Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, 2 May–1 June, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, detail view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, detail view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, detail view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher, In Favour of the Floor, installation view, ReadingRoom, Naarm / Melbourne, 2024
Untitled (study for a floor) 1, 2023 graphite on paper, framed, 87 × 74 cm
Untitled (study for a floor) 2, 2023 graphite on paper, framed, 87 × 74 cm
Untitled (study for a floor) 3, 2023 graphite on paper, framed, 87 × 74 cm
, previous, next.

In conversation: Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher and Jacqueline Stojanović, Naarm / Melbourne, 26 March, 2024

Jacqueline: Hi, Jordan.

Jordan: Hello.

Jacqueline: How are you today?

Jordan: I’m good. Thank you for sitting down with me.

Jacqueline: It’s my pleasure. Very exciting about your first solo exhibition with ReadingRoom…and very exciting that I get to interview you about it. Especially following our previous experience with ReadingRoom in our collaborative exhibition together, a thread between. But that’s in the past… So..

Jordan: Thank you. Out on my own…

Jacqueline: I’d like to start with the idea of foundational structures that you’ve been working with for the past few years, and which are very present in the current presentation at ReadingRoom. In particular, the structure of the grid. To me, it’s a visual device that links your work and mine, both materially and conceptually. I’ve come to it through the lens of woven architectural structures as a necessary physical foundation, but also working with its boundaries or limitations in material possibilities of everything that stems from it. So while I work with pre-existing gridded structures, in my material practice, you are often constructing your grid yourself, by hand. What is the impetus for you to give order to your work through this foundation?

Jordan: When we were previously working together, it was a period of lockdowns, and I was spending a lot of time walking around my neighbourhood, so I was also drawing from pre-existing architectural structures. It was very much a visual vocabulary developed from a city environment. For this project, the grid has acted as a springboard, it’s something very simple and foundational but it has consistently fed the work through repetition. It’s how I’ve always worked, with very basic sculptural principles. And in this instance, it’s very basic ceramic principles: slab building, mark making. Incorporating the grid with these techniques, making impressions in clay, the work continually folds in on itself. Through that, then something different is born, it’s warped through that repetition.

Jacqueline: I really like this idea of repetition and the grid as a foundation for repetition. And the possibilities that come from that, as well.

Jordan: Yeah, so the work creates its own logic. Beginning with a drawing of a grid, made with the dimensions a very standard ruler, and that expands: six lines ruled up makes one tile, nine tiles makes a square grid. Beyond that, it endlessly expands and the pattern is there before I realise…

Jacqueline: …the grid acts as a type of template for what can be possible…

Jordan:…and it’s limited at times, because it’s working within geometry. But because it’s not a very strict geometry, as in there’s always space for error of my hand, so it feels like the possibilities are still there. Or maybe, it doesn’t feel as strict because of the tile’s surface. I use glazes that undergo a lot of stress in the kiln. They crack, textures bubble. It really depends.

Jacqueline: Yeah, that’s so curious to me, how the actual materials transform once they’re inside of the kiln. With your practice, I’ve always sensed that there’s a portion that inevitably lies outside of your own control. Because you are working with very living things. Not only quite literally, Earth, but with the four key elements of life. So to make ceramics you need the clay, the fire, the air, obviously, for drying, and water for manipulating it, from what I understand.

Jordan: Yeah, for the manipulation, but also moisture is key throughout the drying process. I’ve definitely experienced a lot of kiln explosions, because there’s a lot of moisture lying beneath the surface that isn’t visible. The nice thing about this project is that I’ve always been very impatient with my process, and it’s really forced me to slow down and release control. I find ceramics incredibly unforgiving in its unpredictability. You don’t always know what you’re going to get, but that’s the mesmerising thing about it.

Jacqueline: When did you actively start to lean into ceramics more than say something like sculpture, or hand building?

Jordan: I spent many years trying to figure out how ceramics would fit into my practice. I aligned it in my mind more with craft. So much so that I did a residency to focus on ceramics, and still I just could not rationalise how it would work for me.

Jacqueline: Where was that residency?

Jordan: That was in Japan…yeah, I went to Arita, where porcelain was first introduced, and ceramic remnants are repurposed, they can be found all over the town, in walls and pavements. Looking back I can see that direct influence but for a long time it just couldn’t click for me. I think it’s that thing that comes about when you can’t, or I certainly can’t, control the thought or the feeling of the outcome. It’s there and I just have to be patient with it. And now I’ve fallen in step with it.

