Taking in nature in the city, the life cycle of clay, our place in the world and the essential elemental balance at the heart of her work, we spoke to London-based ceramicist Bisila Noha about what the elements mean to her.
[Above image: Bisila Noha photographed by Ida Riveros]
“I definitely think that ceramics, or pottery, as a practice and tradition is elemental. It needs all the elements to exist: earth, water, fire and air. And while clay might be the centre of all the attention, the fact is that without a perfect balance with all the others, it would be a disaster.
Working with clay makes me feel connected to nature and the elements; and the elements and nature also inform my practice. My main body of work, the collection, is all about storms, the sea and the skies.
I try to have regular contact with nature as I think it’s important for us to relativise our own importance in the world. What I love the most about London is the fact that nature is everywhere; there are tonnes of parks, especially in Hackney where I live. And it’s amazing how many incredible places there are nearby, from Epping Forest to Glen Faba. I come from Spain and I find going back to cities like Madrid extremely asphyxiating, even though it’s much smaller than London.
During lockdown I’ve also been working on connecting with the nature within me. This has been very liberating, given that our room of movement was so limited.
My favourite place in the world, which has also been a great source of inspiration, is Panticosa in the Spanish Pyrenees. I grew up going to Panticosa a lot and spending entire summers there, so it has a very special place not only in my heart, but also in my mind. The skies, the summer storms, the mountains, the colour of the water in the lakes and even the smells… (You can see some lovely images from Panticosa here.)
My trips to Oaxaca (Mexico) and Ain Bouchrik (Morocco) were also very special as they brought me closer to the earth; to clay. I saw the life cycle of clay very closely – from collecting it in the mountains to processing it and making – which made me feel more connected to the Earth and my own humanity. Plus, both places are beautiful! The colours of the sky at sunset in Ain Bouchrik were astonishing!
For me, exercise is key to keeping me balanced and centred. I love swimming and I miss it a lot now that the pools are closed. I also practise yoga regularly and meditate every morning.
Since lockdown started, I’ve got really into cycling, which has been priceless to be able to be in touch with nature. I’ve re-discovered the Hackney and Walthamstow Marshes and even gone foraging, as well as discovered amazing natural spaces in and nearby London, such as Wanstead Park.”
MORE ABOUT BISILA
Through her work, Bisila Noha aims to challenge Western views on art and craft; to question what we understand as productive and worthy in capitalist societies; and to reflect upon the idea of home and oneness pulling from personal experiences in different pottery communities.
Her work is primarily wheel thrown, with the distinctive addition of marbled slip decoration. For her last project, , she set herself a new challenge by processing and using new clay bodies and mixing throwing and coiling.
Strongly influenced by Japanese ceramics, she makes ‘simple’ ceramic pieces that she uses either as canvas for abstract landscapes or as the embodiment of her reflections and personal life stories.
With a background in Translation and International Relations, Bisila also co-directs , an arts organisation that offers a platform for everyone to create, collaborate and reflect upon social issues through the arts.
The Baney Clay collection is now part of GATHERERS, a physical and virtual exhibition curated by Thrown Contemporary, OmVed Gardens and Meta Fleur. Visit www.gatherers.co