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David Ray

Studio

Varia Karipoff

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Studio

David Ray’s ceramic practice subverts classical forms with contemporary concerns. He works from a basement studio on the edge of the Yarra Valley.

Photographs by Jesse Marlow. Interview as told to Varia Karipoff.
Photograph by Jesse Marlow.
Photograph by Jesse Marlow.
Photograph by Jesse Marlow.
Photograph by Jesse Marlow.
Photograph by Jesse Marlow.

David – The roof’s a bit low. Sometimes that’s annoying, but as far as potential studios, there aren’t many properties around here with sheds. I want to just knock all this out [points to front wall of studio] and put some glass in.

Before I moved into this studio I had to dig a drain alongside, the water was coming through and starting to filter through onto the floor.

Before I moved into this studio I had to dig a drain alongside, the water was coming through and starting to filter through onto the floor. The place still needs a bit of work. It’s not working how I’d love it to, with some of the shelving there it’s a waste of space.

I’ve usually had work stacked in boxes, but it’s nice to have your work accessible so you can see what you’ve done and what’s in stock or not.

Usually Mondays and Tuesdays are my main studio days, and I work three days a week teaching part time. On Sunday afternoons, it’s always nice just to come down, listen to the radio, and get away. My best routine is coming in Sunday, to set up for Monday and Tuesday.

Process

I think when I was younger I was always kind of in a hurry to do things, now I’m sort of more – I’ll make it happen – but it doesn’t happen straight away. I was never really good at drawing in high school.

David Ray-85
Photograph by Jesse Marlow.

It wasn’t until I was at university when we were doing life drawing, that the more I did, the more confident I became. And then it started to cross over into decoration. Drawing can tell a story or create a narrative – it’s more directive than something that’s abstract. I like cartoons and how they tell stories in a sense, whether it’s political or for fun.

The form of the ceramic pieces informs the decoration, sometimes the glaze will as well.

The form of the ceramic pieces informs the decoration, sometimes the glaze will as well. When I’m decorating I’ve kind of been loosening it all, where glaze starts to dictate decoration, a bit like where cloud forms start to take shape and I pick out what I see. Within the glaze or the form, little hand marks or shadows start to appear, and create something, and that guides it sometimes. Or it can be from the sketchbook. I’ve started using the projector to project images and then tracing onto the ceramic body. I like the idea of warping and stretching of the image as well.

The enamels are mixed just like watercolour; I simply use water. You can use mediums and all this other stuff but I’ve found that when using water I can create a watercolour effect. I’ve started using glaze stains a bit more for colours.

Pilgrimage

I did a residency in Liverpool [UK] where I worked just with paper, making paper statues. That was three months without clay. I was looking at monuments when I was in Europe – there are monuments everywhere. I was curious about what they were representing. I think it’s quite interesting now what’s happened in the United States where they’re pulling down monuments and what that’s causing. What those monuments signify is quite interesting as well, and I’m wondering if that’s going to happen here.

David Ray-77
Photograph by Jesse Marlow.

Projects

[For my latest project] I’ve made the one riot cop and now I’m going to make five moulds of the same thing. I can then make ten a day, all day. Then the aim is just to make an army of 100 perhaps, and then some kind of arrangements and decoration.

For the last ten years I have been watching the police become more militarised in a sense; capsicum spray, Taser guns and the sort of armoury they have now. So how does this reflect society or the control of society, or is society getting crazier or madder, where we need extra enforcements?

I really get a sense of going back even further to the 18th century, to the French Revolution, the idea of the rising middle class.

I really get a sense of going back even further to the 18th century, to the French Revolution, the idea of the rising middle class.

I think that like then, there is now a growing disparity between the middle class and the poorer parts of society. Even some of the people who thought they were middle class, with its debt and stu , are starting to find themselves slipping back.

And that’s creating the fear and the unknown – it’s created a more fearful society, which is easier to manipulate. I’m curious to see what happens. I think it wouldn’t take much to tip it over the edge.

Practicalities

I show work at a place called Franque that has just started. I had a show there earlier this year and that’s where the tureen that won the Manningham Ceramic Art Award was first exhibited.

I have a good relationship with them and a lot of freedom to do whatever I want in regards to making work and where a show works. I’m not restricted to one space.

Franque is kind of a shop with artwork in it, but the work within the shop is antique designer. It comes with a past, so contemporary work sits interestingly in that space.

David Ray was the winner of the Manningham Ceramic Art Award in 2017.
He produces works for Franque, Melbourne.

Varia Karipoff

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