Peter Surginor

A contemporary maker inspired by the Digital Film Archive

What is interesting in the tourism footage, is seeing a time or a place, which I don't think ever existed. It’s a reflection of Ireland, but a strange and distorted one; a place of souvenirs and shillelaghs. Presenting this part of the world in a way that doesn't quite ring true, I think these promotional films tell us a lot about how others view us, but little about how we see ourselves. This is echoed in the footage of Belleek, and its production of porcelain objects for mass export.

Depicting ourselves is a challenge. Souvenirs are a self-parody; they are mementos, keepsakes, reminders, remembrances, tokens, memorial testimonials, trophies and relics. This is a lot of weight to put on an object. My own work explores the notion of a memento, a reminder, or a monument. In response to the visions of Ireland in these archive films, I want to highlight instead the demands, aspirations and worries of here and now.

My work takes its lead from the Belleek ceramic tradition. I have great admiration for the skilled workers and their pride in the production of their objects. Both the use of Parian Porcelain and the attention to detail is something I want to reflect in my own collection, adding my voice to this continual conservation of craft. My work is ‘neither use nor ornament’ I like to play with visual puns, making comment on our political context.  Like dinner party, there is polite etiquette; having to hold your tongue, eat your words and on occasion hold your nose while others have their cake, and eat it.

Peter Surginor is an artist making beautifully devised works in porcelain that reflect his political consciousness. His interventions contribute to dialogue surrounding wider social injustices, memorial and a divided sense of national identity. The work is often gently aggressive, in that it has a polite aesthetic which masks its confrontational nature. This lightness of touch stops the work from becoming offensive. Peter grew up in Downpatrick, after graduating in 2008 from Ulster University with a BA in Fine and Applied Arts, he won the Irish Ceramic Award in 2009. He lives and works in South Down, in addition to exhibiting he teaches part time and is involved with local arts groups. 


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