New Zealand award winning ceramicist, Mark Mitchell has always loved creating. As a child, (when not making “mud pies in the back garden”), he was “always curious what his instrument maker father, “was creating in his studio”.
As one of New Zealand’s leading ceramicists, Mitchell creates mesmerizingly beautiful vessels, whose graphic surfaces, fascinate and delight.
Often using a black and white or monochrome palette, the serpentine lines of his ceramic vessels, create an optical illusion that appears to repeat beyond the form of the vessel itself. Through the use of bold geometric patterning, the surface of the vessels sit solidly in space. Yet when we peer inside, we see a fine network of cracks within the delicate glaze. This contrast defines Mitchell’s language of creativity.
Throughout human history, the ‘vessel’ denotes timelessness in both form and use. Mitchell states: “The vessel as muse would probably encapsulate my making and exploration. It dates back to around 3000bc and it still captivates”. At times in his practice, Mitchell applies gold and silver leaf to his ceramics vessels, as if to scatter light throughout the dark patterned matt surface. Says Mitchell: “So much of clay making is process, rhythm and repetition … my interest lies predominantly with the vessel as an archetypal form, combined with the rich and long history of decorative arts. I use pattern to create illusionary planes to explore the boundary between surface and form, and how the two relate.’’
Mitchell is influenced by many sources — the abstract modernist works of painter Bridget Reilly, Islamic architecture, modernist grids, New Zealand artist Gordon Walters’ Maori motifs, and even graphic signage down at the local Whanganui wharf. Although influenced by Modernism, Mitchell states that he is ”a big fan of the slow movement, the meet-the-maker, local trade. It’s really a response to globalisation and mass production.”
Mark Mitchell began working in commercial pottery in 1996 and later worked as a self-employed slip-caster. He started his fine arts degree at Wanganui Quay School of Art, completing his final year of the degree at Otago Polytechnic School of Art in 2001. Mitchell subsequently worked as a pottery tutor at the Hungry Creek Art School in Auckland in 2005, where he continued to develop mould making and throwing skills, slab building processes, and surface treatments using terra sigilatta, decals, enamels, and screen printing. In 2007 he was chosen to represent NZ as an emergent artist at the Fule International Ceramic Museums in China, where he worked alongside a group of internationally recognised artists within an industrial tile and brick factory in the Shaanxi province, China. In 2009 he was the recipient of the international recognised 3-month ceramic residency programme in Shigaraki Cultural Ceramic Park, Japan, awarded by The Japan Foundation, Sydney.
Mitchell has been the recipient of several awards including, Waiheke Small Sculpture Awards, Merit Award 2020, Portage Ceramic Awards, Premier Award 2019, OBJECTive Art Awards, premier award 2008, Portage Ceramic Awards Merit Award 2006, Portage Ceramic Awards Mention of Excellence, 2003.