We have met Martha Pachon, a ceramic artist, originally from Colombia, who has been working for some fifteen years in Faenza and exhibits her artwork in many different European, Asian and American cities. We have asked her some questions to learn more about her thoughts and her poetics.
First Drops: Over the years, a lot of people have written about you in association to exhibitions or in interviews and reviews…. Which of them, do you think, has most effectively described your work?
Martha Pachon: I really can’t tell you which was the most detailed or most effective description. I was particularly struck by the words of the Director of MIC, the International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza, Claudia Casali, when she spoke of the slowness of my work as though it were a magical rite and an intellectual event that required time and skill.
I also remember the words of Antonio Vivas, the Director of the Spanish magazine CERAMICA, who highlighted my complex narrative associated to the blend of cultures typical of someone who has lived between two worlds, America and Europe.
I was also pleased when the art curator and critic Beatrice Buscaroli introduced her text by recalling the story told by Albrecht Dürer when he saw the objects that Montezuma had sent as a gift to King Charles V in 1520 and compared my work to those precious objects from faraway worlds.
PE: In your role as assistant editor of the magazine La ceramica in Italia e nel mondo, and as a person who knows this sector in depth, which do you think are the most important styles and researches that characterise contemporary ceramic?
MP: The most widespread trends are two: on one hand, there is a form of research where the concept prevails over technique and matter, where, I believe, ceramic loses its main role and is impoverished; on the other there are works where the concept is expressed without losing sight of the need for things to be “well made”. Contemporary ceramics in northern European, Asian and in some Latin-American countries has become more demanding and refined, with deep themes presented in works of extraordinary technical quality which, when you get down to it, is what counts for collectors and experts.
PE: What encouraged you to dedicate your time to ceramic art and what does it mean to you?
MP: I was born in a land where we experience the use of ceramic in daily life. As a girl, I loved clay, my parents knew that a box of coloured clay to shape was more important to me than a toy. At University, my thesis in the Fine Arts Faculty was completely focused on ceramics. My inclinations have always come natural to me, they were never imposed and this represents my way of communicating with the world.
PE: Which aspects of your work do you love most?
MP: Everything, from preparing the sketches and pictures to laying out the material, from realising the work to exhibiting it.
PE: Which difficulties have you encountered?
MP: They are all of technical nature, there are many such difficulties, but they can be overcome. Then, the last stage of the sale, a lot of people don’t know or don’t understand and it is hard to position ceramic in “non ceramic” locations or dedicated only to ceramics.
…I started by observing animal nature and then came to the observation of human nature; now I like the themes of travel, transhumance, migration, rites, magic and love.…
PE: Can you explain the technical specificities of your work, as if you were talking to someone who doesn’t have a clue about ceramic art?
MP: Porcelain puts the ceramic artist’s patience to the test! The techniques used are so varied and ancient that the same peoples who created them are often unable to use them today. I work with thin slivers of porcelain that shape the pieces through the moulds, then I finish the work with fragments of “Nerikomi”, “Neriage” or “Mishima”, which are Asian inlay or mosaic techniques using pigmented porcelain paste. The drying process is very slow, even a month can be needed for a medium-sized piece.
It is at first baked slowly and at a low temperature (1000°C); then there is the finish and, if needed, the glazing; the piece is then fired once again at high temperatures (1280 -1300 °C) and, if needed, it can be fired once again to apply gold or platinum and then finally it is washed.
PE: Which themes inspire your artistic research? How do you develop them or do they change in time?
MP: I started by observing animal nature and then came to the observation of human nature; now I like the themes of travel, transhumance, migration, rites, magic and love.
PE: Is it important for you to make the artwork you design with your own hands? Would you entrust their realisation to others?
MP: I think it would be difficult to entrust my work to others, although some objects made in small series are partly done by others or finished by my assistants.
PE: Which past exhibitions or projects have gratified you most?
MP: I particularly appreciated the projects realised especially for a place or for a special event; I have had the opportunity to lay out palaces, catwalks, homes… In addition to this, I like to remember the exhibitions where I was allowed the freedom to prepare the exhibition in terms of its size and theme, and it is very satisfying when, at the end, the pieces remain property of a public or private entity.
PE: Can you tell us about your upcoming exhibitions?
MP: There is no set date, but there will be an exhibition in Belgium, one in Japan, in Italy (Rome) and finally in Colombia.
PE: Do you like working on demand or do prefer to work based on a set project?
MP: Both, I have no problems with either. In the past I have enjoyed working both on projects for architects or for galleries and to fulfil specific requests made by public and private entities.
PE: How do you like to relate with your clients?
MP: I generally relate very well with people, my client can be a gallery, a body that is the curator of a project, a collector or simply a friend; I show them everything, explain and give suggestions, and tell the story of the piece. But it would be interesting to find a professional figure who could do all this, as happens in other nations where the market of art is more developed, a merchant and nothing more.
PE: What is your dream for the future?
MP: To continue to do what I am doing, but I would like to develop increasingly bigger projects and work in many other countries.