The materiality of ceramic is celebrated in an all-female exhibition newly opened at London’s Richard Saltoun Gallery. ‘Born from Earth’ considers women’s role in uncovering the potential of ceramics through a kaleidoscope of multidisciplinary works, weaving traditional motifs with modern, and often playful, references.
The bespoke exhibition design by architect Lisa Chan, founder of creative studio It’s a Local Collective and a tutor at the Architectural Association, draws links between the 11 exhibiting contemporary artists and the visceral pull of the earth that defines the disciplines of both art and architecture. Chan’s interactive display is encapsulated in an earthen landscape that traces a weaving route through the gallery. Crafted from natural earth and lime, it invites visitors to linger, setting the artwork into the undulations of its form.
‘There were a few challenges with the concept, in terms of the curation and coordination of where the eyes lead you,’ says Chan of the thinking behind the layout. ‘But in terms of the expression of the materiality, it was very smooth. We all share a love for earth and the rawness of it.’
It is a love that connects the ceramic art of Jacqueline Poncelet, Carmen Dionyse, Ruth Duckworth, Carol McNicoll, Gaia Fugazza, Holly Stevenson, Florence Peake, Judy Chicago, Rose English, Lili Dujourie and Shelagh Wakely.
Interpretations are figurative, from Stevenson’s phallic geometrical plays contained in surrealist vessels, to English’s playful porcelain dancers, which cut colourful and sensual silhouettes. This provocation is echoed in Poncelet’s curving, otherworldly forms in clay, while Chicago’s Erotic Cookies take a more playful perspective, a mischievous foil for Dionyse’s works, which subvert traditional motifs in glazed ceramic and stoneware.
‘It's a conversation that strings together artists from different generations, examining their response to the materiality of clay, so there are contemporary takes from Holly Stevenson, for example, who is working with bright colours while holding a belief in key forms,’ Chan adds. ‘We wanted to bring out the oneness of the rawness of working with clay, something that brings the benefit of art and architecture being in dialogue. In art, for me, there’s always a fundamental – if that artwork triggered your feelings, or made some sort of connection or awareness within you, I know it is a piece of art.’
Chan was keen to build her background in architecture into the exhibition – which is accompanied by a programme of educational events in collaboration with the Architectural Association – making the space an inclusive and welcoming one for the local community. ‘Since Covid, high streets, which were already facing changing consumption patterns, are having an identity crisis. Coming from an architecture and research background, there’s lots of talk about how we can renew this definition. With the collaboration between the [gallery] and the Architectural Association, we wanted to see what sparks can happen.’
’Born from Earth’ takes place at the Richard Saltoun gallery until 13 August 2022
Hannah Silver joined Wallpaper* in 2019 to work on watches and jewellery. Now, as well as her role as watches and jewellery editor, she writes widely across all areas including on art, architecture, fashion and design. As well as offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, Hannah is interested in the quirks of what makes for a digital success story.
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