Gathering thousands of miniature porcelain vessels over large surfaces and curvatures, Grégoire Scalabre confronts preconceptions of form, scale, and material in his intricate sculptures. The Paris-based artist hand-turns countless tiny, vase-like containers reminiscent of amphorae, or ancient storage jars that were typically long and narrow so that they could be snugly stored together. Drawing on a centuries-old tradition of French porcelain making and an interest in Greek mythology, his dynamic works combine incredible technical skill with a desire to recast the medium in a new light and experiment with its physical limits.
Approximately 1 to 1.5 inches in height and half an inch wide, every one of Scalabre’s minuscule components varies slightly from the next. Some have longer flutes than others, squatter bases, flattened tops, or a curl to the lip of the opening. When accumulated, the pieces appear to undulate across the surface in fluid patterns. The inherent delicacy of fine porcelain is challenged by the monumental scale at which these works take shape.
Standing more than six feet tall and months in the making, the artist’s most recent work, “The Final Metamorphosis of Thetis,” recalls a story from Greek mythology about a sea nymph by the same name. He translated a sketch of the composition into a 3D model, then created 70,000 individual ceramic pieces by hand. One by one, each vessel was dipped in glaze, fired at a high temperature, and once cooled, adhered to a structure made of resin foam.