Haptic Loop 2, 2019, Mixed media (Jesmonite, plaster, clay and rope)
BLERG, 2022, glazed ceramic , 33 x 26 x 20 cm
Clay is a central material in William Cobbing’s work, both in its raw and fired forms, which he explores through sculpture and performance. In his videos people are covered in craggy clay masks, often joining each other together, repetitively manipulating the amorphous surface with deadpan detachment. Boundaries between the protagonists are blurred, raising the question as to whether we shape the environment around us or if it shapes us. With the figures partly buried under clay there’s a shift from visual to tactile communication, leading to contradictory feelings of sensuousness and suffocation.
There’s a reciprocation between the videos and glazed ceramics, with mask and hand shapes often emerging from formless ceramic mounds, as if the sculptures are caught in a state of becoming. Ceramic tiles are created as bases for text to be scored into their surface, covers of books referenced, and bas-reliefs of scenes of the clay covered figures, captured like video stills.
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.
‘For Nothing Is Simply One Thing’ Canopy Collections, Cromwell Place (2023)
‘Pigeon Park 2’, Pigeon Park, London (2022)
‘The London Open’, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2022)
‘Overdose’ Design Museum Holon, Israel (2022)
‘Dirty Work’ The Art Station, Saxmundham, Suffolk (2022)
‘Livestream in Your Head’ Marcel Art at SXSW, Austin, Texas (2022)
‘When Matter Becomes Form’ Canopy Collections at Bowman Sculpture, London (2022)
‘Thank You Error’ Galerie Christian Lethert, Köln (2021)
‘A Letter to the Future’ EKO8 International Triennial of Art and Environment, Maribor, Slovenia (2021)
‘Human Conditions of Clay’ Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, touring to John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (2021)
‘Human After All’, Keramiek Museum Princessehof, The Netherlands (2021)
‘Living well is the best revenge’ Canopy Collection, London (2020)
‘The Ground We Have in Common’, Gallerie delle Prigioni, Treviso, Italy (2019)
‘Haptic Loop’ Cooke Latham Gallery, London (solo) (2019)
‘CLAY! / LER!’ Museum Jorn, Silkeborg, Denmark (2018)
‘Material Gestures’, The Gallery of Contemporary Art, E-WERK, Freiburg (2018)
‘Further Thoughts on Earthy Materials’ GAK Bremen (2018)
‘Further Thoughts on Earthy Materials’ Kunsthaus Hamburg (2018)
‘Concrete Poetries’ LOWER GREEN, Norwich (2018)
William Cobbing, The Kiss 2, 2017, single channel HD video, 6:22 mins
Time At Hogchester Arts
Residency period - Jan/Feb 2023
It was so good to be in the Dorset countryside, to ease into a different rhythm for two weeks. There was a proper darkness at night, and the January daylight hours were short. I was usually woken up before dawn by the cockerels, had a coffee and then out to feed the boisterous Pygmy goats, a rabble of horns and muddy hooves clambering up over us. From here the hazy view of the sun rising over the valley at Charmouth. It was so idyllic, allowing for a clearer headspace to think about what I wanted to make.
I would draw in the cottage in the morning, and from these sketches new ideas emerged. I worked on ceramics in the studio in the afternoon, making bas-reliefs related to the clay covered figures that populate my videos and sculptures. Maybe there was a heightened sense of being ensconced at the farm that led to me thinking more about the earthy grounding of the figures, to create an environment for them to inhabit. This felt like a start of something new, giving me fresh impetus for returning home to continue.
It was a lot of fun sharing this routine with Martyn and Chantal, with bracing walks along the Ammonite Pavement, meandering besides the Jurassic Coast cliff falls, a trip to Hell Lane, rounded off with darts and pool at night. The residency culminated in a bin firing of the oxide patinated ceramics, fuelled by burning straw and dung from the goat shed, cooled overnight and then ready for the ceramics to be picked out of the still hot ash.