Cooke Latham Gallery is pleased to present 'Noggin', an exhibition of ceramic sculptures by William Cobbing made between May and July 2021 during his residency at the European Ceramics WorkCentre in The Netherlands. The exhibition is available online and by appointment at the gallery.
‘Noggin’ is primarily a series of wall-based, mask-like, ceramics. In these works, the clay is prodded and pockmarked by fingerprints, emphasising the tactile process of making by hand. Hands proliferate, emerging from the position of the eyes to form surreal antlers, to cling onto the face, or find their way into mouths. This connection between hand and head, of making oneself, is replicated in the looped action of forming and re-forming within Cobbing’s videos. This series began at the start of the pandemic, made solely by the artist in his studio due to social distancing restrictions. In some videos the head is covered in a large clay mass, the surface of which is scraped away to expose an interior of brightly coloured liquid. In others, glazed ceramic masks are smashed to reveal stony cavities, clay heads spin and texts are scrawled onto clay facades with oversized clay hands.
Both the ceramics and video works explore the transformative possibilities of the mask, how it can make us anonymous, other and exaggerated. During the videos there is often a process of ‘revealing’ the face. This is echoed in the ceramic works, where the facial features of the mask emerge from, or are submerged by, the clay from which they are made. Process is integral to Cobbing’s practice and in some instances the filmic works blur with their ceramic counterparts; masks in which the raw edged incisions that represent mouth or eyes are seemingly the result of the same scraping and cutting motions that the videos portray. A link is inferred between materials and their psychological states, creating alternating feelings of suffocation, introspection, hiding, catharsis and escape.