Dan Molyneux

I describe clay as “the Rosetta Stone of material language”, as if it can be shaped into anything, mimic other materials, take on a huge variety of surface treatments, all while carrying its own very unique voice. I was trained in the craft of pottery in a studio outside of Bangalore, India, that’s where I learned to handle and fire the material in wood-fueled kilns. Though I gained material intelligence with clay through the craft of pottery, it wasn’t long before sculptural forms emerged and dominated my interests. I spent years making abstracted sculpture before feeling the need to investigate the grammar of my sculptural language. I’ve spent the last several years exploring elemental form in geometry, curious where that exploration will eventually take my inclination for geometrical abstraction. I build large scale slab-built stoneware sculptures, small scale slab-built porcelain abstractions, 2-dimensional haut & bas relief ceramic panels, 3-D printed models hovering on electromagnets, and works on paper. All of my work is inspired by working directly with the clay in the studio and transferring those shapes into a digital design program to see if I can better understand them from a new perspective.
Of the three assumptions I make about my current work, the first is that geometry is innately recognizable to us, and that we have a natural affinity for elemental form. Though it was during the modern era that we scientifically acknowledged the microscopic and macroscopic geometry around us, civilizations have long treated geometry as a universal language. Like perennial philosophies, fundamental root concepts that trickle down through history, every culture has used combinations of elemental shapes to represent or symbolize script, music, belief systems, mathematics, science, and art. In my recent work I have generated sculptures based on combinations of elemental shapes; hoping that the work resonates by way of its formal qualities.
Secondly, I like to imagine that most forms derive from variants of the sphere and cube. A seemingly endless amount of combinations and derivations of those elemental forms go on to include more and more complex dimensional analogues, i.e., cones, cylinders, cuboids, tori, etc. and may convey a sense of the universal, a sensibility that endures over time. Working with elemental form, I find it difficult to place a historical context or timeline on this work because it is so fundamental to the human experience.
I think of abstract art less as part of a modernist art movement, and more as a perennial language. Less as an indication of departure from reality, than acceptance of the reality that lies unseen. How does the saying go? That which is seen is temporary, and that which is unseen is eternal. Having majored in languages and comparative religion, with intense experiences in international politics over many years abroad, I find that the language of visual form strikes inherent chords in the human spirit. I continue to explore the grammar of geometry and abstraction, fascinated by the extent form communicates, its directness, its simplicity, and sudden profound complexity. Form speaks to me from places where all other language, description and explanation seem to fall short. My instinct is to continue fetching inspiration from the pre-language source of consciousness, where the qualities of the human spirit that aren’t so easily articulated by language seem to dwell. In a way, this harks back to my background in linguistics and anthropology, and indicates that I’ve merely exchanged the tools I use to communicate from characters to form. I can’t express in words exactly what is being conveyed, but I know it comes from a genuine place, and that my question to the viewer is, to what extent do these forms resonate?