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Feats in Clay.

Written by Veronica C. Wilkinson.                                     21st Nov 2011.

Anton Bosch manifests a sensuous exploration of his talent in porcelain vessels, wall plaques, tiles and functional objects providing material evidence of patience, discipline and dedication.  His father, ceramist Esias Bosch (1923-2010) was the role model for Anton’s choice of career.  Telling me that he draws to refresh his mind after the rigour of studio work where a methodical approach to building surface effects that include incision, inlay and different types of clay are involved, a sense of the technical complexity of the porcelain medium becomes apparent.  “All artists should draw if they can” according to Anton and his imaginative, detailed black and white renditions interpreting nature and the spiritual provide ample evidence of his fertile imagination, acute observation of nature and a skilled hand.

  anton bosch
Bosch’s Baobab trees convey a sense of scale and symbiosis with nature with their intricate linework. Elephants and birds become subject and part of the greater picture as decorative borders of patterning incorporate elements relevant to the reality of the theme in each narrative.  Dramatic colour choices enhance surfaces as the techniques of inlay, incision and a variety of clays result in visual celebrations that echo painting with their sgraffito and pigment effects.  His respect for and love of nature reveals itself in black and white drawings as finely detailed narratives where female figures represent mother earth and positive elements reflecting aspects of reality and myth inform the viewer. Sgraffito (noun) is the technique of incising down through a layer of applied slip to the clay body below, in which the clay and slip are of contrasting colours. The term is from the Latin for scratch (as with a stylus) which is also the root for "graffiti" and "graphic" (as in to write).

Time and an adventurous approach have resulted in Bosch’s development and mastery of an inlay process that involves placing cut outs and hand rolled clay motifs onto the raw flat surface of his clay combining different clay mixes and colours.  These melt and get absorbed onto the surface after multiple firings to resemble embossing that ranges from delicate to bold effects. 

Gallerist Gail Dorje of The Cape Gallery describes Bosch’s work as lyrical, poetic and gentle.  Behind the beautiful effects and combinations of technical expertise and experimentation that result in porcelain wall plaques, vessels, tiles and bowls is a structure of rigid studio discipline following a thorough apprenticeship.  Anton Bosch was born to master potter Esias Bosch and his wife Val in Pretoria in 1958.  After matriculation and military service he studied at the Pretoria Art School where he majored in drawing and painting before joining his father at the Bosch studio near White River, Mpumalanga in 1982. 

A wholesome, refreshing take on the human condition reflects a peaceful contentment and choice of motif in sometimes simplified playful patterning, with many compositions built up after numerous firings.  Talking to me about his images Bosch tells me that “ a woman is the one who keeps everything together” while discussing ‘Earth Mother’ a finely detailed black and white drawing depicting a naked female figure holding a sun emitting “water of love” into a pool with multiple spouts that drain onto children.  Another limited edition print entitled ‘The Last Supper’ 100x 70cm is unusual because behind the finely detailed tree and its filigree of branches the moon appears both full and crescent while twelve leaves in various forms emerge from the earth as disciples.  The impact of nature is also evident in other prints like ‘Staircase of Life’ where two trees to left and right foreground resemble those in Bosch’s garden.  This is work to be savored, sophisticated yet deceptively simple articulations of a creative process that Bosch describes as “an innate necessity”. 

The largest wall plaque on the exhibition is ‘Soul of the Tree ’180 x 110cm, a dramatically graphic image with fine detail that was fired and constructed with no supporting wire mesh in the clay.  The size of this work means that because firing has to be undertaken in stages, completing the plaque could span four to five weeks so working on two plaques simultaneously is time efficient.

Seen as practical and unpretentious material evidence of a life’s journey in porcelain, wheel thrown and ‘altered’ floor vases, vessels, platters and plates bearing effects that range from abstractions to the playful erotic sunbird nudes these objects are meant to be touched with their surfaces contrasting in texture to dance with the pleasures of tactility. The term ‘altered’ refers to the manual shaping of the open ends of the cylinders which are unique to each object.  A 100 x 60cm porcelain panel displaying many images which support multilayered interpretation also showcases Bosch’s versatility and fluent understanding of clay as a demanding but rewarding medium. 

Muse, soulmate and wife Hanlie is exhibiting with Anton at The Cape Gallery.  They married in 1984 after studying art together and continue to help each other in their work.  Hanlie’s wall mounted pipe figures and monotone heads are inspired by African style.  In contrast to Anton’s work, the scale is smaller but a delightful counterpoint in its sensitive, handbuilt construction.  Her practical process is subconscious with the objects “developing their own personality as I progress”.  There is an interesting contrast in the effects displayed in the range of work on show with some of her heads clearly referencing African masks and the geometric surface patterning we associate with cicatration while the pipe people display intricate decorative detail reminiscent of courtly pomp and bustle.  

A father’s legacy lives on through Anton Bosch’s ceramics influenced and nurtured by Esias Bosch’s experience and acquaintance with Michael Cardew, Bernard Leach and leading potters of the mid twentieth century like Hamada, Sam Haile and Harry Davis. 

When asked what he thinks about Grayson Perry, the British Turner prize winner (2003) Bosch does not know who I am talking about.  This is proof of his dedication to a way of life which exemplifies a value system that is rewarded with national treasure status for dedicated artists in some countries.             


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