The Sensorial Object, Craft in the Bay, Cardiff

7th January – 8th March 2015

Curated by Zoe Preece and Dr. Natasha Mayo, on behalf of the Makers Guild of Wales

This exhibition brings together a collection of artists whose work in various intriguing and beautiful ways explores the sense experience through the materiality of things. How do we sensate the world? Is it possible to capture or extend those moments of sensation long enough for us to perceive them? As we selected artists and discussed the individual properties of their artworks, an underlying theme emerged – that of the familiar, domestic object. Taking the domestic object as our site of exploration, seemed to offer up the possibility of not only re-visiting our sensory world, but also of discovering rich layers of complexity and depth and new apertures of perception within and beneath our familiar daily experience. The bringing together of new digital technologies with the long established traditions of ceramics, textiles and glass, was to further push the boundaries of this idea within the applied art object, testing out the ability of materiality to both trigger and illuminate sensory connection from sight, sound, touch, smell and even taste.

As the project progressed, we began with increasing wonder to recognize its scope. In order to make these rich permeations more explicit, we expanded our search into three key areas. In the first instance, we turned to academics to articulate their thoughts in the form of ‘sensory musings’. It was astounding to discover the significance of the theme for such a wide spectrum of disciplines from dance, theatre, and psychology to anthropology. We simply asked for short excerpts, explaining the significance of sensory states and object to each academic’s given field, and a demonstration of how it might be used to elicit interpretation of an art work.

This uncovering of theoretical dialogues in turn prompted us to explore further the thinking behind each artist’s practice – in particular the ways in which their sensory modalities might have governed the development of their ideas. In an attempt to identify this, each artist was asked to consider the influence of sensory experience at key stages in creating their work, recording their reflections through photographic imagery and written thoughts. The third, explored how those very sensorial experiences undertaken by the artists contain the potential for social application; how capturing and extending moments of sensory experience can be used to enhance engagement with the world by re-mapping synaptic connections, to reinforce memories in dementia, encourage social interaction in autism, and bring communities together. This final aspect of research perhaps recognises most poignantly how essential our sensorial experience is to being human.

The project has evolved into such a rich, diverse, multi layered and cross disciplinary research project, that we have now come to appreciate this particular formation of exceptional artists and thinkers culminating at Craft in the Bay, as a platform from which the project will continue to grow.