Through this work, Sylvie uses ceramics to externalise her inner feelings. Empty Bowl is essentially a work about change. Clay itself is the perfect medium to refer to change as it is worked and shaped while in a malleable state and then turned into a petrified form. As children, we get shaped by our upbringing, our experiences and environment which contributes to the kind of adult we become. Empty Bowl is also about taking ownership and control of ourselves as we are the vessels of our lives. How we fill the bowl is the future we create.
Sylvie used the bowl to symbolise the feminine, the mother, the womb. Her mother left at a young age and she suffered further emotional abuse from her step-mother. The work reflects on the repercussions of this adversity felt in her present life and how these, by manifesting repetitively, lead her to look deep in herself to connect her past with her present in order to create a better future.
The spiralling “tunnel” patterns on the surface of the bowl express this deep internal search into her past in order to bring promising changes. The protruding shapes inside the bowl covered by a pink flesh coloured glaze are reminiscent of the maternal breast which sustains the life of the newborn. The repetition of those shapes is associated with her constant yearning for maternal love. However, the flowers are a symbol of hope and rebirth.
The work brings questions. Is it the empty bowl that was delivered to the child with the absence of maternal love? Or is it an empty bowl that may hold potential and the promise to be filled such as the first flowers of spring bring the first sight of renewal? Empty Bowl also intends to make each of us question the way we are filling our bowls. What do we feed our families, environments and societies?
Sylvie Riches was born in France and migrated to Australia in 1994. She studied Visual Arts at Edith Cowan University in Perth. To add to her art degree, she decided to join an introduction to ceramics class. This was her first encounter with clay. She then took throwing classes with various potters in Perth and got a job organising pottery activities with people with disabilities. In 2017, she travelled to France and participated in several ceramic workshops during which she learnt the surface decorating technique used on Empty Bowl. It is known as “terre repoussée” in French which translates as “pushed back clay”. It can take between an hour to two days to decorate a bowl with this technique, depending on its size and the details and intricacy of the pattern.
Sylvie participated in a ceramic exhibition at the Mundaring Art Centre in 2018. This year, she was picked as the winner of the ceramic cup competition organised by the Australian Tea Cultural Society.
Motherhood and childhood experiences are themes she has explored in the past, using various mediums and materials including milk and sugar. Empty Bowl is her first ceramic piece approaching the subject.