Canadian Architect

Feature

Suspended Animation

Ornament and infrastructure meet in an enigmatic architectural screen.

April 1, 2001
by Nyla Matuk

Nearly 1,000 ceramic forms make up Neil Forrest’s Hiving Mesh, an architectural screen of porcelain and connective stainless steel wire struts suspended together to create a thick curtain organized in hexagons.

Forrest crafts the porcelain objects and imbues them with a tectonic value that recalls Modern architectural preoccupations. The forms, some of which are solid and some hollow, present ornamentation and the craft of architectural ceramics as instances of the Modernist celebration of light structures and of the porosity and transparency of Modern building.

The interspersed, shapely porcelain pieces suggest a changeability and imperfection that is an inescapable part of the self-generating natural world, bringing to mind cell mutation and ensuing disease. They stand in contrast to the implied perfection of the steel wire connections, organized like a highly ordered beehive.

Forrest’s application of coats of plaster and clay to pine cones, for instance, gives them the texture of vital organs that suggest hearts or lungs. Their corporeal presence in the hexagonal tensile web invokes signs of deformity within a cardinal orderliness.

The repetitive pattern of Hiving Mesh evokes the conditions of modern living and building. The free-floating aspect of the pieces disrupts the orderliness of the struts, yet depends on them to maintain their variability and chaos. The handcrafted porcelain “organisms” that inhabit the unforgiving logic of the infrastructural struts in Hiving Mesh underscore that Modernism’s cherished purity of form is a formalist illusion.

Hiving Mesh was exhibited last year at St. Mary’s University Art Gallery, Halifax. Photographs by Steve Farmer.




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