Tom Kemp works with porcelain, making large vessels and ‘writing’ on them usually with single brushstrokes.
"I ‘throw’ these vessels on a potter’s wheel (the word ‘throw’, here, is from an old English word, thrawan, meaning to twist or turn. Perhaps that’s why we use the word ‘throw’ for chucking things a long way: a javelin travels further and more accurately if it’s given a twist just before it launches).
The vessels are surfaces on which I then write marks. These strokes are made swiftly and contain a huge amount of information about the way my body works during these few seconds.
Some of the brushes I use are square-cut at the end and deliberately mimic the shape of pens used for thousands of years across the Middle East and Europe.
Brushes with this shape were used throughout the Roman empire to write inscriptions on buildings; the letters were almost always carved to preserve the formal writing. As a card-carrying nerd I learned all I could about this way of writing, published a textbook and continue to teach workshops around the world.
Over the years, I developed a deep interest in writing and what it was as a graphical, physical, real-time manifestation of us trying to make something very precise and meaningful.
I’ve used many different tools for writing, trying to exclude any language, concentrating on the movements and graphical and bodily relationships. Showing the universality of writing, way beyond any particular script or literature.
There’s an interesting and ancient history of writing on ceramic vessels and I’m currently making a claim to join that tradition."