Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A Few Reviews

There's been some good feedback from No One Owns The Land, our installation in Brighton, as well as from State of Flux, the exhibition i'm taking part in in Ullapool. Here's a couple of reviews where our/my work is mentioned:

a-n, House Festival Review, A Big Deal for Visual Arts in Brighton

Something You Said, HOUSE 2014 Discusses Immigration

Ceramics Now, State of Flux Review

State of Flux     Exhibition Review 
By Lesley Strachan
You might imagine an exhibition of purely ceramic work would feature at least a dinner-service  quota of plates  bowls and mugs. It is to the credit of the curators  of  An Talla Solais' current exhibition 'State of Flux' that the oft held conservative view of  what we mean by 'ceramics' has been smartly overturned. This is an exhibition  which  boldly favours the sculptural and conceptual over the functional.
The thing about producing artwork from clay is that it is almost impossible to be pretentious. Somehow, no matter how contemporary or challenging the concept, the fact that the artist is having to engage with the very stuff of the earth beneath our feet (the same material which we use daily to eat our food from and drink our tea out of )  results in artwork which has a familiarity we can trust and rely on. To transform what is essentially mud into truly convincing and arresting art forms takes experience , sensitivity and understanding for the material  and however  interesting the concept the end result will fail to involve us if the skill is lacking. Happily, many of the contemporary ceramicists whose work is on display here have successfully brought craft and concept together .
Transformation, arguably the very soul of the ceramic process, is something of a broader theme within this exhibition. Clay, that most unremarkable of materials, is used to make the ordinary extraordinary. What more everyday than a supermarket 'Value' chicken ? Cast in porcelain slip, finished  with a high-gloss transparent glaze , then mounted on a wall beside 2 other identical chickens, Artur Van Balen's surreal sculptures offer  a disturbing comment on  factory farming and the food industry.  Kevin Morris (co-curator of the exhibition) favours unglazed or dry-glazed surfaces  and in a humorous twist his 'Dry Bathing' ceramic bath sponges challenge our perceptions and help us appreciate familiar objects with a fresh eye. I liked Morgane Deffense's 'Experiment' series. Again , the artist challenges us to re-consider what we initially acknowledge as mundane –  in this case traditional kitchen equipment  , and through manipulation of the casting process and subversion of  multiple  forms her elegant and subtle pieces  invite us to consider ideas of loss and gain. At first glance Edina Andrasi's  finely  worked bottles appear to be directly inspired by Persian or Chinese lustre ware, however it is the unique ornamentation  drawn directly from our digital world which provides the surprise.
The ceramic process when fully exploited provides fascinating opportunities for any artist interested in marrying surface and form. For me, Nicola Henderson's geological themed series of bottle forms in stoneware clays with fabulous lava glazes work superbly . Bubbling glazes of icy turquoise, burnt umber -melting and pearlescent , cracked and crawling over  perfectly balanced and delicate forms  are perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing of the exhibition . This is a ceramicist who  enjoys the alchemy of the process . Equally elemental are Fiona Burne-Sutton's  hand-built bowls in black river clay  with tactile surfaces of red slip and impressed botanics  while spontaneity  and playful manipulation define Emma Pratt's interestingly conceived but somewhat  underwhelming  colourful installation. Fine modelling skills  are represented in  Melanie Davies’  vessels and Tilly Gifford’s  beautiful gannet  pair. But for me , more intriguing and thought -provoking is 'A Journey',  the  skillfully constructed sculptural piece by Ester Svensson. This is an immaculately modelled work, lovingly decorated , composed and conceived. I felt myself getting lost in the multiple narratives offered up by the caravan of transient, dislocated and trapped  figures. It is a vaguely melancholy  yet  beguiling piece –  a reflection of our times. 

As promised ,’ State of Flux’  makes a convincing case for the healthy state  of creative ceramic practice in Scotland today. Go and see  this exhibition  and you will never again define ceramics as  being  rustic  pots in various shades of brown. That image has been well and truly transformed.

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