Johanna Storm Rusu

Master of Ceramics

NB. Views and opinions of students in the degree show are their own and do not represent the views of the University.


The Memorialisation of Life and Remembrance in Death.

I am, in essence, a sculptor. This research body interrogates deeply personal encounters with death.

My intellectual understanding of and attitude towards death, an interest in anthropology, close  connections I was privileged to forge along my professional career and, ultimately, over 30 years spent compassionately shepherding living beings towards their deaths, all form the central backbone to my research, culminating in this body of work.

Bones remain central to my practice. They hold great beauty to me – as solid objects, but also contemplated in their ethereal luminosity on radiography plates. Bones are the invisible structures concealed within, the scaffolding supporting softer tissues and enabling movement – ultimately that which remains long after death and organic decomposition have set in.

I engaged with a wide range of clay bodies, sculpting skulls and various bones based on scientific specimens. A fine motor memory developed through years of physical examinations leads me to sculpt freer, more intuitively, in an almost meditative way. My interest in ethnographic death rituals and memorialisation cultures led me to design vessels for the containment of cremation ashes. These cinerary urns I slip cast, press-moulded and threw on the potter’s wheel, in translucent porcelain and various clay bodies. 

Seeking to integrate my printmaking and sculpture practices, I developed printed bone and radiographic elements for my vessel surfaces by exploring traditional, experimental and computer-aided printmaking techniques, additionally sculpting bone elements as sprigs. The narratives I created are anchored in my memory, evoking encounters with lost lives, turning my sculptures into personal memorials.

Furthermore, I have been working on the public commission of a 2m clay statue memorialising the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes’ life and literary work. Ultimately cast in iron, it will be erected in his birthplace.