Jacqueline: I can relate to that with my own language of weaving…

Jordan: I can see that in knowing you and seeing how your work has developed over the years. It’s funny, it’s that thing where you can see it in someone else but not in yourself…

Jacqueline: Yeah! I also like the turn of phrase you just used, that you’ve fallen in step with it…

Jordan: Well, it’s just fitting for me…

Jacqueline: Yeah. Because I know you’re someone who, well, you don’t drive, you’re walking everywhere, or you’re taking public transport everywhere. And I know you’re very attentive to the grounds on which you walk and which are often tiled as well. Especially in some parts of Melbourne, and I wondered how much of that natural environment you feel is potentially absorbed into your work, whether it be, for example, the colour scheme or the glazes that you choose to use. I know you have a historically very subdued palette…

Jordan: Hmmm, yeah, I think walking is a massive part of it. But not intentionally, sometimes it just feels like strange coincidences. Like I was telling you previously, I keep finding small mirrors on the ground, and they are reflecting the sky.

Jacqueline: like a reminder to look up…

Jordan: Yes, yes. Which is why I had mentioned that quote to you…because it was that, so much time spent looking at the ground…

Jacqueline: …the Khalil Gibran quote…which I think is, Heaven wheels above you displaying to you all its heavenly wonders, yet still your eyes are fixed on the ground. Something like that…

Jordan: Yeah, and how bizarre to find, in the last six months, I have probably found four or five, and all car mirrors.

Jacqueline: …from accidents?

Jordan: Maybe? In gutters, and they just reflect the sky.

Jacqueline: It’s curious because I think through the glazing of your tiles as well, there is naturally a reflective quality…

Jordan: In some of them, yes, I use a silver crackle and a gold crackle. I’ve been drawn to these reflective glazes for a while. I often think about how I make objects en masse, and how it’s the result of an excess of action, and the work in its given context holds this energy or force. But when it’s presented, the audience is the one conducting that energy, because it’s a trick of light or it’s their body in relation to the space and the work. It feels quite special, pulling these out of the kiln and taking them on the tram, and I can see the clouds reflected in the ceramic surface, which just feels like a reminder of this car mirror in the gutter.

Jacqueline: Does how you perceive these small moments add to your process in the work?

Jordan: Yeah, and that’s kind of what this large work is; it’s several small moments. It also speaks to the nature of how it was made because I can only work in certain batches and take them with me, so it’s this ferrying back and forth.

Jacqueline: Yeah, so the temporal element of your practice is quite labour intensive…

Jordan: Very much…

Jacqueline: How long has this major tile work been in progress?

Jordan: I started in 2022, so around a two-year mark. Beginning with square tiles and experimenting with convex and concave patterns, which comes very naturally to clay hand building, but it very quickly grew to this sizable work that is now like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Jacqueline: Yeah, and then the warping, I suppose, also nods to this idea of convex and concave forms, which are quite foundational for clay building.

Jordan: Yes, yes.

Jacqueline: This type of puzzle, which is like a tessellation – a tessellated pattern – it involves so many more shapes now other than just squares. Was there kind of a logic or an intuition? Or was it just determined by this sort of grid foundation that led you to make these types of patterns?

Jordan: It is determined by the grid; they all have the same dimensions. But there’s also a playful element, where the work’s surface warps in and out of geometry, that feels more intuitive. Then there’s this gradation of glazes, from something quite metallic to this very visible grid in some areas, to some more tactile or pale surfaces… it’s almost like your eye swims over it, like an oil slick, maybe or like a puddle?

Jacqueline: Yeah. How many shapes are there?

Jordan: There are five. But I haven’t paid that much attention to how many pieces there are in total. When I’m in the studio, I set a goal for each week: I need to make x amount for this firing round…I don’t know if that’s also a form of budgeting, but it makes it much more manageable, working like this on a piece at this scale…

Jacqueline: So you have quite a set routine. In terms of your studio practice. A sort of quota, in a way…

Jordan: Yeah…

Jacqueline: It makes me think of mass produced items, in a kind of factory sense…
Jordan: Yeah, it certainly feels like that sometimes, especially when I’m only making square tiles, it’s the same cutting and carving and smoothing. There’s a big emphasis on labour in that way, and then I think I probably feel it more when I then lug it all in one tote bag…

Jacqueline: …without a car…

Jordan: Yeah, on the tram…which is ridiculous.

Jacqueline: It’s quite an incredible feat.

Jordan: I feel quite strong.

Jacqueline: …but it also says a lot about repetition in making the same patterns over and over. It’s not as though you have a mould the way sculptors sometimes do?

Jordan: When you and I exhibited together, I had made a mould for the tile works in that show. Now, I’ve moved away from the casting process, because what I’m working on now feels like a form of drawing. I’m thinking much more about the pictorial element of these works, even though the process is so sculptural. It feels more painterly or gestural, drawing directly into the clay.

Jacqueline: On the mention of drawing, you’re including five? Are they preliminary drawings for the tiles?

