Christina Mullan: Elva Carroll

Entering the space occupied by Elva Carroll’s ceramic work is akin to submersion in water. The glazed surface of the suspended slip leaves are soft ivy, jade and grey. They cast gentle shadows along the wall. The installation balances and holds the lower piece, its colours reflecting the natural porcelain translucency of the white, moss and green. Udu and water drums are grouped on the floor beneath – while intensely visual it all speaks of earthenware sound. We hear rhythmic, blood pulse music with its frequencies encapsulated as patterns etched onto the porcelain surface, green-slip filled and gold-painted. The curve and lip of the artist’s invented Bell Drum puts one in mind of a conch shell. Littoral echoes. Some of the clay pieces are suspended in water-filled vessels. All of earth’s elements are present here.

Resonant sonance fills the room. 9/8 natural tempo from the corner plays into what the artist describes as a ‘holding space’. There is a moment for realization to dawn that these rhythms have been created using the instruments present. Leaves become chimes – those that are glazed on the inside ring ‘ping’ more loudly than the others. Tempos have been created by the pocket of air between the upper and under bowls – water and air give a grounding tone when the drums are struck with the hand. Interestingly some drums when cast make a better harmony. The tuning process occurs in the moulding, firing and shrinkage in the kiln as the clay becomes drum. Plosive vessels pulse into the holding space – that of the room and of the listener / observer.

In the Nigerian Igbo language, ùdù means ‘vessel’. Carroll describes the air in the room as ‘taken for granted’ – it is an arena, a vessel that is itself unrecognized and she states that this is essential to all art. Her combination of lush ceramics and sonic versatility flows through us and elicits an intensely visceral and sensual reaction.

Written by Christina Mullan

Christina Mullan is an artist and PhD candidate at GMIT.