Jean-Nicola Gerard

Plate, 2001
high fired earthenware

He lives in the south of France among flowers and herbs. He makes tableware. And that’s an impertinence. For his tableware is heavy and bulky, occupying an inordinate amount of space. Once it has been placed on the table, no room remains for anything else. A reflection of the French approach: when they eat, they devote their entire attention to the food. Eating is not a side-issue. It’s as simple as that. Jean-Nicola Gérard is a representative of the “terre brute” school, a term which is derived from the “art brut” idiom and which implies the wild, unruly, untamed handling of ceramic materials. Gérard is also a proponent of “terre vernisée”, glazed earthenware, a school which throws colour about and whose tradition he has radically revamped. His ceramic work is a denial of laboured glazing techniques, of traditional ornamental painting, of “skilled throwing”.

He handles the soft, red clay so that it emanates joy. His knowledge and understanding of his material is so detailed that he knows precisely when and how he should get to grips with it – he knows the edge can be formed with a slow, generous movement of the hand, and that the feet will hold on perfectly well when attached using slip. He coats the piece lavishly with coloured slips, roughly describing an iron oxide square, and then scratches a drawing into the surface he has created – just ever so slightly too late, so that the slipscrumble away at the edges, victims of a drying process that lasted just slightly too long. No matter. Finally he dips the whole lump into transparent glaze. Job done. The result is the result, and that’s how it is. An expression of powerful joie de vivre and lively spontaneity, where everything is quite simply a matter of course.

All his knowledge, the experience derived from a craft he has practised for many years, the practised movements of his hand, of his eye, all come to bear in one single moment. The clay becomes a matrix which still conveys the original mood many years later, the artist’s movement and gestures, the material’s texture at the moment it was crafted, indeed the entire creation process with all the decisions involved, long before the clay was hardened by firing to its final, rock-hard consistency.

The artist’s skill resides in his relaxed hand. A hand that knows everything and forgets everything.

Gabi Dewald

Jean-Nicola Gérard (b.1954 in Brazzaville/Kongo) is a potter. He lives and works inValensole/F.




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