“Clay is excremental, it’s the ashes of the dead,” Johan Creten says. “At the same time it’s mother earth, it links the sacred and the profane, in a brutal way, disgusting and magical at the same time.” The Flemish sculptor, known for his semi-abstract, viscerally biomorphic works, has been credited by none other than the director of Sèvres Porcelain Factory as instrumental in elevating ceramics to the level of high art. Working alone in his studio, Creten crafts unsettling works whose contorted shapes and intricate surfaces explore heady themes like sexuality, social injustice, and Creten’s perceived position as an outsider looking into the art world. However, it is beauty that forms the heart of his practice: “Beauty becomes a lubricant for me,” he says. “Beauty can help convey difficult meaning.” Though he works almost entirely in clay, Creten is constantly experimenting with new materials and glazes, drawing inspiration from the centuries of art history in his native Flanders.