Agalis Manessi - Ceramics

Maiolica vessels, dishes and figures drawn from subjects observed in churches, museums, galleries and directly from life. Inspired by portraits and animals depicted by Renaissance painters such as Pisanello and Gentile di Fabriano, Flemish masters like Lucas Cranach, English artists Edwin Landseer, George Stubbs, Christopher Wood and the Fauvist work ofd Maurice Dennis and Franz Marc.

Find out more about Agalis from this interview:

1. How and when did you want to be a maker and how did you start to realise that aim?

I discovered clay as a material at Art College during my Foundation year and from there I went on to study Ceramics at Central School of Art & Design.

2. Who did you learn from, who inspires you? What or who were your early influences and how has your life/upbringing influenced your work?

We had many wonderful teachers at college, practicing artists such as Gordon Baldwin, Eileen Nisbet, Gillian Lowndes, the painter Geoffrye Rogers, all were truly inspiring. I grew up on the Greek island of Corfu where I was surrounded by nature, flora and fauna. Travelling back and forth to the UK I have had the opportunity to visit many painting collections, museums, chapels and frescoes which have become a great source of inspiration in my work.

3. What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why? What can you tell us about your current artwork, for example, do you explore any specific themes or subjects?

Currently I have been looking at the Renaissance German painter Lucas Cranach and Flemish painters in particular their portrait paintings and I am building up a collection of dishes depicting various characters with elaborate head-ware. In parallel I enjoy modeling three dimensional animals and figures formed from a solid piece of clay. These also come from characters observed in paintings, I love the work of the German expressionist painter Franz Marc, as well as from encounters in the park, painting them brings out their personalities.

4. What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques? Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?

I use a red terracotta clay and all the pieces are one off; they are modeled or softly coiled allowing the material to show its plastic qualities. Once bisque fired the pieces are dipped in a white tin-glaze and then painted on the raw glaze with a variety of mixtures of oxides, often in layers producing effects akin to watercolour, the process, known as Maiolica is laborious yet retains a freshness of palette. My studio is in Bethnal Green in an old brush factory, now a home to a community of artists, a quiet space where I can immerse myself in the work.

5. How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?

I have gained more knowledge in the technical aspects of Maiolica but the sources of inspiration are endless, I am always visiting exhibitions and museums and looking for potential ‘subjects’ to interpret and re-imagine in new forms.

6. Which book would you recommend as inspiration?

It is near impossible to narrow it down to one book but I think PLANT Exploring the Botanical World, Phaidon 2016 would be inspirational to any creative person. Other than that any book on Italian frescoes.