This year as our special showcase exhibition in The Crossing CAL is playing host to On Air, a satellite exhibition and series of events investigating the urgent topic of air pollution. Using smog particulate matter, glaze, ceramics and clay stop-frame animation the installation makes visible and tangible this invisible poison, aiming to stimulate discussion, debate and vitally, action.
Collecting smog dust in London for this project
The work of 5 international and British artists will be featured in On Air: Smogware’s provocative teacups coloured with smog-stained glazes, Kim Abeles’s challenging work allowing ambient particulate dust to fall on commemorative plates revealing portraits of world leaders and their pledges on air quality. The show will also include work from glaze specialist Linda Bloomfield who has been representing lichen in glazes, as early-indicators of air pollution, Jasmine Pradissitto who sculpts in Noxtek, a ceramic geopolymer capable of absorbing nitrogen dioxide and Jo Pearl who combines ceramics with clay animation to bring the topic of gasping for breath to life. On Air will also feature the Air Lab a place to share with visitors how the work has been made – how the works and glazes can be ‘read’ with more information – to inspire more makers to get involved with the network of artists exploring the problem. Smogware will also be staging live events: Tea for Two discussions with Thought Leaders.
Kim Abeles is a California–based artist who has a been exploring the issue of air pollution for over 30 years. Her series of Smog Collectors began in 1987 and has involved collaborations with US air pollution control agencies. The innovation earned Abeles American and international attention. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and J. Paul Getty Trust Fund. We are delighted that she is updating World Leaders in Smog for Ceramic Art London with Sadiq Khan as the latest politician to be featured in her powerful series of commemorative plates with portraits revealed in smog dust and quotations from their speeches about the environment. She will also be presenting Lungs in Smog – stencils of lungs revealed by particulate matter that has landed on panes of glass. These are strategically placed in pollution hotspots around London, including the A205 south circular, that runs close by the road around the corner from the home of Ella Kissi-Debrah, the nine-year-old who died of asthma in 2013.
“The London Globe printed a new word “Smog,” coined in a speech at the 1905 Public Health Congress. They considered it a public service to describe this phenomenon.
Kim Abeles: ”Smog Collectors materialize the reality of the air we breathe. I place cut, stencilled images on transparent or opaque plates or fabric, then leave these on rooftops and let the particulate matter in the heavy air fall upon them. After a period, from four days to a month typically, the stencil is removed, and the image is revealed in smog. To quote a stranger who saw my first experiments, they are ‘footprints of the sky’.
We live in the contradiction that the dangers are out there, beyond, and that we are safe in our homes. Since the worst in our air can’t be seen, Smog Collectors are both literal and metaphoric depictions of the current conditions of our life source. They are reminders of our industrial decisions: the road we took that seemed so modern.”
Porcelain forms with lichen-effect glazes. Height 28cm, diameter 22cm. Photo Henry Bloomfield
Linda Bloomfield is a master of ceramic glazes, and specialises in thrown porcelain. Her installation for Ceramic Art London 2022 highlights the ebbing and flowing of Lichen – the canary in the coal mine of the plant world. She draws our attention to lichen as an early warning system for the impact of climate change and air pollution. This unobtrusive plant can only thrive in clean air – and so when it declines, is an indicator of the presence sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide and ozone in the air we breathe. Air pollution also causes a gradual decrease in the diversity of lichens. Linda brings to CAL a series of organic forms based on stromatolites and fungi. At first the lichen-affect glazes cover the forms abundantly, then gradually decrease until the forms are dark and barren. She uses crawl glazes in ochre, viridian green and chalk white to represent the lichens.
A scientist before turning to ceramics, Linda Bloomfield has brought a rigorous methodology to how she develops and tests glazes. She is a well-known author in the field, having published numerous books on glaze recipes and affects. She has exhibited her work widely in the world of design and craft. https://lindabloomfield.co.uk/
Gasping for Air– is a new series of work by Jo Pearl whose practice combines sculpting and ceramics with clay stop-frame animation. It investigates what it looks and feels like to gasp for breath – due to air pollution’s effect on vulnerable lungs.
