96 pages, 225 × 245 mm, 78 colour pictures.  Expanded and revised second edition published by greendrake – ISBN 978 0 9562241 0 1

Painting with Smoke

David Roberts · Raku Potter

by Lynne Green 

Since the first edition of this book the phrase ‘painting with smoke’, coined by David Roberts, has become part of the lexicon of Raku ceramics.

The only publication on this important ceramic artist, this expanded second edition discusses the developments in the last decade and highlights Roberts’ increasing stature as an international figure in contemporary ceramics.

There is also a new and substantial technical section, which describes his working practise in an open and accessible way.

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“In a way that we carelessly fling words like ‘karma’ into conversation, perhaps without awareness of the true meaning, the term ‘raku’ has been (and why not?) appropriated to describe a ceramic technique, rather then the family tradition it actually is (now in its fifteenth generation of creating ceramics). Raku originally only referred to wares made by the Raku potter family, yet has since come to refer to a specific ceramic tradition.

In this beautifully remastered second edition of Lynne Green’s 2000 publication, the first publication of Greendrake Press, David Roberts acknowledges the misnomer, describing his work as ‘coil-built, rapidly fired, carbonised, non-vitreous ceramic’.

Nevertheless, the revelation of the raku firing process, its profound influence on Robert’s making and in turn the depth of knowledge and expertise he has brought to the world of contemporary ceramics is elegantly and engagingly described in Green’s volume. Roberts has been a pioneer in creating a contemporary form of raku ware that has firmly steered the process away from its traditional expression within the constraints of the tea ceremony bowl, yet has retained the sensibilities of spirituality and artistic consciousness practiced by early raku ceramists.

In ceramic art, process is key, and this book delves beyond the overtly technical aspects of process, through thought processes themselves and into the spiritual processes of making. With an entirely new technical section at the back, the book becomes as much as a technical bible as an art history, though for all its emphasis on technicality it is as much as an account of Roberts’s own spiritual or metaphysical journey as an artist. He says, ‘The balance between control and uncertainty is paralleled in life itself, in man’s attempt to make order out of chaos.’

Green’s style is conversational and lively, occasionally brings in quirky anecdotes but is never woolly and packs in facts in an accessible way. Her approach to Roberts’s life and work merges chronology with theme, charting his development through his mastery of technique, experimentation with form and latterly texture. While Green declines to engage (here at least) fully with the art/craft debate, the reader is alerted to the misuse (and misappropriation) of the ‘craft’ word within an art context.

Subsequently, the author places David Roberts’s work within a fine art/sculpture tradition, which is surely where it belongs, and cites the influence of the land art movement- particularly in the context of work by British artists such as Richard Long and Hamish Fulton- and indeed the importance of landscape and the exploration of line in Roberts’s work.”

Justine Gaunt – Ceramic Review Issue 239

About the Author

Lynne Green was educated as an art historian at Sussex University and the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.

Having been employed in the organisation of exhibitions and the running of a public art collection, she became freelance writer/curator in the early nineteen nineties.

Subsequently she co-founded and was later editor of the magazine Contemporary Art. As an author she has specialized in British modernism and contempory art.

Her books include Yorkshire Sculpture Park: Landscape for Art, YSP 2008 and W. Barns-Graham: a studio life, Lund Humphries 2001