Tony Moore: Painting With Fire
In wood-firing, I endeavor to use different types of clay-bodies and firing processes for creative needs.
Wood-firing is both an elemental and yet incredibly complex process of using different clay-bodies, different types of kilns, temperatures, firing processes and even different types of wood, to achieve different effects. Think of the kiln as a crucible where chemical changes take place. Think of the clay as both the material and the ground were the fire and molten wood ash, drawn through the kiln, is painted onto its surface —- then one might think of the wood-fire process as “Painting with Fire”.
ART SCHOOL, YALE, NEW YORK CITY
At Yale graduate school I built many environments that investigated interior and exterior relationships of the self, space and others. Eventually, walls, doors, mirrors and passageways of transition were broken down into objects/surfaces resembling stage flats, existing in three-dimensional space, like sculptures, or against the wall as paintings. Often one’s perceptual thoughts moved back and forth between tangible material forms and fictional illusionistic space.
CLAY (EARTH), FIRE AND SPIRIT.
Since my re-introduction to clay I had avidly explored new processes, first with my friend, the potter Ragnar Naess at the 92nd St. NY in NYC and then with Pascal Chmelar via his Anagama wood-fire kiln in the Catskills.
I fired with Ken and Bev for several years until I could build my own kiln. This was designed by them to meet my specifications which were based on several innovative kilns they had previously built.
THE KILN AND ARTMAKING
The very idea of “community” and “tradition” is in fact a significant aspect of the ceramic world and particularly wood-firing that I enjoy. Unlike the traditional “art world”, of which I have been an active member for many years, the “world” of ceramics instilled in me the value of the collective community. There is an indebtedness to others, in that what one knows and has learned is passed on from generation to generation. There is a sense that one does not own knowledge, but willingly passes it on. The idea of “community” is therefore not just pragmatic, but timeless. Socially and philosophically it enriches one’s feeling of being an integral part of the continuum.
The fine art world and the Avant-garde tradition, in contrast, often strives to break with the past.
I have my feet, so to speak, in both camps. I am an artist currently working with clay (a traditional medium) and using wood-firing (an ancient technique) to address contemporary, yet timeless issues of the human condition. Most recently these have been concerned with socio-political events and the Iraq War.
If one were to use the analogy of a trumpet with wind blown into one end, with valves opening and closing and air/sound expelled at the other end, one might get an idea of how a kiln might be fired. It’s the amount of air (oxygen), or lack of oxygen that is drawn into the kiln through the front and side air ports, the opening or closing of these ports and dampers (like valves) coupled with the combustion of fuel (wood) by the fire, that creates the end result.
The fire within a kiln can also be likened to the turbulence of a raging stream or the languid flow of a meandering river. The former analogy suggests rapidly moving white water as it flows around and between rocks and boulders in a stream. In a similar way, when the kiln is firing at full speed (high temperature/+ or – 2350 F.), with the rapid introduction and combustion of fuel and air/oxygen, then the fire is in full turbulence moving around and between the objects in the kiln.
As the fire moves it not only interacts with the chemical composition of the clay, but deposits on its surfaces the fluxed/melted particles of ash drawn by the draft, racing through the kiln. Therefore, how one loads the kiln and where objects are placed is of particular relevance to the imparting of ash and “fire-color” on to their surfaces. Likewise, a slow eddy of fire and ash might give visually calmer/softer results.
RESULTS. THE END PRODUCT, OR WHERE DID WE COME FROM, WHERE ARE WE GOING AND WHY?
Through wood-firing I intend to dust the surfaces of my sculptures with ash and to impart fire-color to their forms. The rest is history.
Tony Moore’s work is represented in international museum collections, including the Guggenheim Museum and Brooklyn Museum, USA and the Yorkshire Museum and Derby Museum, UK. The British-American artist is the recipient of a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award, CAPS Grant and Sally and Milton Avery Fellowship. He received his MFA in Sculpture from Yale University. After 25 yrs of work in NYC, Moore moved 50 miles north to Cold Spring in the Hudson Valley. In 1998, on a mountaintop property above the Hudson River he built an 18 ft long hybrid Anagama-Noborigama (Japanese style) wood-fire kiln. “His unique clay sculptures are arduously fired for one week in the kiln, which allows for the maximum flexibility in firing temperatures and optimizes both controlled and accidental impact from ash and other by-products of the wood-firing process. The transformation of clay through the alchemy of heat is metaphorically linked to his interest in all aspects of human existence, the actual demonstration of the interaction between flesh and spirit.” Vivian Goldstein