Tina Vlassopulos' antidote to the cacophony of our digital age for this year's Collect
‘Conversations with Friends is a work consisting of 12 ceramic, abstract portraits of my friends, placed as though seated around a dining table. It is made in defiance of the cacophony of the digital age and as a celebration of friendship,’ says Tina Vlassopulos of her new project for Collect Open.
The pieces are made in burnished stoneware, with flocked elements to give accents of colour and contrast, and are elegant and enigmatic evocations of people to whom she is close. She works on several at a time, with each one taking at least a week to complete, though the rigour of the process translates not into intensity, but work that is soft, subtle and compellingly quiet.
‘I want to question the way we view friendships and demonstrate how our friends’ individuality and differences can enhance our lives,’ she says. ‘Although we each hold different experiences and personalities, friendship binds us together in a powerful way. I also want to challenge the prevalence of one-way communication and celebrate the importance of conversation.’
The representation of her friends’ characteristics is far from literal. ‘I’m trying to represent each of them in a subjective and symbolic way,’ Vlassopulos says. It also marks a significant move in her practice, away from
the constraints of studio pottery and towards a more emotional approach to form-making: ‘I’m trying to express human qualities in abstract form.’ The portraits are assemblages of shapes, each element expressing one facet of the subject. ‘Some will be obvious, while others will require the viewer to put in more effort to grasp their meaning,’ says Vlassopulos.
Pushing her practice further, she is creating a catalogue with images of the work, an essay on the meaning of friendship and a short comment by each of the friends who are featured in the exhibition. And there will be a book at the installation in which visitors will be invited to write down their observations on what friendship means to them. ‘I’ve been working on this project for about four months so it is still in its infancy, but it’s really inspired me to come up with fresh ideas,’ she says. ‘And while I’m working, I think about the relationships that have touched my life.’ Never has the meditative quality of making been put to better use.