5, Florence: 3.

Perhaps the singular, most important benefit of these two events is the affect it has on your studio work.  To invest so much time and resources into presenting your work, provided me with the motivation to push my studio work much further and harder, than ever before.  There is a risk go "over-cooking" it, but for me the increase in size and other challenges I gave myself, resulted in an acceleration in its development.  The resulting work is quiet different and quiet exciting/scary.

Dublin: 7, Florence: 5.

 (apologies, this was written months ago but I neglected to post it immediately on my blog)

Crazy Creatives?

Vincent van Gogh, Self portrait with bandaged ear. 1889

I'm not convinced that great art requires madness, or, if you'll feeling crazy, then you will automatically become a great artist.

Both Aristotle and Shakespeare have the archetype of the mad genius.  Since then many have reinforced this idea, so it has now become a stereotype.

According to Nancy Andreasen, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who has studied creativity for many decades:

"One possible contributory factor is a personality style shared by many of my creative subjects. 

These subjects are adventuresome and exploratory. 

They take risks. 

Particularly in science, the best work tends to occur in new frontiers. 

(As a popular saying among scientists goes: “When you work at the cutting edge, you are likely to bleed.”) 

They have to confront doubt and rejection. 

And yet they have to persist in spite of that, because they believe strongly in the value of what they do. 

This can lead to psychic pain, which may manifest itself as depression or anxiety, or lead people to attempt to reduce their discomfort by turning to pain relievers such as alcohol."

This is why I am intensely interested in the social networks in the arts, for social support reduces the psychological burden of constantly working at the cutting edge, on topics or areas of research which are either not supported or acceptable to the general public or government of the day.

Personally, I have actively sought to base my studio within an active artists studio, and a large community of visiting artists and studio class students (see

For a full history and empirical research into the perceived link between mental illness and creativity, I strongly recommend that you click on and read the complete article below: 

("Vonnegut’s brains tell us about genius and insanity" By Nancy Andreasen, The Atlantic June 28, 2014 )

(image source: 17/8/15 9:30am)

Friday, June 20, 2014

3D Printing not, quiet, there, in Ireland

Pie in the sky

This is a tale of high expectations, challenges, and disappointment. But I'll be back!

This story begins in the distant dark past, pre really useful 3D printing, later 2013.

I like to make art that is about the social, economic and cultural context it is presented.

I had begun to research the history of ceramics in different places. For example, when making large sculptures about smart phones, I researched the first non-pictorial language and the material it was recorded on - clay cuneiform tablets.

For this project I researched some of the earliest Irish pottery, particularly the late third millennium BC Beaker culture. Eventually I contacted expert Dr. Neil Carlin, from the University College Dublin.

Dr. Carlin has an interest in the social rituals associated with pottery/ceramics, and how these in Ireland, were fundamentally different to that in Britain and Europe.

I was particularly taken with the polypod bowls, many of which were discovered on the outskirts of Dublin. These are similar in form to the Kava bowels used in W. Samoa, drunk at all important gatherings and ceremonies.

Studio Art Production:

As a consequence of my research I was interested in creating two large multi legged ceramic and compressed polypod bowls. I then hand-making and firing over 330 porcelain paper clay flute forms, which would both be part of the two sculptures, as well be used in some ritual during one of the social functions at the exhibition.

Having previously assembled and then hacked an open source 3D printer to enable it to print clay, I was very familiar with this emerging technology. So I designed the bowl forms to be eventually printed in sections in Dublin, using new Irish technology, the MCOR 3D printer, which prints in paper.

In Western Australia, Michael Dixon, from Dixon Design + Development - industrial design / product development, kindly converted my drawings into CAD and then STL file format.

I was very surprised to discover that MCOR 3D printer services were not available in Ireland! However I was encouraged by the company to contact German and Belgium companies who provided 3D printer services using the MCOR machines. Despite claims that this is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly 3D printer technology, the quotes were 3,000 - 8,000 Euro! This completely deflated my aspirations of using Irish technology to make the paperwork (parts) for my sculpture for the irish audience (and to reduce shipping costs).

So, I quickly made the paperwork in my studio, by cannibalising some old sculptures I had made from thousands of identical maps of parts of Western Australia. I used laborious dry techniques I had invented and developed since 1993. Examples of my work and an explanation is here.

