London based sculptor Rachel Kneebone is well known for her complex porcelain pieces that contain writhing groupings of human figures. Her work has been described as depicting an “erotic state of flux” and “celebrating forms of transgression, beauty and seduction,” influenced by ancient Greek and Roman myths and also the modern human experience- you can find aspects of change, death, growth, renewal, and lust dissolved together in her individual pieces.
Kneebone models her porcelain and gives it a preliminary (bisque) firing before applying a clear glaze and returning it to her kiln for the final firing. In response to heating and cooling, the material shrinks, ruptures, and cracks, further transforming the piece. One of her most ambitious works to date is her tiled column of tumbling figures entitled “399 Days” (2012-13), measuring over 17 ft tall and made of porcelain and steel. Rather than modeling the human body with realism, she builds her sculptures out of hybrid body parts, odd mutations that resemble masterworks of the past, but are utterly contemporary.
In particular, her style has been compared to Auguste Rodin’s figures for its highly emotional qualities, and was even shown alongside Rodin’s masterpieces in her 2012 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, “Rachel Kneebone: Regarding Rodin”. ” I see my work as really ‘now’, so even though there are historical references, some of that is a byproduct of working with porcelain itself… There’s nothing static about any emotion, and yet there’s a desire to communicate feelings,” she said of her work in the exhibit. Kneebone has said that her work treats a figurative subject as though it were still life, describing the challenging process of expressing their physicality as a “war”. Later noting, “I want people to start feeling art, not just looking at it.”