Main courante, Maison de la céramique, Mulhouse, 2001

L’exposition à la Maison de la Céramique comprenait plusieurs espaces sur presque 1000m², et permettait de montrer l’ensemble des pièces fabriquées en 2000/2001 en Inde, mais aussi d’autres ensembles datant des années 9O.

Dans la salle principale deux types de relief étaient montrés, datant de 95-98, d’une part des grandes fontes de fer coulées d’après des champignons polypores et d’autre part des petits reliefs confectionnés avec des champignons trametes montés sur des cartes postales et pages de livres. Puis plus loin étaient placées des pièces en pierre calcaire montées dans des boîtes en verre. Des collages en noir et blanc étaient disposés sur un mur latérale.
D’autres collages plus ancien occupait l’intervalle entre ces deux séries. Des fontes de fer complétaient l’ensemble. De l’autre côté de la salle la série de porcelaines de Sèvres prenait place devant des grandes fenêtres au sud, puis plus loin des bronzes blanc étaient regroupés sur une grande table.

Dans une salle à part quatre grandes pièces étaient installées, des pierres calcaires avec un élément chauffant qui les maintenaient à 40°C, placées sur des supports devant des miroirs en verre thermoformés découpés au jet d’eau.
Il s’y trouvait également deux pièces intitulées ‘pièces caduques’, un ensemble de pierres tournées et taillées, et de plaques émaillées fabriquées à Delhi.

Dans un large couloir des formes en pierre grise faisait le lien entre les deux espaces.

Un catalogue a été édité avec des textes de Suneet Chopra et Blandine Chavanne (voir pdf).


In the Maison de la Céramique show, nearly 1000m² was split among several different spaces and made possible the simultaneously showing of work made in 2000/2001 in India, as well as other series of pieces that date from the 1990s.

In the larger of the two rooms two kinds of rellief were shown, dating from 95-98, some large pieces made of cast iron and steel made from polypores bracket fungus as well as others made from trametes bracket fungus, mounted on old postcards and pages torn from books. On one side, other reliefs made from blocks from a limestone pavement were set in glass boxes. Black and white collages were shown on a side wall.
Other, older collages were shown on the intermediate space between these two blocks of work, while a set of lost-wax cast iron pieces completed the series form the 90s. On the opposite side of the room, in front of a south-facing window the Sèvres porcelains were set on a series of bases, the white bronzes cast in India were shown on one side.

In the adjacent room four limestone pieces with heating elements which kept them at a constant 40°C, set on bases in front of convex mirrors made of slumped glass.
Two pieces entitled ‘Pièces Caduques’, a piece made of grey turned and carved marble, and a series of enamelled sheets were shown in the same space.

In the wide corridor between the two spaces some carved pieces made from the same grey marble linked the two sets of work.

A catalogue was produced for the show with texts by Suneet Chopra and Blandine Chavanne (see pdf).


Cross-roads in history have always been the breeding grounds of culture. And intellectually too, intersections of perspectives and ideas awaken our interest in them. The sculptures of Peter Briggs attract us in the same way. As one walks past one of this ‘Baroco’ mirrors at a leisurely pace, it reflects a large area of space. Then one travels along it . One almost dares it to do what it does unexpectedly. It speeds the image up at a point so that it seems to jump from one side of the polished surface to the other, almost as if it had been bitten off by a set of teeth at the edge of the mirror. We slowlyawaken to the fact that the convex spine of the mirror pierced by three radii like a hand trying to pick something up from the ground, has appropriated one’s reflexion and spread it all over its surface in a most unlikely manner.

Three shifts of perspective range from the negative space in his collages looking down on us as the thrusting convex positive space of his heraldic enamel plaques, his patinated and painted bronzes and his polylobe marble reliefs, a voluminous thurst that sometimes recalls a volcano about to erupt and sometimes the other side of the concave spaces in the hollows scoured out of cliffs by natural forces. In essence these interstices reflect Briggs’ capacity to play with surface tensions and volume with a peculiar sensitivity that allows him to initiate a dialogue between Arp and Brancusi.

His concern with space and its expansion through the volume inherent in it and its qualitative extension through surface tensions is profoundly a modernist one. And yet his pursuing that concern by deconstructing elements in one sort of visual discouse (like the tree-forms in his stereoscopic photographs) to become the armature of his sculptures in another, with the trunks of this photographed trees being dematerialised as merely enclosed empty spaces leaving behind points of reference like signposts, which a modernist might well have used but thought nothing of, gives his enterprise a post-modernist twist. It is this that allows him to unlock the realm of history, romance, narrative and personal references, so that he seems to speak in many languages.

One can recall Arp, Brancusi, Rodin, the cliff-face of Badami, a Hoysala sculpture of a woman holding a convex mirror, the tribanga stance and its classical greek counterpart, in the same stream of consciousness that only visual language allows. Briggs highlights this by making the invisible visible and the visible invisible, which is the real art of the myth-maker.

The tree-trunks of his stereoscopic photographs disappear only to appear as upside down branches in his ceramics, which disappear in his mirrors, bronzes and stone scuptures but reappear as the radii that invisibly hold them together or the circumferences of his works along which line moves at different speeds. They are like different creepers growing at different rates of growth on the Loire valley elms that are now destroyed and can only be recalled in his works. Briggs, however, does not end with merely a Proustian exercise.

He draws a thread from Rodin when he marshalls the tactile element consciously in his work. This element is perhaps the most universal language that we have. It is amply used in the hindu ritual of washing and clothing the gods at different intervals, of wiping them with the hands, or rubbing ochre on them. It is curious how religion has commandeered the freedom to touch for centuries and at the same time placed so many tactile restrictions on civil society. We have numerous examples of this in the ‘Do not touch’ signs in our museums or restrictions on touch as in the practice of untouchability in the caste system.

Touch is presented merely as erotic, truncating its enormous scope as a universal language man has acquired neurologically over our long evolution. It is reviled as lascivious, dirty and a source of spreading germs. A whole climate of fear has been constructed around it to keep us from using the most universalising faculty we have, only to keep social control intact. Whether it is the gloved waiter in the USA and modern Europe, or the untouchable in India, the message we get is that the faculty of touch is dangerous and should be guarded against.

Briggs has used the references of medieval ritual, of Rodin’s fetishistic concern with the hand and of the surface tension of any object the eye touches and explores, to give us a truly universal response to an art that is both authentic and evocative. He has involved himself with modernist concerns, but has been as conscious of the flow and unravelling of the processes that evolve form as any post-modernist. His work keeps reminding us that art is about creativity and aesthetics, and debates about it are only meaningful if they bring us to a more authentic understanding of these.
Suneet Chopra
Dehli february 2001

catalogue main courante