Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 | No Comments
Toronto sculptural artist Julie Moon discusses the nature of all things “Pretty, Strange” on the eve of her new show at Narwhal Art Projects.
Q. We love how your sculptures often meld amorphous bodily forms with intricate and playful ornamentation. Can you tell us about some of the ideas that you explore in your work?
Julie Moon. I consider the forms I’ve been building over the past few years as figurative. They’re definitely not realistic representations, but more an expression of the body…and perhaps an expression of culture and consumption and indulgence. I try to work intuitively but I definitely believe that the traditions and properties of my materials influence my work most.
Making for me is play and throughout the process I have a tendency to anthropomorphize the objects I build, including my materials. Clay itself is fleshy and sensual, moist, malleable, dependent on gravity, slowed down by its size and weight, these are things that I try to channel in my work. However, once it’s fired in the kiln, when all chemical water is driven off, the work becomes lifeless and brittle. Working the surface by adding glaze and decoration, helps me to give the objects I make identity and meaning.
It can also help make the experience of viewing familiar and accessible to the viewer.
Q. Before fine art, you studied Fashion Technology at George Brown College. We can definitely see elements of garment and jewelry design in your works. Was shifting from fashion to fine art, sculpture, and ceramics part of a natural evolution for you?
Julie Moon. Yeah for sure. My interests in creating objects have always involved the figure and decoration, so whether it’s fashion or textiles, or sculpture, I’ve always been interested in ideas about culture and the body…and whenever I switched mediums, I never really felt I was abandoning a material or career in fashion or textile design. It seems that I learn best through experience and now that I think about it, through the process of elimination.
I like working with my hands and I love all the Material Arts; textiles/fibre arts, glass, wood, jewelry, ceramics.But for me, clay is the perfect medium. I’m so inspired by the range of objects you can make with clay and that I am able to focus on creating forms and decorating surfaces.
Q. Your work has an incredibly sensuous, effortless and fun vibe to it for something created in a medium that is very difficult and process-oriented. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship to to the materials and processes you use?
Julie Moon. As you can imagine, I am pretty sentimental or romantic about my materials and the process of making. My primary building technique is coil-building. It’s a slow and repetitive process and can be very therapeutic and meditative.
Usually when I begin building a piece, I start out with a loose sketch, but then deviate from it as I go. Because the process is so slow, I can make decisions about changing the forms as I build them.
It’s challenging because you need to understand the material and try to figure out how far you can push a piece before it collapses or cracks or even how hot and thick your glazes are before it drips and runs all over the kiln shelves. But every piece is unique and so the process is never the same. There are so many stages and opportunities where things can go terribly wrong. This can be pretty frustrating but it teaches me to let go of my intentions and accept that ultimately, “clay is boss.”
Q. On a day off, what are some of your favourite things to do?
Julie Moon. On a typical day off, I usually need to catch up on sleep and emails (which sounds sooo boring! but it’s the sad truth.)
On a perfect day, I’d ride my bike around town, meet up with friends for drinks and dinner, maybe a trip to the Island for a picnic and campfire….and if there’s any energy left-over, I could easily be persuaded to dance the night away.
Q. What can we expect from your upcoming show at Narwhal Art Projects in Toronto?
Julie Moon. About half the pieces that are in the show, I made over the summer at an artist residency in Berlin. All the pieces are similiar in form and are representations of what I like to do, but I definitely experienced some changes with this newer work. When I was in Germany I was building with a fine French porcelain and that definitely influenced these pieces. They’re smaller and much more intricate and delicate. There are some larger works in the show too and I would consider these to be more ambiguous and assertive. The overall palette is soft and pastel, with lots of juicy glazes and of course, floral details.
I feel that my work has changed a lot since I had my last show in Toronto four years ago, so I’m pretty excited about this opportunity to have people at home, see what I’ve been up to! (…ok, excited and also a little nervous!!!)
S&TM: We’d like to thank Julie for taking the time to do this interview in the midst of finishing her artist residency at the center for ceramics in Berlin. Thank you!!!
All images © 2011 Julie Moon.