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History of Work - Gallery

Douglas Kenney
Kailua, Hawaii USA 1962 –
Incendia Ceramica/ The Fire Works

 Born of fire, sweat, and imagination, this new body of work by Douglas Kenney shows a hard earned mastery of color, form, and clay.  Kenney has forged a ceramic language that seems to fuse the abstract and the human. He has been developing this visual language for his whole career as a ceramic artist. This language is revealed in the imagery, texture, and structures that Kenney conjures out of clay and glaze. They are statements about color, movement, and emotion. These unique visions are clay canvases that convey Kenney's unique vision of ceramic expression.  It is an abstract vision, reminiscent of Kandinsky and Pollack, yet totally original, and not at all derivative. It is a statement that revels in spatial and compositional ambiguities, visual beauty, emotional impact, and intellectual stimulation that goes far beyond pictorial depictions into another realm. This is a realm of pure delight in the alchemy of clay, chemistry, spectrum, shape, thought, feeling, and spirit. A realm that celebrates their transformation by fire into visual, ceramic poetry, that is tangible and substantive.

In an interview on May 29, 2008 Kenney adamantly stated that he wants each piece to be unique and says, "I take chances trying to make new art out of each piece. For example, I am always making a new underglaze color by adding to former colors, the new surprising colors are created this way" This eye to the unique is inherently burned into each and every piece he creates. Watching him at work in the studio, you can see that he is also an original, a maverick. His approach is intense, and deliberate, and yet there is the element of fire, of improvisation, of unexpected movement expressed in his use of texture, glaze, and composition.

You also see the underlying work ethic that demonstrates an understanding of the struggle it takes to succeed in the all too volatile world of making a living at art. When asked about this, he responded "Winning competitions and having museums and galleries show my art are big incentives to keep creating, but that is only a part of what keeps me going. The fact is I create better work when I am grappling with multiple pieces at the same time.  I find working with large scale and intense volume both a challenge, and a satisfaction. Also, here in Hawaii we have great atmospheric light.  I have a lot of windows in the studio, and the quality of that light is also an inspiration. Light and color create emotion" Speaking with Kenney about color becomes a lesson in using the environment as a visual guide, "In Hawaii nature is a visceral force. The sky and ocean are vivid shades of blue, as is my house. Botanical gardens, brilliant fiery flowers, textured palm fronds, all make their way into my work either through imprinting or interpretation."

His ethic is expressed through the tremendous number of large art pieces he constantly produces. Kenney enjoys the impressive scale of his work, and feels that their size helps his work stand out, but it is not just the scale that impresses, it is the kaleidoscopic firework of color, symbols, elements, line, texture and form. He creates his work using the fusion of fire and earth, and the resulting 3-dimensional ceramic tile paintings, plates, luminaria, towers, and the abstract sculptures all reflect Kenney's incendiary visions.

         Kenney fires his ceramics to an Orton Cone 5, 2185 F and uses low shrinkage sculpture clay that works perfectly with underglazes for his massive pieces.   The finished work is supremely durable when complete after a clear glaze firing.   Some of his work demonstrates his skill with overglazes and metallic lusters. These he fires to 1400 F close to Orton cone 017.  Kenney says, "I do this type of firing to add another layer of visual information and light". When questioned further about his techniques he said, "Most of the color on my art comes from underglazes. I have been covering the earthy sculpture clay with a white slip. This allows the underglaze designs to leap out much more vividly, much more intensely, and reflects the vivid quality of the world that surrounds me here."
His plans for the future include creating more square plate modular walls like the installation he did in March of 2008 at Nuu'anu Gallery, in Honolulu. He says that was a particularly satisfying experience because the curved plates with the curved wall had a powerful visual effect.   He also plans to do a series of (8 ft.) totem poles - some with water features, some that will be lights, and in the not so distant future he plans to buy a larger kiln and expand his studio space so he can create another series of his gigantic 1 meter plates.

Permanent collections displaying Kenney's ceramics include the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Shigaraki Ceramic Park Museum in Japan, and the City of Honolulu. His art was on exhibition at the Museum of International Ceramics, Faenza, Italy, 54th Premio Faenza Competition and the Ceramique 14 Paris, in 2005.  In 2007, he won the best of show award at the Japanese Honolulu Chamber of Commerce art competition. In March of 2008, he created a large plate/totem installation as an integral part of the Nuu'anu Gallery in Honolulu, Hawaii.


Leland Faulkner,
Freelance writer/artist from Portland Maine. 
Interview was conducted May 21, 2008

In the art business, like many others ask and you may receive. Market your work widely. An artist looks for an empty space in which to place their art.

Artist Statement

Kenney says, "My abstract ceramic pieces are experiments in design. Finding balance between geometric and organic is my goal, like the ideal relationship between humankind and the environment. Abstract design welcomes a little chaos, so long as it does not affect the craftsmanship or integrity of the piece." The forms, colors and glazing and firing techniques of Kenney's work have been developed over three decades of working with clay. Living in Hawaii for 11 years has put a little twist of Hawaii into the visual language of the surface decorations.

Kenney's original concept of old and new ceramics (developed in graduate school) is now an abstracted version of the same idea. He uses traditional forms plates and vases along with stack forms, sculpture and tile to display this surface treatment. Kenney say's, "The excitement in ceramics for me comes from the process of making objects and the finished product when displayed. I like bright colors that stand out while the layering of information creates an illusion of depth. The approach is similar to that of abstract paintings but with ceramics the shape of each object and the permanence of firing make a unique statement."

The latest challenge Kenney is faced with is the completion of the 50' X 30' new studio that is to be built next to his new house on a 1.81 acre property in the Mt. Helix area of San Diego County. It is here where Kenney will continue his ceramic art making endeavors. The new state of the art studio is to be nestled among 85 foot pine trees on a 125' X 65' building pad.

Kenney's ceramic art is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, the City of Honolulu, and the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park Museum, in Japan. His art has been exhibited in many important cities throughout the United States, Paris, Tokyo, and Seoul

Read More:Douglas Kenney Bio