Jordan: There’s three that speak very directly to the large floor work. And maybe they seem preliminary. I started making them once I had enough tiles to fill the floor of my studio space. I couldn’t quite figure out what formation the sculptural work was going to take on. And the work was getting so large that it would take hours just to move them around. So I guess it was something that happened concurrently…but after the first or halfway through the second drawing, they became a new avenue for the project.

Jacqueline: And with the drawings you use graphite for all of them?

Jordan: Yes.

Jacqueline: Is there a reason for this material choice?

Jordan: I think because it’s much more forgiving, and I need that. (Laughter). Because, I can very comfortably smudge something out…the mistake is much less permanent…

Jacqueline: It’s more forgiving than a kiln is!

Jordan: Yeah, yeah, it allows for mistakes much more comfortably. But there’s a depth in graphite as well, similar to what I find on the surface of a glazed clay body. I don’t think I have a very colourful visual language, in general, anyway. So it just seems like a logical choice.

Jacqueline: Also, in the world of drawing, it’s a bit of a foundational tool.

Jordan: Yeah, I am of course drawn to these foundational elements.

Jacqueline: I know your practice is very material and process-led. But probably from knowing you personally, I see so much of yourself in the work as well. I think maybe it also comes from knowing that each tile has been built by hand with considerable time taken to not only form each one, but also then to nurture each one through the process of firing, and trimming and glazing and firing again. I’m sure there were a lot of casualties in that process. Is there an afterlife for these broken pieces?

Jordan: Definitely. I think through making this work as well, because I mean, eventually there is a deadline, and there is money involved, ceramics is certainly not a cheap medium; I learnt to work with things that were broken. There are a lot of B-sides when making ceramics, but I don’t think they need to be considered failures. A lot of the glazes that I use create tension on the clay body anyway.

Jacqueline: So when you have these broken pieces, do you break them up to be reconfigured for the future?

Jordan: Most of them I’ve kept and I’ve included in this project because everything’s supported by a substrate. But I do have several boxes of tiles that were made before this project. And maybe this is coming back to trying to figure out what kind of way I wanted to work with ceramics, but I’m sure these will be used for something eventually.

Jacqueline: So you don’t throw any of them away…

Jordan: I don’t throw anything away. I have a storage problem in that respect.

Jacqueline: So like this, the work is really feeding itself…even the mistakes are becoming a part of something actually… That kind of leads me to think about the title of your exhibition, which I know – because this exhibition has been in the works for a while – you were tossing up between two titles for the show. So it’s In Favour of the Floor. But it very well could have been In Favour of the Flaw. How did you come to this title?

Jordan: I’ve returned to a note that I had repeatedly made to myself. Something along the lines of “I always work in favour of the floor”. I hadn’t realised how many times I had made that note. So it seemed fitting. There is the literal floor, but also to be floored by something, which for me quite personally is the case with ceramics: I can be floored by the outcomes I might find when I go to collect the work.

Jacqueline: Oh, when it comes out of the kiln…

Jordan: Yeah, yeah…which is so dramatic, but you know, it’s a very special feeling. And it’s hard to describe because it’s something totally out of my control. And then very obviously to be flawed, which the work inherently is.

Jacqueline: Which makes me think about the shelved pieces waiting for their second life.

Jordan: Yeah, I guess so. Or, flawed in that, I’ve worked with very segmented geometric abstraction, and I expect when I do lay it out in totality, the geometry will probably be flawed. I don’t think it will be accurate. Maybe it’ll veer off to the side a little. But there’s something special about that…

Jacqueline: I like that. There’s still a surprise at the very end.

Jordan: You just have to surrender. Accept whatever it will be.

Biography

 

Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher (b. 1993 Melbourne, Australia) is absorbed in the exploratory nature inherent to a ritualistic studio practice and the detritus it collates. Delving into the foundations associated with drawing, installation and basic sculptural principles, Mitchell-Fletcher’s practice is diverse and deeply focused. Preoccupied with observations gathered from everyday actions such as walking, she indexes the imperfection of the hand whilst exploring the rigidity of pattern-making and abstraction. Her process-led practice oscillates between calculated decision-making and surrendering control, toying with the material alchemy and unforgiving unpredictability of ceramic firing, coupled with the discipline of graphite and paper.
 

Jordan Mitchell-Fletcher completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) at Monash University (2015). She has exhibited in various solo and group shows both locally and internationally, including Shepparton Art Museum (2023); University of Southern Queensland (2023); ReadingRoom (2022); and Haydens (2019).

 

Further Reading

 

Link to Artist Page

Colophon

Jordan would like to thank Jacqueline Stojanović, Hayden Stuart, NPS Kilns and Simon De Boer.