Jo Pearl’s work is both figurative and abstract, haptic and tactile. Although fundamentally a ceramicist, she brings the clay to life, creating an illusion of movement by photographing each iteration of her evolving clay forms and editing the still images into a film. She uses professional software to create high-definition animations that can be projected at large scale, and amplify the impact of her narratives. Pearl sculpts using her own recipe of paperclay, keeping the work damp throughout the long sculpting process. Cellulose in the paperclay draws in the added moisture, so that the material remains plastic and flexible, but is also strong enough to kiln-fire at the end of the shoot when dry. The transformation of clay into ceramic in the kiln, is a vital dimension to the work– slowing it to a standstill, and allowing viewers to look at the final 3D forms in the round. There is permission to stare, space to experience the fleeting and a sense of the timeless.
‘I love that these two outcomes offer me a way to celebrate clay’s intrinsic qualities – its endless flexibility when wet, while timelessly set in stone when fired. Another added benefit is I am able to reduce the amount of kilns-firings I need to get my message across, and so minimise my fossil fuel consumption. This seems particularly appropriate for work about the problem of air pollution.’
Dr. Jasmine Pradissitto is a London-based artist, scientist, and academic whose art practice focuses on environmentalism, sustainability, and how mythopoetry creates new narratives for our future, by remembering our collective past.
She is the sole artist licensed to work using, a ceramic geopolymer that absorbs up to 15% of its weight of nitrogen dioxide pollution from the air, after pioneering its use as a sculpting material for the last 5 years.
Pradissitto has exhibited in over 65 shows worldwide, won the PEA Arts award in 2021 for Pioneering Art and the DEFRA Bees award in 2020. She has just been commissioned by The Ella Roberta Foundation to create a sculpture- a future memorial – to Ella, a 9-year-old child whose ‘death by pollution’ was the first-ever to be recorded on a death certificate.
She is presenting Famine and Pestilence at CAL. Two works of the ‘Four Horsemen’ which prophesied the ‘end of days’. It is a reminder that in what is arguably an Anthropocene geological era, it is the ‘anthros’, the human at its centre, whose hubris has forgotten their place in a delicate ecosystem which has taken billions of years to evolve the oxygen we need to survive.
Famine presents supplicating cupped hands, holding up an asthma pump, made from the innovative Noxtek. It was inspired by her son’s asthma attack several years before and juxtaposes the polymer’s marble-like white aesthetic so reminiscent of Greek and Roman sculptures in a classical pose, with the cast of an asthma sufferer’s ubiquitous life-saving inhaler. According to Asthma UK, one in eleven children and one in twelve adults are currently receiving asthma treatment. The asthma pump is an unwelcome contemporary icon of our progress.
Dutch architect Iris de Kievith and designer Annemarie Piscaer have come together to create Smogware, a publicly engaging project to provoke debate and behaviour change towards cleaning up our air quality. Together they found a way to harvest smog dust and use it meaningfully to stain glazes. The particulate matter makes visible and even tangible the poor air quality that surrounds us. They have adopted tableware as the canvas for their smog glazes: the humble plate, cup and saucer, intimately linking three of life’s sustaining actions: breathing, drinking and eating. A dimension of the project includes “participative urban mining”; sharing with citizens how to harvest their local dust and use it to investigate the colour of their own of local smog-glaze and air quality.
As well as exhibiting their tableware and research process at CAL, Smogware will also be hosting ‘Tea for Two’ events during the three days of the fair, inviting Thought Leaders to discuss ways to combat air pollution. Plus, they will be staging a delicious High Tea for visitors to CAL, asking participants whether drinking from a cup stained with air pollution is their cup of tea?
Smogware has collaborated with researchers and ceramic makers throughout the Netherlands, and cities around the world including Milan, Berlin, Beijing – and now London. It is building a network of like-minded practitioners to investigate and campaign about this global problem. The dream is to encourage behaviour change and reduce air pollution to nil.