I work with the mask in the widest sense, using ceramics and textiles. My tufted works always depict more than one being. There is the façade of the surface, and then the question of who is behind it. I was interested in the psychological aspect of what you see in these objects: they have anthropomorphic features, but they are not abstract, and not yet figurative; a multilayering of multi-personalities, as in Moustache Eagle from 2008.
My interest in masquerade drew me to a lot of ethnological collections and so-called “primitive” art when creating these works – stark expressions and minimal information forming a face-like image – and this, along with an interest in the German expressionists, helped to inform my process.
I began making small drawings, but wanted to work on a larger scale while maintaining the level of intensity. I wanted them to be domestic objects, something eerie and uncanny in the family environment by using lots of fibres – almost like pixels – to get this three-dimensional plane. You feel attracted to it and repulsed at the same time.
These drawings developed into a new body of ceramic works. I try to emulate other materials for the surfaces of the ceramic pieces, such as shed snake skin. Sometimes it needs only a tiny bit of information to become more than a sheet of clay.
It’s a very spontaneous process, often a really quick gesture of gathering the clay so it warps. I pretend it’s a piece of paper as that’s how I used to make them, before they became too delicate.
A display of Caroline Achaintre’s recent works, curated by Carmen Juliá and Isabella Maidment, runs at Tate Britain from 13 October 2014 to 3 May 2015. BP Spotlight. BP Displays supported by BP for 25 Years.
Achaintre talked to Mariko Finch.