A Light in Everything is ceramic artist Tessy Pettyjohn’s latest exhibit. Her second solo exhibition at Silverlens Makati was recently shown from January 9 to February 3, 2024. On first look,  the exhibit’s ideas appear simple; a collection of coral ceramics made by the artist, showing the structures under the sea. 

It’s a peaceful exhibit. A white room filled with odd, detailed, colorful ceramics, and it feels very calm. There’s a coolness in the atmosphere that guides you towards a state of introspection and promotes a sense of quiet in the mind. Maybe that’s when you start to wonder what it’s like to swim with the fishes as well?

Wide view of Tessy Pettyjohn's "A Light in Everything." Photo by Patricia F. Yap
Wide view of Tessy Pettyjohn’s “A Light in Everything.” Photo by Patricia F. Yap
Wide view of Tessy Pettyjohn's "A Light in Everything." Photo by Patricia F. Yap
Wide view of Tessy Pettyjohn’s “A Light in Everything.” Photo by Patricia F. Yap

And when you go into that state of tranquility, you begin to understand what Pettyjohn was attempting. 

Fields of Peace and Meditation

Pettyjohn’s long career in the ceramic arts continues to this day. She had a strong career here since the 1970s, securing residencies in Japan and China. She continues honing her craft by running a pottery workshop and studio with her husband Jon. 

Pettyjohn has distinct and intuitive approach to pottery. She has been pushing for the preservation of traditional firing techniques in pottery. The artist is also an advocate for the use of locally-sourced clays and glazes.  

These days, however, Pettyjohn is interested in exploring the visions of her mind when she meditates. She explores the organic shapes she sees in her dives in Palawan. More importantly, she wants to create an environment where the people looking at her art can have moments of harmony and introspection of their own.

Organic Harmony Through Inorganic Means

A lot of the pieces feel like it’s trying towards a tranquil sort of harmony in their execution. Works like “Radiance” feel like the creation of a community, immortalized the moment it is born. “For the Birds and the Bees” portrays her work as blossoming flowers, imagining what the fish equivalent of bees would find attractive. 

The colors Pettyjohn ends up going with for both are lots of faded greens and blues, blooming together—akin to stone ocean flowers and plant life. The usage of these colors suggest the ocean in a subtle way. The reflection of the waters, the colors of the sun: you could almost hear the sounds of the ocean with how well the environment immerses you into the exhibit.

"For the Birds and the Bees 1" from Tessy Pettyjohn's "A Light in Everything." Photo by Patricia F. Yap.
“For the Birds and the Bees 1” from Tessy Pettyjohn’s “A Light in Everything.” Photo by Patricia F. Yap.
"Radiance 2" from Tessy Pettyjohn's "A Light in Everything." Photo by Patricia F. Yap.
“Radiance 2” from Tessy Pettyjohn’s “A Light in Everything.” Photo by Patricia F. Yap.
"Radiance 1" (top) and "From the Desert 1" from Tessy Pettyjohn's "A Light in Everything." Photos by Patricia F. Yap.
“Radiance 1” (top) and “From the Desert 1” from Tessy Pettyjohn’s “A Light in Everything.” Photos by Patricia F. Yap.
"From the Desert 3" from Tessy Pettyjohn's "A Light in Everything." Photo by Patricia F. Yap.
“From the Desert 3” from Tessy Pettyjohn’s “A Light in Everything.” Photo by Patricia F. Yap.

Reimagining the Coral Forest

There are some works that reimagine the coral as a tree-like specimen. “From the Desert” has corals growing on top of tree-like stems, showing the possibility of being a fish swimming through the overreaching tallness of an oceanic forest. 

The most provocative piece in A Light in Everything, if you can call it that, is “Bloom Field,” a group of light brown coral clay sculptures installed into the wall. Looking at it can feel like staring at a fungal growth. It doesn’t do anything visceral like, say, the corals on the mutant pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean, but there’s something unsettling about it anyway. 

"Bloom Field" from Tessy Pettyjohn's "A Light in Everything. Photo by Patricia F. Yap.
“Bloom Field” from Tessy Pettyjohn’s “A Light in Everything.” Photo by Patricia F. Yap.


There’s something genuinely strange about A Light in Everything. In showing a forest of corals sparsely populating the room, it gives a feeling of floating tranquility to anyone willing to be immersed in it. Pettyjohn’s portrayal of this organic world she created evokes harmony and peace through its coral structures.

Related reading: Philippine Pavilion World Expo 2020 Dubai

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