Of Carbonization

Of Carbonization



Much of my work revolves around a fascination for process, a quest for knowledge and skill to use and push materials, using process to allow transformation.

Richard Serra in 1968 produced his verb list during an exciting period in New York, when the concept of process and application of process to material, was thrust into prominence. The verb list was a text work nominating possibilities of process.

The entry second from the end at the lower part of the second sheet reads “of carbonization”


My recent work has been of carbonisation.


Charcoal can be made in many different ways; however the key is to build a fire hot enough to sustain heat and then close off the oxygen supply, so that the wood stops burning and instead chars. This allows the heat to drive

off the volatile substances from the wood, which result in black tarry deposits being condensed around the container and the wood being reduced to a state closer to elemental carbon. Pure charcoal produced under ideal conditions would result in pure carbon which would retain the structure of the wood down to the cellular level.


Form is important structurally, I an drawn to regular simple forms. In making work expressing these forms I felt more likely to create work that was truly made. Work that is true, and is about, and of material. My recent research has explored numerous considerations, and working through, has allowed me to clarify what could be seen as a collection of values. Those qualities that the material of my work has and can bring to a space. These would include honesty, transparency, frailty, futility and surface qualities of lustre and reflection.


My work is centering on concerns about futility and fragility and this needs quiet reflection. I am making functional objects that cannot fulfil that purpose; and I am making prints with charcoal as the pigment and the image, I intend to show the prints in their pure, unfixed state, with the risk of loss. The work is frail. However I feel it is truly made.

© Cliff Richards 2016