And yet, in a digital age that bombards us with content and desensitises our reactions to what we see, ceramics is a link between sight and touch that's seeing a recent surge of interest from both artists and the general public, an increasing number of whom are picking up pottery as a pastime.
The Hayward Gallery’s new exhibition, Strange Clay, challenges our preconceived ideas of ceramics, curating a range of eccentric sculptures, installations and figures which have been created by several generations of makers, each pushing the boundaries of a medium we think we know.
This is not an exhibition of beautiful pots and vases.
In Regular Fragile, artist Liu Jianhua presents an explosion of random white porcelain objects. They evoke daily family life – a pair of knee-high boots, kid's toys, bibs, mobile phones – but the banal also tells of something sinister. Those objects reflect a series of aviation disasters that took place in China at a time when Jianhua was going through personal hardship.
Walking around Klara Kristalova’s Far From Here bucolic installation, one imagines entering a Moomin book albeit with a Scandi-noir twist. Glazed folkloric figures – animals, humans, birds – are placed on a hilly landscape of dried vegetation that fills the room with an earthy scent. The immobility of the characters is at odds with dying nature.
But the boundaries are pushed further. If the sight of David Zink Yi’s giant clay squid lying in a viscous liquid makes you uncomfortable, then be prepared to face Lindsey Mendick’s Till Death Do Us Part, a house from hell complete with slugs invading a kitchen sink, rats gobbling up leftovers on a dining table and an octopus emerging from the loo. It's in equal parts terrifying and hilarious: an allegory, if you like, for family life during lockdown.
For those desperate for a sense of calm and order, Edmund de Waal’s Atmosphere offers welcome respite from the more unsettling installations. His white porcelain vessels gathered in suspended vitrines are mesmeric against the backdrop of Hayward Gallery’s brutalist architecture, encouraging visitors to sit and meditate…
Indeed, ceramics have the power to do just that.
|What||Strange Clay, Hayward Gallery|
|Where||Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Embankment (underground)|
26 Oct 22 – 08 Jan 23, Closes on Monday and Tuesday
|Website||Click here for more information|