God created man from clay : « Yahweh God fashioned man of dust from the soil ». (GN 2,7)
Man would be defined, at least biblically, a being linked not only to Earth, but to the earth as a simple material.
We have a tendency to see ceramics, as the perview of Modernity. In fact, back to te paleolithic age, much before they could write, humans were moulding clay.Surprisingly, he doesn't shape only useful objects to carry and store food and water : the Venus of Dolni Vestonice, the oldest ceramics ever found, is nothing more than a sacred figure, that have been travelling through 29 000 years before being handed to us. It is a Work of art in its own right, a witness of its age. If the earth from which it was made had been left as mud, the Venus would surely not have come to our attention. But to the mix of soil and water, human being have had the great idea of adding a third ingredient : fire.Quintessential destructive element, Paradoxically, this is the necessary condition for a perennial creation. And sustainability is the assurance of a story to tell.
This is this ambition that transcends the ages during the course of Ceramics history until now. A good example is this fountain project from the 19th century, which by exceeding his utilitarian rôle, give existence to the myth of the siren. Conversely, Ceramics can be only a pretext to tell a story. No doubt that this attic amphora, decorated with a Bacchanale scene, is far from being made to carry water and wine. It is far to precious and refined to take the risk to make a crack on it.
Sometimes, through his creation, the artist decides to tell the story of his own art. The black lead glaze of Paul Bonifas answers to the glaze of ceramics from Antiquity. But he applies it on a modern shape. There is a continuity in techniques and aesthetic that Art endeavours to maintain and renew. We know how much references to Antiquity are myriad. The important ceramic of Toul-Bellevue, created circa 1860, takes the shape of a classical amphora. It is just a disguise... No glazed terracotta here but a ceramic bisque, covered with lacquer used usually in Middle East works of art. This vase, union of different foreign techniques, becomes an invention on its own right.
Mixing techniques is also mixing arts, since painting is the key to coloring decors. In this series of plates from the 18th century, the decor takes precedence over the shape. They are decorative much more than useful. We can use this jug by Jacques Blin, and put in water or wine, but the colors of its glaze that wears an engraved decor this time, give it the importance of a sculpture that could be put ion a piedestal. The glaze of this monumental jardiniere made by the Manufacture of J. Vieillard was of course made for receiving earth and plants. But this work, with such complex shapes, could be self-sufficient. Moreover, Nathalie Dupuis, ceramic specialist and antique dealer at Paul Bert Serpette, couldn't decide between a lamp or a sculpture to describe her ceramic by Jean Derval. Indeed, the Art and the Useful are comparable in it.
Thus, every ceramic tells a story, figures something. When it's hard to perceive for some, the artist names it : Pol Chambost vase, pure work on style, becomes a flower « Corolle ». And even when the style is fixed and follows the artistic trends of its time, the Art of Ceramics tries to transcend History, and deal with Time. Time will not cause cracks in glaze because ceramists will make of those an art, as something of a thumbing of the nose to erosion and mortality (Celadon vase, China, 18th century).