Michael Coffey appears to be very mindful of the Eastern philosophies and attitudes regarding art when he his creating ceramics. This is encapsulated in his article on the process of creating his works for ” my Special Offering to the Tea Community” …..
” The pieces were Created, Bisqued Fired, Glazed and finally given over to the potential calamity of the violent inferno of the Kiln. All these steps come with a certain level of anticipation and forward visioning, even though I’ve spent decades practicing the discipline to not envision a specific result, it’s hard not too.
The Glaze Firing went well, and despite my attempts to suspend a vision of the work inside the kiln, I was viewing finished works in my head. Upon opening the long cooling kiln I was again, as always surprised. I had visions of pieces with a more “graphic” visual and tactile presence. The kiln had other “visions.”
The kiln’s “vision” was to cause a kind of “forced restraint” upon the work in this firing. I liked the works before me, still too hot to touch, I had time to think. I was being reminded of a valuable lesson as well as being reminded of a short book I read over 30 years ago on Aesthetics, “In Praise of Shadows.”
“In Praise of Shadows”, was written by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki and was originally published in 1933 in Japanese and later translated to English in 1977. The essay consists of 16 sections that discuss traditional Japanese aesthetics in contrast with change. Comparisons of light with darkness are used to contrast Western and Asian cultures.
The West, in its striving for progress, is presented as continuously searching for light and clarity, while the subtle and subdued forms of oriental art and literature are seen by Tanizaki to represent an appreciation of shadow and subtlety. In addition to contrasting light and dark, Tanizaki further considers the layered tones of various kinds of shadows and their power to reflect low sheen materials like gold embroidery, patina and cloudy crystals.
The works being offered here require close study to fully appreciate the depth of nuance in the glaze finish. They don’t shout their presence, they are comfortable in the realm of the intimate object. ( see above )
Who is Michael Coffey :
With over 30 years of combined experience in architecture, ceramics and fine art printmaking, Pagosa Springs, Colorado, Professional Artist, D. Michael Coffee, has amassed an extensive body of original functional and sculptural ceramics and hand-pressed “Reductive Ink” monoprints.
Coffee’s Shino, Ash and Tenmoku glazed stoneware of Chawan, Yunomi, Guinomi and Mizusashi are highly collected by practitioners and enthusiasts worldwide. Coffee’s sculptural and functional ceramics are included in hundreds of prestigious public and private collections throughout the world, and have been shown in numerous solo and invitational exhibitions.
” All works of art that I offer in my shop are handmade solely by myself in my studio located in Pagosa Springs, CO. I work independently without the aid of assistants. Coffee has been interested in ceramics since high school, where he served as a teaching assistant firing kilns, mixing glazes, and teaching himself to throw on the potter’s wheel. Although driven by an artist’s leanings, he chose to enter school to study Architecture.
In 1994 Coffee would finally return to ceramics, where he started twenty-five years earlier to fully realize true artistic freedom. He was clearly at the place in his artistic journey where he felt the most comfortable and inspired. He was finally able to work from pure instinct and intuition, honed from decades of study in design and aesthetics. He was able to work with materials that were simple, yet offered endless possibilities.
For D. Michael Coffee, limits don’t appear to exist. Every firing provides a unique opportunity to learn, if even from the failures. It is hard to say what feeds Coffee’s own internal flames, other than an overwhelming desire to create.
Michael claims in his artistic statement :- ” Art is my passion and the true backbone of my existence. I have worked extensively in all types of media, including painting, wood, metal, glass, architecture, ceramics and printmaking. I cannot lay claim to any particular style or genre, as I am primarily interested in nonlinear paths of development in the objects I make. Each step of the art making process is part of a personal inner journey. The common thread that stitches my work together is an overriding desire to be surprised by the outcome, as though I wasn’t present during the process.
The art that I create is a product of a concerted effort to exploit my powers of informed intuition for the sheer joy of attempting to reach a “mindless mind” state of awareness. That moment, one nano second before clear cognition again takes over the creative process. For me, the challenge is to let go of predetermined understanding and foresight, and to work on developing my instincts. I strive to create outside of my conscious self, empowered by the strength of my intuition. I tend to select materials that are simple, so as not to become material bound. When I’m successful, the work I create truly represents the sum total of my life experiences and visual histories.
I am also interested in the aesthetic concept of Wabi Sabi, the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, incomplete, natural and unconventional. I believe that it is impossible to mindfully or intentionally create works that possess these characteristics. By applying my intuition and instincts, I hope to fend off the development of immunities to the fascinations that are right in front me. ”
Michael Coffee is also the Co-Founder and Creative Director of SHY RABBIT Contemporary Arts in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, Coffee has been responsible for organizing, curating and installing over 20 fine art exhibitions over the course of the last five years.and has transformed SHY RABBIT into the region’s most important and innovative contemporary arts space. For more information on D. Michael Coffee: Visit his website here