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          King Houndekpinkou at Southern Guild's GUILD Residency in 2024 - the first ceramicist
          GUILD Residency welcomes first ceramicist to the programme, King Houndekpinkou

          7 Mar 2024 (3 min) read

          For King Houndekpinkou, the first ceramicist to participate in the GUILD Residency, everything is everything. Which is to say, that everything is interconnected and interdependent. It all consists of the same intrinsic divine nature, derived from the same divine source.

          All aspects of life and existence are ultimately part of a unified whole, connected through space-time by a never-ending continuum. Cycles, spirals and circles. The spinning plate of a potter’s wheel. Flicks of asphalt, water and dust kicked up by thick wet tyres as he motorcycles through Paris’s circuitous streets. A needle tracing grooves debossed into a record. The dizzying and precise merry-go-round of melody and time. The memory coiled inert in the clay, waiting to be spun into activation.

          “It’s all in there, in the clay,” Houndekpinkou says. “To me, clay is the oldest, most profound encyclopedia.” The artist, like the precise recipes he uses to formulate his clay – some earth from Paris, Benin, Japan – is an exact and particular blend of influences. Named after the preeminent civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, with a Mina middle name that loosely translates as “all is well / ok / satisfactory”, King’s copacetic manner guides his ideas of life, being and becoming.

          Of Franco-Beninois heritage, Houndekpinkou grew up in the suburbs of Paris obsessed with video games, anime and Japan. In 2012, after a stint working in the UK in communications, he would take his first trip to the Land of the Rising Sun and be introduced to the language of sculpting and moulding clay. Whatever he was looking for – that compelling search for meaning in the hamster ring of existence – he found it in the sticky, primordial matter.

          Clay is ancient. Acting like an archive, each individual particle contains a record of geography, biology and the philosophies of time. “Clay has absorbed all the knowledge of the world and from humanity. Each vibration through time. Everything that has happened, each conversation is encapsulated in clay. It's the ideal source to search for answers for who I am.”

          Biblically, the potter’s wheel is used allegorically to illustrate various spiritual concepts, particularly regarding God's relationship with humanity and destiny. The allegory of the potter and the clay also highlights the themes of surrender, transformation and refinement; the notion of surrendering to a higher force in order to be shaped into one's divine purpose.

          “There's a very strong aspect of throwing a piece on the wheel that is associated with trajectory for me. Life trajectory and how you manoeuvre your path. How you take certain curves, refine certain parts… stuff like that. When I work on the wheel, one of the things that I pay attention to is the lines, and my fingers. They leave lines on the piece of clay, you can see where my hands stress the clay, a circular thing that just goes round like this.” He splays his fingers around an imagined vessel and traces spiralling indents around it. “Motorcycling is also about trajectories. About being able to round the curves well. I’m a geek for that kind of precision.”

          The vessels he makes hold that exacting nature, but they resist finality. For King, they are but one phase in the biorhythm and life cycle of clay. From the structured rigidity of rock, the attrition that breaks it down, the pliable surrender of clay… the resultant vessel that emerges from his hands and the kiln is every bit as malleable as the soil it was shaped from. Charged by its history and animated by the maker, the work is ignited through the imaginations of those who interact with it.

          “The GUILD Residency has provided me with the opportunity to broaden my perspectives in terms of my work,” says Houndekpinkou. “I’m working on a larger scale, and deepening my understanding through the ideas and the people I meet here."

          King Houndekpinkou is at the GUILD Residency from February to April 2024.