2011 – present
Tattoo Flash is produced from handmade prototypes, but each object is formed under 80 tonnes of pressure to develop a very dense, durable porcelain matrix: the subject of Jacqueline Clayton’s ongoing research. The clay body qualities, and the relatively narrow foot of the curved form, are attributes that, quite simply, lie outside the capacity of conventional studio production methods. In addition, Tattoo Flash presents Clayton’s recent work in amending ‘tissue transfer’ printing for the ceramic surface. Developed in Europe in the 18th Century, traditional ceramic printing transferred images from an etched copper plate onto a tissue substrate using ceramic inks. The inked tissue was subsequently reversed onto the ceramic form and fired. Transfer printing facilitated low cost mass production of decorative ware, most famously the late 18th Century Blue Willow pattern, still manufactured and sold internationally.
Over time, however, with changes in technologies and use of silk screen methods for producing transfer images, the capacity for tonal variation and subtlety in transfer printing diminished. No longer used in large-scale industrial production, in Australia this form of printing is now largely associated with a commercially produced hobby inventory, and images are generally ‘flat’ and monotonal in character.
Fascinated by the narrative, romantic and quixotic associations of classic ‘sailor tattoos’, and more especially by the sensual integration of ink and skin in their realisation, Clayton has deployed 21st century materials in revisiting the traditional tissue transfer, resurrecting its qualities, aesthetic and tonal range and its capacity to fuse into glaze. In so doing, it becomes a vehicle and metaphor in referencing the diffusion of pigment, image – and personal history – onto flesh. These allegoric associations with the human body reference Clayton’s corpus of work in face powder and its allusions to the persistence of female stereotypes in image and language.