Residency : Ross Byers - August, 2011



Ross Byers has become a familiar sight in Project Ability’s ceramics room, building big architectural landscapes out of clay, and helping out participants with their own projects. His banter and enthusiasm are infectious.

After being a volunteer here for several months, Ross became our latest resident artist in August. “Doing volunteer work here is really what led me to the residency. When I applied for the position, ceramics seemed the best studio for me, and by showing people how to make things, I realised a lot of my ideas lend themselves to being made in clay at this point in time. And then I heard about the residency coming up, and here we are!”

As a volunteer, Ross was here to help people try new things in clay, guiding them into realising their own projects. “I think showing people techniques and new ways of working helped me make a decision around what I wanted to do during the residency.”

“My original plan was to produce six rectangular landscapes that piece together in a line, to make one landscape, with only seams remaining. I quickly realised that my proposal was bigger than the time I had, and bigger than my closeness to the material! I would almost need 24h access to achieve it! But some amazing things have come out of it. I also made coil constructed bottles, which made without a wheel demands a lot of control in order to achieve symmetry. It’s such good meditation. It demands discipline, and it helped me not to be intimidated by the process of making: the material was dictating to me what to do, when to stop and when to go back to it. Clay dictates to you many things. I like it when some things are not up to me.”

In a corner of the ceramics room stands a big architectural structure, a portion of cityscape, with a typical Scottish archway and cobble stones. “This one is the closest to my original idea, you can see that the cityscape would go on if there was more clay. In the middle of this empty vessel, there is a floor, and once it is fired, I will fill it with soil, pick a plant, and let it grow out the top. I’ve been experimenting with plant life in my sculptures for a while: it’s a desire to mix the living with the inanimate, the clay sculpture and a living organism.” Soil won’t be the only thing contained in the structure: “Just below the middle floor, where the soil will be, there’s a curious cavern accessed by a door. Here I wanted to envisage the sculpture to be a functional entity. I think that some forms that were built for complete function, like ones from the industrial revolution, have become the most beautiful objects. Through creating something that is purely functional, there’s a beauty that comes out of it. That’s what happens in nature: function becomes beauty.”

Was the residency what Ross hoped for? “I really enjoyed it. It’s been such a good journey: meeting and interacting with people here, being accepted and able to start a conversation, an exchange... It’s been great. The fact that I was a volunteer first really made a difference with my residency: I was able to continue with the same dynamic, make my work and at the same time continue to talk to people, give them hints, exchange with them. There was no hierarchy, we were all working alongside each other. It was an exhilarating experience.”

Ross Byers studied in Tasmania (Australia) at the School of Visual and Performing Arts and went on to the Australian School of Fine Furniture after his Bachelor degree. During his masters, he worked on several projects with community groups, and has since worked with schools, prisons, architects, groups with disabilities and on public art projects in conjunction with his studio practice. He arrived in Glasgow in September 2010, and has been volunteering and concentrating on his practice since.

Ross’s work will be exhibited in the Project Ability Gallery in January 2012, alongside the other artists who participated in our residency programme in 2011.