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.
Starting from a sculptural sensibility William Cobbing’s art practice encompasses a diverse range of media, including video, photography and installation. Performative encounters are devised with material, such as clay, in which the protagonists’ are engaged in a repetitive and absurd cycle of manipulating formless surfaces. The works allude to concepts of entropy, underlining the extent to which earthly material is irreversibly dispersed, giving rise to a definitive blurring of the boundaries between the body and landscape, whilst putting the possibility of conclusion on hold.
William Cobbing studied sculpture at Central St Martins, De Ateliers, an artists’ institute in Amsterdam and a PhD at Middlesex University. Cobbing also undertook a residency at Turquoise Mountain in Kabul, Afghanistan . He was awarded the Helen Chadwick Fellowship at Ruskin School and British School at Rome, resulting in the Gradiva Project at Freud Museum and Camden Arts Centre. William Cobbing has exhibited internationally including Human After All: Ceramic Reflections in Contemporary Art, The Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics, The Netherlands; Haptic Loop, Cooke Latham Gallery; Feÿ Arts Festival, Château du Feÿ, Bourgogne, France; CLAY! / LER! Museum Jorn, Silkeborg, Denmark, Material Gestures, E-WERK Freiburg, Concrete Poetries, LOWER.GREEN, Norwich, Further Thoughts on Earthy Materials, Gesellschaft für Aktuelle Kunst, Bremen and Kunsthaus Hamburg, Terrapolis, French School,Athens (Organised by Whitechapel Gallery and NEON, To Continue / Notes Towards a Sculpture Cycle NOMAS Foundation, Rome and What’s Love Got To Do With It at Hayward Gallery Project Space, London.