Salt dough’s two sides - the compliant and the resistant - can be expressed as “pragmatic” and “vibrant”. Pragmatism implies a practical, rational, organised and accommodating way of working. Vibrancy is anarchic and rebellious, unwilling to collaborate. It repels me.
Pragmatism and vibrancy do not sit at odds with one another. Both operate consistently throughout the making process and resonate in the artwork once it is complete. Whilst I identify “pragmatism” as salt dough absorbing my intention and “vibrancy” as rejecting it, my sculptures are entirely the product of the interaction between the two. When I began working with it, I set out with a limited knowledge of the material’s characteristics and put these to work as I understood them. My knowledge was limited and the works reflected this, small and unimposing. It is through the salt dough’s vibrant intervention - its unwelcome sticking to my fingers; its unexpected collapse - that I respond and adapt to it, increasing my awareness of its creative potential. Vibrancy reveals hidden weaknesses in my process, and pragmatism allows me to strengthen it.
Artistic production operates in the interchange between these two forces. The image of the artist as master of materials - which mirrors the image of the human as master of their environment - disintegrates, dissolving into the sweaty, savoury mass. In reality, we are only the mediator between our own creativity and the vibrant material. Understanding this model, and applying it beyond salt dough to all our physical exchanges, can illuminate the nature of material interaction both in the context of art making and other physical encounters. Material is not dormant, but an active participant in construction of all kinds.