Aaron Angell

Caterpillar Engine #4


Not on display

Aaron Angell born 1987
Object: 280 × 540 × 245 mm
Purchased 2019


Aaron Angell’s ceramic sculpture Caterpillar Engine #4 2018 comprises four main components made of stoneware, attached to each other side by side, with additional elements added. Each part has been made on a potter’s wheel and has aa cylindrical structure evoking the shape of a pot. The predominant colour is a brownish orange and Angell has made the glaze ‘crawl’, a condition where the glaze separates into clumps or islands during firing, leaving bare clay patches showing in between.

Caterpillar Engine #4 is from a recent body of work, made after Angell completed a residency at the Leach Pottery in St Ives, Cornwall in 2017. Another sculpture from the series, Caterpillar Engine #1 2018, is also in Tate’s collection (Tate T15354). Angell has described how, with this new body of work and having spent time at the Leach Pottery, he decided to experiment with making larger works using the wheel and the ‘slow wheel’ processes of some rural Japanese pottery. Both Caterpillar Engine #1 and Caterpillar Engine #4 take the form of an engine block, the structure which contains the cylinders and other parts of an internal combustion engine. They are made using the systematic accretion and editing of thrown, closed, altered and folded forms. Writing about this series of work, Angell explained: ‘The form tries to move historical ceramic forms, which may have been designed to concretise the unordered forms of the natural world, into the realm of decayed industry and the crude woodwork of the English middle ages.’ (Email correspondence with Tate curator Helen Delaney, 15 May 2019.) Angell has also described how he uses the glazing process as an integral part of the making of the works:

they are produced in tandem with the ‘Carbon-trap shino’ glazes which have been specifically designed to cover them. These glazes rely on using the firing of the gas kiln as a type of painting process, they rely on heavy and specific reduction and smoking of the atmosphere within the kiln at certain temperatures. This moves the kiln less from a place for the ‘black-box’ activity that is usually part of the ceramics process into being a more empirical and active tool.
(Email correspondence with Tate curator Helen Delaney, 15 May 2019..)

Describing his work as ‘avowedly amateur’ yet underpinned by extensive technical knowledge, Angell has written: ‘I see my work within a ceramic tradition of material experimentation, folk history, and hermetic knowledge, but somewhat outside of the often narrow worldview of the craft potter. And definitely outside of the Leachian [referring to the St-Ives based potter Bernard Leach] and post-Leachian traditions of Anglo-Japanese pottery.’ (Artist’s statement, emailed to Tate curator Helen Delaney, April 2019.)

Further reading
Aaron Angell, ‘The Plant: Notes on Troy Town Art Pottery’, in Sara Matson and Sam Thorne (eds.), That Continuous Thing: Artists and the Ceramics Studio 1920–Today, exhibition catalogue, Tate St Ives 2017.
Aaron Angell, ‘A Radical Vision’, in Ceramic Review, May/June 2017, pp.46–50.

Helen Delaney
May 2019

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