Nuala O Donovan


Nuala O'Donovan. Merit Award 2017

Medium: Sculptural forms in porcelain clay


Nuala O'Donovan also won a Merit Award in 2011.

Banksia Banksia Teasel Teasel Grid Coral


I currently use porcelain for my sculptural work. The advantages of porcelain are its low cost and the ease of making large numbers of elements to make complex structures. The disadvantages are fragility and the limitations in terms of scale because of practical issues such as kiln size and susceptibility to damage caused by to the weight of a heavy piece resting on a small area of the form.

This quote from Louis Bourgeois is one which reflects my own view on the subject of sculpture and materials:
“The material itself, stone or wood, does not interest me as such. It is a means; it is not an end. You do not make sculpture because you like wood. That is absurd. You make sculpture because the wood allows you to express something that another material does not allow you to.”

In the last two years I have started exploring the grouping of related forms in my work. I’ve been using finishes which mimic other materials such as cast metal in some of the pieces. I’m very excited about the possibility of further exploration of the dynamic created by groups of pieces in different materials which are linked conceptually. My intention is to use my existing work as a starting point and explore the aesthetics of work which consists of groups of related forms, made with a range of materials and processes such as metal, (cast and soldered), stone, wood, and textiles. I would be open to combining a number of materials in one piece as well as groups of related forms in different materials

If successful I would use the funding for materials and foundry fees, and to commission work or collaborate with other makers in order to combine the skills of a number of makers in the work.

Artist Statement

My work is based on natural forms, in particular, the patterns and geometry of living organisms in the plant and animal kingdoms. Living forms are a progression rather than a static form, they are in a constant process of change. In my work the form is evolving during the making process but the fired forms become static. They have similar qualities to fossils because of the qualities of the ceramic material and the stillness of the finished work. Once fired they become frozen as moments in time but contain a narrative of their history in the complex patterns which make up each piece. The pieces have a stillness, like shells and fossils, even though they capture evidence of energy in the variation and scale of the elements in the patterns. The evidence of energy is apparent in the making of the work, but it isn't energy in itself. The energy in my work isn't gestural, it's more compressed, the pieces describe the journey of the making of the work which is laborious rather than free.

The forms can be dynamic but the fluidity is evidence of the behaviour of the material - an independence of movement when subjected to the intense heat of the kiln. The final form is a frozen moment.