Watch Irish Sculptor Sara Flynn Pull and Pinch Her Stunning Ceramics Into Abstraction

Take one look at Irish sculptor and ceramicist Sara Flynn‘s latest work, and you see that something special is going on.

For the exhibition “Chance Encounters III,” Flynn created a new series of ceramics, inspired in part by the form and materiality of the historic space that houses it: the LOEWE Miami Design District store, built around an 18th-century granary from Portugal. She imagines them as a singular group—a larger cycle of curvilinear forms that evolves from sculpture to sculpture.

Part of what makes Flynn’s vessels so graceful is their delicacy. The works, which span the entirety of the LOEWE store, are constructed from paper-thin porcelain and often feature edges sharp enough to break the skin. Each one is distinct from the other, yet together, the continuity is unmistakable. From elongated, matte-charcoal vase-like forms to short, squat basins in earthy auburns, it’s clear they were all forged by the same hand.

Flynn’s works begin on the wheel, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it. Unlike most thrown ceramics, which use the wheel as a means of creating symmetrical, annular forms, Flynn’s are oblong and contorted—pinched, pulled, and smoothed into one-of-a-kind shapes.

“I suppose, when I try to [sum it up in] a nutshell, I make sculptural vessels,” says Flynn in a video produced for the exhibition. “There was a point where, in artists’ statements and things I would say ‘I really love to throw pots.’ [But now] it’s the things that happen after the throwing that really interest me. The wheel is just another tool, and it’s a means of making forms that then I can play with.”

Sara Flynn, from the Faceted Esker Vessel Group (2017). Photo courtesy of Loewe.

That wasn’t always the case, though. When the artist first started out, over 20 years ago, she made clean, serviceable pots, bowls, and other objects. For Flynn, it simply became a question of function versus aesthetics. “I had been drawn to function initially for practical concerns, but then as I increased in skill and got more confident in my making, I was less and less interested in function. If anything, I felt it was holding me back. It was surfaces and glazes and finishes and edges that I wanted to do with the work.”

Flynn follows in the footsteps of artists including Lucie Rie and John Ward, who created ceramics for the 2015 and ’16 iterations of the “Chance Encounters” series, respectively. This is the largest singular commission of Flynn’s work to date.

Sara Flynn’s white ceramic vase for “Chance Encounters III” (2017). Photo courtesy of Loewe.

Jonathan Anderson, creative director of the Spanish fashion and design brand, commissioned the Irish artist’s 2017 showcase, alongside the work of two other artists. In addition to Flynn, “Chance Encounters III” features painter Richard Smith and photographer Lionel Wendt. The three all work in different mediums and hail from different generations, but their collective work is meant to embody the company’s singular tradition of craftsmanship and innovation. (You can see artnet News’s look at Wendt’s work here.)

“Art and craft are always at the center of my creative process,” said Anderson in a statement. “These exhibitions are an exciting way of exploring artists that are important to me. I love the unexpected things that happen when people from completely different worlds are brought together, the antagonism can create something completely new.”

“Chance Encounters III” runs December 5–February 4 at Loewe, Miami Design District, 110 NE 39th Street, Suite #102.

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