Interview by Alessandro Casagrande
Portrait by Joerg Lehmann
Jojo Corvaia is a Berlin-based visual artist born in Venezuela with studies in architecture, and development in other disciplines such graphic design, photography, multimedia work and ceramics.
His projects and thematic research in ceramics gravitate towards the concept of imperfection, asymmetry and modesty. Aspects of his work include roughness, irregularity and appreciation for the natural process of expression. He recognizes and embraces the anomalies arising from the process of hand-building, which add uniqueness, beauty and a particular character to his work.
His only tools are his hands, and this gives him the opportunity to get intimate with the material. For each piece, he thinks of a perception that transcends appearance, rather going into the territory of feelings.
Alessandro Casagrande (AC) – How important is the process and the technique while you are working a series?
Jojo Corvaia (JC) – That’s an interesting question. I have developed two series so far, Volcano and Berber. They differ not only in character but also in materials, therefore the techniques are slightly different for each series.
The Volcano series is a body of work made with black clay extracted from the many volcanic arcs of Lanzarote, Spain. This material is rather soft, with 40% of fine chamotte which means that I can manipulate greatly the pieces I make with it. Its high content in ashes, silica and alumina creates an unique reaction with my glazes giving these pieces their singular silvery dark patina.
As per the Berber Series, these ceramics are made with a less soft white clay, rough rather. This means I need to be faster in my decisions, the clay drys quicker and has its own challenges. The series is influenced by North African pottery used to collect rain, large pieces that keep narrowing as they go up, but then grow abruptly wide in the neck to maximize the collection of water.
I decided to work on my own insight of this concept with a series I later call Berber, to honor the North African culture.
Of course in both series I incorporate elements of my own language and add my own interpretation of what each piece should be like.
Perhaps one thing worth mentioning is the fact that, because I didn’t study ceramics (I’m an architect and I have never touched clay before 3 years ago) I have a more intuitive relationship with the material, so I’m more focused on the piece itself rather than a specific technic.
However, the expression and language of my work doesn’t come from nowhere… it has to do with sensibility, memory, awareness, recollection of experiences, places I’ve been, people I’ve met, music I’ve heard, books I’ve read, food I’ve eaten…
That’s why, I think, when I first touched clay I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It has been the most direct vehicle from memory to object I have ever understood to exist.
(AC) – Explain to our readers the concept behind your “Berber Collection” ceramics.
(JC) – While studying some of the North African ceramic artifacts I mentioned, I found out that one of the constants in their traditional pottery production
is that they are hand crafted without the use of a wheel, which is the way I produce all my pieces. This spoke to me immediately.
Of course terracotta clay is most commonly used in Africa, fired in the open, usually with donkey excrements and wood, to produce pots of remarkable durability and burn-like effects.
In the search for a deceptive simplicity that resembles this idea, I also decided to thoroughly explore the use of color.
This collection, as you call it, marks a new path in my work, one that I intend to explore further. Of course I have put aside the functionality and aesthetics of the North African pieces to concentrate on each of my ceramics as an individual artworks of my own.
Also, with the use of natural pigments, I have applied a painterly character when glazing the ceramics, using personal ideas, impressions and memories.
(AC) – Since you work with your hands, does that free up the restraints to try and make everything appear “perfect” and allow you spontaneous creativity?
(JC) – Perfectionism is an idea I don’t work with. Imperfection to me is more significant. The part of perfectionism that is always devastating isn’t the formulation of exceedingly high ideals or expectations, but rather the self-abuse that is associated with the perfectionism.
Reality is imperfect, so I think the problem with perfection for an artist like me is that it works against the greater openness to uncertainty that is so necessary to making something serious and sustantive, something that has “reality” in it.
So in essence, I’m not interested in perfection. Being free of flaws and defects directly contradicts my idea of freedom of expression, and I see my work in ceramic as a vehicle for communicating freedom.
(AC) – Where do you look to find inspiration and there is some particular environment / situation that leads to your creativity?
(JC) – I think the material in my “inspiration”, although I try as much as possible to avoid that term. The reason for it is because my work is truly emotional and visceral. I am one with the clay and it is as if the clay tells me what to do.
I connect each piece with my thoughts, and feelings. Each piece turns into a diary of ideas, and a series of them become books, written with an idiomatic force that my hands can only achieve at the contact with the clay.
There is no way to hide, I have to be one hundred percent with the piece.
If I make a bowl, a table or a complex sculpture, all you see is a captured moment, maybe even an instant, all you see is me. I know this because my ceramics are the closest I have ever seen myself.
Jojo Corvaia’s pieces are available through GARDE.