Penelope Matheson: my practice is centred upon an enquiry into the theme of pleonexia – the desire to consume or have ‘more’ – to be bigger, better, superior to others – even if that means draining the world of power, wealth, pleasure and being.
It seems that our society is troubled by our apparently insatiable desire to consume but is unable as yet to bring these desires under control. Further to the theme of greed and rapaciousness, I am working on a series of drawings and ceramics that examine the depletion of fishing stock and marine resources and the vital yet uneasy relationship between humans and the sea. I am similarly interested in land based farming practices and the contradiction between the urgent need to feed a hungry world and sustainable (not to mention ethical) methods of food production. I use literary allusions to emphasize meaning and (quite intentionally) to add a humorous element to the content.
Given that I spent most of my childhood lying on my belly looking at caterpillars it is not surprising that I often employ natural/organic imagery usually (but not always) arranged in hierarchical structures to illustrate cycles of hunger, desire and consumption. This is in part to play with the elaborate ornamental grammar of various decorative schools, e.g., the Sevres porcelain of the 18th century but also a compulsion which apparently I share with many women artists: to use repetition, pattern and grids within my work. It also echoes my fascination with taxonomic keys – I seek to make flesh the tiered and logical progression of an idea.
I have also been examining the idea that everyday ceramic objects in the home serve a function beyond ornament and sentimentality. I am also intrigued by the almost fanatical devotion to collecting these objects many people have, which is in itself might be considered a form of pleionexia. I am only at the beginning of this enquiry but I am interested in exploring how intimations of cultural identity, status and social aspiration are reflected in ceramic objects, and if so – does greed and acquisitiveness play a part in their collection? I am infatuated with the intrinsic qualities of the ceramics medium that goes beyond its pliability and ability to mimic almost anything. It has an alchemy that is compelling and unpredictable.
Some days I literally run to the kiln room.