Image © Katie Rose Johnston
The practice of assembling cabinets of curiosities, or Wunderkammers, may date back to the 16th century, but the human impulse to collect, document, study, and learn from our surroundings goes back millennia. Scottish artist Katie Rose Johnston, who works as Manifesto, celebrates the timeless pastime of collecting in her series Curiosity Clouds. Exploring ceramics at the intersection of art and history, she draws inspiration from natural phenomena and blurring the line between form and function.
Johnston was inspired to create the organic forms after a visit to The Hunterian in Glasgow, where she was fascinated by a vitrine tucked away in the rear of the museum. Displaying bird and insect nests from around the world, it included a cross-section of a termite mound featuring an elaborate network of compartments that the insects use for ventilation. “It was a really compelling form that mimicked a set of printer’s drawers in my mother’s home, which were filled with bits and bobs, mudlarked treasures, and our childhood crafts,” she tells Colossal. “The form of the dissected termite mound was really appealing, like a Wunderkammer from an alternate universe.”