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Group Show
British Ceramics: Five Artists
July 9, 2003-August 16, 2003
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Pottery is at once the simplest and the most difficult of all the arts. It
is the simplest because it is the most elemental; it is the most difficult
because it is the most abstract. Historically it is almost the first of the
(Herbert Read, "The Meaning of Art")

"Pottery" is not the first term that comes to mind when considering the five
artists in this exhibition, which, like much art in clay defies any simple
definition; the work does not fall into any neat, prescribed category nor
does it conform to any preconceived notion of "pottery". Nevertheless, while
the highly individual ceramic pieces by all five is sculptural in intent,
conveying far more than is presented, each artist has roots in the "pottery
tradition" that feeds and nourishes the work. Herbert Readıs observation,
made in the early part of the twentieth century, used pottery as a generic
term to refer to a wide range of ceramic objects, and his analysis is as
useful today as it was in the early days of studio ceramics.
    In this reference to pottery, Read goes on to say that the art of a
country, the fineness of its sensibility, can be judged by its pottery, for
it is, he remarks, "a sure touchstone". While this group of five artists is
in no way fully representative of the diversity of ceramic art in England,
and nor was it intended to be so -- it does not for example include any of
the highly creative wheel-based work produced here -- yet the five artists
are among the finest and most highly respected practitioners, investigating
form, idea and process with integrity and skill. Interestingly, all share a
common concern with hand-building in one form another, a technique that,
unlike throwing on the potter's wheel, allows the slow evolution of form,
enabling, even encouraging, contemplation and thought.
    Hand-building, in a variety of manifestations, preceded throwing by
several thousand years, and the revival of interest in the processes in the
1950s and 60s was in many ways part of a post-modern investigation into the
clayness of clay, in which the hand rather than the wheel directs shape and
form. With its apparent, but deceptive, lack of sophistication,
hand-building allows the artist to shape and manipulate by such processes as
coiling, moulding, pinching and slabbing, or a combination of any of them,
although there may be little evidence of this in the final pieces.

Emmanuel Cooper