Pam Su is an artist living and working in the UK. Pam’s work is characterized by the anomalous. Abstract in form, her sculptures dive into the underbelly of sight and memory, amalgamating the sinister and ominous with the sublime and redeeming, interweaving between repulsion and allurement. Almost always enclosed, the forms appear as though they have secrets tucked within, succumbing to being filled to its limit, and on the verge of bursting, collapse, or decay. It is Pam’s desire that her pieces embody an energy of their own and give visual insight to tension between control and release.
If you had access to all the powers, how would you improve the world?
If I had all the powers in the world, I would give everyone rainbow power, the ability to see awe and majesty in every speck of light, point, and being in nature, in the universe, in the mundane. That rainbow power would remove all hurt, anger, and sadness, pretty much everything that is unjust and everything that causes pain.
What are the biggest sustainability challenges in your work and how are you addressing them?
The biggest sustainability challenges in my work would be the use and waste of materials and use of energy to fire the work. It is hard not to think about these issues while making in the studio. When it comes to materials, for example, I try to stay away from things such as cobalt because mining conditions are rough and unethical. It is toxic when inhaled. And ultimately, it is very precious. While my role is very small in the grand scheme of the things, I can decide not to use it in the studio, at least. With firing and energy use, I try not to make superfluous work these days. Every firing must be considered. Electricity also comes with a hefty cost. Recycling clay is normal in traditional pottery, which is where I come from, so that is something I relish in.
Which conscious lifestyle choices are you making? And are you considering any new ones?
I’ve never really thought about conscious lifestyle choices. Maybe that’s why I feel a lot of times like a duck, swimming, gliding serenely above water and frenetic beneath water where the legs and feet are moving very fast. At least the duck can steer, whereas my legs feel like they just go in circles. My friend and I were just talking about how we choose to spend our time, wasting time on things that don’t deserve our attention, and rarely having the time these days to do anything that is truly meaningful. I waste a lot of time, by worrying or investing energy on things that aren’t worth it, and then being filled with anxiety about the lost time. She commented, life is too short for that. I agree, it really is. I think it’s about having control of one’s life. For me, it is about self-discipline and the self-confidence to say, for example, this is the decision I have made and I’m sticking to it. I’m not going to forget about it, not tuck it under a rug, not wait ’til tomorrow.
What have you rebelled against in the past, and what are you rebelling against now?
I am not much of a rebel, but I don’t think I ever walked on the right side of the street or gone with the tide. Growing up in an immigrant family, and a dissonant family, I was in a way, the consummate outsider. Added to that, I never dressed the way other kids did or hung out like other kids did. So not much in the way of rebelling, but just a quiet way of being that didn’t really fit in with the rest. These days, in my practice, I hope that my work goes beyond craft and design which is common territory in ceramics. I want my work to embody and express feeling. I want my work to go beyond being a pretty object that decorates a space. So maybe tradition is what I’m rebelling against now.
What was the inspiration for your Steinbeisser pieces?
My Steinbeisser pieces were inspired by the idea that everything has a spirit, from the animate to the inanimate. The spirits are known as kami in Shintoism. That is what the series is named. Everything deserves respect because everything is imbued with being. The pieces I created are each themselves a spirit. Of course, my take is very broad. Most of the time, alone in the studio, and because of the amount of time I spend with a piece, creating it, I start to think of it as being a friend that has come into existence. Often, they are flawed friends, odd in their own ways. Other times, I think of them as bodhisattvas or buddhas.
Describe your work in 3 words!
Strange. Sinister. Moody.
What has been your favorite dinner experience?
My favorite dinner experience of all time is simply eating my mom’s cooking, with my mom. To me, she makes the most amazing food, because it is instilled with her love for me. My mom is by no means conventional or stereotypical. She likes to create atmosphere. When I eat with my mom, there is no awkward silence or need to converse. It is just relishing and appreciating the delicious food my mom has cooked. We can just be.
What excites you about tomorrow?
The hope that I can create something meaningful. That my work expresses feeling and that it inspires and conjures. The hope that one day, I can devote my entire time in the studio solely, creating large scale work, and be at peace.