Jan Vogelpoel’s hand-built ceramics evoke a sensuousness and a solidity that speaks to the materials of their making. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, where she studied under ceramicist Barbara Jackson and at the Durban Technikon, the Melbourne-based artist has worked with clay for the past twenty years. Over this period, she has refined a visual language that draws on the iconography of mid-century modernists such as Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975) and Salvatore Fiume (1915–1997), and on the philosophies of twentieth-century Japanese ceramicist Shōji Hamada (1894–1978), an advocate for craftsmanship and respect for materials.
While the titles of Vogelpoel’s artworks belie representational readings, the objects themselves embody her interest in organic forms. The negative spaces that inhabit her sculptures have particularly resonance, as do the shadows that they cast, which extend her artworks’ aura. As she has explained:
You create a solid vessel that claims its space however another realm exists. This is revealed when it catches the light and casts out shadows that morph and evolve. My work is inspired by these shadows.
Her sculptural group Whites 2019 exemplifies this approach. Embodying the plurality implied by the title, the artwork encompasses a surprising variety of tones, both through Vogelpoel’s working of the vessels’ surfaces, and in the way that light is absorbed and reflected by them. Comprising a sequence of concave and convex contours punctuated by scarified apertures and the inverse form of an orb, each of the elements combine to suggest complexity within a limited range of shapes.