Formally and technically innovative, Casasempere’s work explores ideas of landscape, architecture and history but also proposes a profound sense of impending environmental collapse. Conceptually Casasempere’s use of earth and clay and his concern with nature and ecological issues connects him to artists associated with the Land or Earth Art movement, but Casasempere works out of a different cultural tradition, being profoundly inspired by the Pre-Columbian art and architecture of Latin America.
Trained as a ceramist, Casasempere’s profound knowledge of his materials – including both porcelain and stoneware – has allowed him to demand from it seemingly impossible results, creating combinations of clays that traditionally cannot be fired together, building structures on the verge of disintegration, and drawing colours and glazes from unusual sources such as relaves, the waste products from Chilean copper mines. Through precise modulations of ingredients, time and temperatures, Casasempere has made important contributions to the development of new possibilities in ceramics.
For this new body of work, Casasempere worked with a batch of clay that reacted in unexpected ways and thereby required him to yet again explore new strategies, for example using carving for the first time. The resulting series of wall sculptures, Natura Morta (2018) incorporate still life elements such as bowls and pots, but also evoke ancient gravestones and burial sites. The forms of pottery, architecture and sculpture are here combined in a unique dialogue between material and technique that questions an understanding that has long cast out pottery from contemporary art. Displayed on a conveyor belt the contrast between the handmade and organic objects and the mass-produced and industrial is enhanced.
In the lower gallery Casasempere presents a new series of Salares – hybrid objects that are neither painting nor sculpture but share the characteristics of both. They are made of clay that Casasempere has imported from Chile and has subsequently layered onto large felt panels to create abstract images evocative of the landscape the materials come from. His use of felt references that of Joseph Beuys and suggests an earth in need of regeneration. Shown alongside the floor-based installation of Mortars (2018), the title of which references both building material and a vessel for grinding food and medicine, and which is evocative of an archaeological dig uncovering the remnants of an ancient civilization, we are left with the uneasy feeling we might be witnessing a scene yet to come.