Interview: Lasers in the Jungle

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Lasers in the Jungle – An Exhibition of Vases by Lucinda Mudge (Gallery at Grande Provence, Franschhoek)

Lucinda Mudge is an artist working primarily within the medium of ceramics. After obtaining her degree from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, UCT, she went on to work in England, where she was introduced to ceramics. By mixing her own stains and glaze, Lucinda has developed a ceramic technique that is uniquely her own: deep, colourful and rich. An observer of both the visual and the social-political, Lucinda brings her humorous (and tense) observations of South African life to the forefront in her highly decorative, unique vases. Lasers in the Jungle is her third solo exhibition. 

A vase is not an insignificant form in ceramics – why did you choose this form and what were the challenges with this form?

I use the form of the vase to bring together the alluring elements of beauty and blend them together with darker undercurrents of fear and paranoia. 

A vase has its own language and it took me a while to understand it. It has a sort of friendliness that is genuinely welcoming. If you look at the history of the vase you can’t really avoid the floral theme. I could actually put anything next to a flower and it would pass – it’s a vase – it’s already been accepted by our mind. This is an element of the vase that I am hugely attracted to. 

My challenges are largely technical. Ceramics must be one of the least forgiving mediums and I have developed a love-hate relationship with it. I have a strong foundation in the theory of art, and have always painted, but have no real ceramic training, and making a 60 cm high coiled vase is technically very challenging. I taught myself how to do it by watching online tutorials. I have been mixing my own stains and glazes, resulting in casualties that make me want to weep!

The pieces are very sensual and seductive – what inspires you on a sensory level?

I am inspired by love songs and poets. I am an observer of relationships. I look at people and how we interact with one another. I especially appreciate the rich dynamics and complexities of South African society. 

I think the sensuality around my vases stems from my own femininity, but it must be my ceramic technique – the shiny textured quality of the vases, with the gold sparkling in the background – that ultimately seduces the viewer. I work alone in my studio in Keurboomstrand, just outside Plettenberg Bay. I have purposefully distanced myself from creative interference, allowing me a degree of artistic freedom. It is this freedom, combined with the deep rich colours that I have taken great pains to create, that you are referring to. 

Tell us about the content of the works and the intellectual and psychological reasoning behind this exhibition.

The content is linked by the themes of beauty, wealth and fear in a South African context. This exhibition focuses on the image of the mermaid as a siren, luring us in. I have also used a wide variety of local and global pop culture references (including cartoons, tattoos, pop songs and poems) so that my vases become a collage of contemporary life, exemplifying the tempo of South African living.

Psychologically, I appreciate the roundness of the form which, quite literally, we can turn around to face the wall so that we can view only the decorative beauty on the other side. In South Africa we are all quite well practised in “looking the other way”, and this psychological “twist” will continue to inspire me. 


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