On the 12 June I flew in to Dublin, and begun assembling the work, finishing an hour before the Artist Reception and Welcome by the Mayor.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Draft posting . . . . Ceramic Multiples (I'm still adding bits to it :))

Ceramic Multiples

What's going on?

Is it me, or is everyone now making ceramic works out of multiple clay parts?

I look for what interests me.

Our obsessions lead us to look for, and see, what is inside ourselves.

Eventually we see only what interests us.

Or, am I part of a universal trend?

Or was it always there, and is't just another digital revolution revelation?

Historically pottery production has always been about manufacturing dozens, or even hundreds of identical parts.

With economic collapse of ceramic production in Australia, and i many other developed countries, it has begun to  embrace the art community, and vice versa.   But history and production techniques have a strong and lasting influence...

I'll start a visual collection in support of this hypothesis at

Follow Graham Hay Artist's board Ceramic multiples on Pinterest.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

For more articles or projects by Graham Hay.

iHeads by Artist Graham Hay


The beginning, part of the first iHead, made from thousands of ceramic iphones

Pictures of the work in progress are are posted almost daily at

Increasingly complex technologies come between myself, and loved ones. 

So I'm looking more closely at them, their material and social history.

Some Musings

Clay is more than pots and sculpture:

Many people associated clay with the creation of functional ware and artworks.

However, this is a tiny part of all total clay used:

Pottery clay is less than half a percent of all clay annually mined (350 million tonnes) in Australia. (ABS 8415.0).

Before digital devices, before paper, people used soft unfired clay to write on.

Cuneiform Clay tablets were the first recording devices, 3500 to 4000 years ago.

Parallels between now and then, illustrate how and why we use these devices.

For we only integrated technology into our lives, if it satisfies a basic need, and fits smoothly into our life, or hand.

"Many cuneiform tablets are dated by the year, month and day.  Tablets from monarchs, ministers and other important people were impressed with their seal, which was applied on the wet clay like a paint roller with a cylinder seal… Important messages were encased in an "envelope" of more clay to insure privacy."


"They were at the root of first libraries. Tens of thousands of written tablets ... in the Middle East"  

All very dry.  More interestingly:

"What these clay tablets allowed was for individuals to record who and what was significant. An example of these great stories was The Story of Gilgamesh. ... Remedies and recipes ..."

the oldest love poem dates back to this period, and is of similar size to a smart phone.

What would the hundreds of messages and images I send to friends and family look like, if each had to be individually made out of clay?

So I started making lots of iPhone size clay tablets, drying them, and stacking them up to see what sort of object and patterns occurred.  From his emerged the desire to make them "into something".

Over the last two decades I've also made many sculptures out of thousands of 1 x 2 cm clay bricks, as part of my commentary on local art institutions.  However, this multiple based work appeared to be more personal in nature. Over the first year of on and off making these iPhone clay tablets I had plenty of time to think about my other daily rituals and repetition.   For me, personal and public rituals and repetition create structure and order in our life, and so have a huge impact on self identity.   My ongoing research into SNAV has sensitised me to how form and frequency of social interaction has a huge impact on personal values, beliefs and so actions.  So I begun to look  more closely at how often, how long and with whom I used my own smart phone.  Apart from communicating with fifty odd students, my most frequent communications were with my wife, and daughter.

Perhaps because of our recent 25th wedding anniversary, I begun to focus more on this interaction.  With smart phones we began to merge our personal calls, texting, emailing, and Skype interactions into one device.  So, despite being physically apart for much of the day, and sometimes for weeks, we actually communicate quiet frequently.

Historically in the Arts, sculptors have expressed understanding of their, and our, relationships via the figure. For example, French sculptor Auguste Rodin is well known for a marble sculpture he created illustrating his perspective of a particular relationship:

The Kiss (originally titled Francesca da Rimini)

Image research:

I collected art images from the internet, of the The Kiss and other couples kissing or embracing.  Also collected was images of smart phones and smart phone art.  These were copied via Pinterest.

A series of small (30cm high) titled heads were created in ceramic wool paper clay, ceramic foam paper clay, and ceramic brick paper clay, plus plastic using a 3Doodler.  Smaller "fragmenting" heads were created, as well as small paper models and two 2.5 x 2.5 m (8' x 8') drawings.

Other unstructured thoughts:

Phones have become the most intimate medium for communicating, via phone, text, email and photos.
We have now begun “digitally kissing”, “digitally whispering”, we connect digitally. Even when in the same city!

To be continued…


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