Friday 13 August 2021

Potfest Compton Verney - figurative pieces

Potfest at Compton Verney, Warwickshire.

I'm very late in posting about this, but we attended two days before we flew to Greece and then I just got carried away with writing about Greece.

This is the first time that Potfest have exhibited at Compton Verney and it was wonderful. Lots of stalls, interesting ceramics, loved makers and new ones (to me). We went with two friends one of which is also very much into ceramics and that was good too. After the initial going round and looking at everything we had a picnic on the grass and then went round again. Just wonderful.

A vast amount of exhibits and I only photographed a fraction which are nevertheless going to take up three posts. I will start with the figurative pieces, as I am moving towards liking those best - it used to be bowls, but now I am drawn to sculpture.

 Sally McDonnell:

I love McDonell's work. Her sculptures are unique and easily recognizable as hers and the faces of her female figures are very expressive. McDonell creates her figures from tubes and slabs of clay, squeezed and pinched together. The figures are finished with copper oxide, underglaze stains and coloured engobes, firing up to 1186' for the final glaze firing.

'I explore the human condition by modelling the female form from clay; changing the mood and feeling of a piece by the positioning of a shoulder or hand.

In a world where not much energy is put into noticing the differences between people, I look for the feelings, desires, mannerisms we all share, elevating the ordinary into something special. We are all so curious.

I'm drawn to the colours found in the Greek terracottas from the 2nd century BC. Surfaces that show experience, having been eroded and fragmented. When I apply the glaze it's very much like painting. It's a very spontaneous process which fits with the way I hand build'

While I was looking at her sculptures, I had a chat with Sally, and then I noticed her bag. I laughed out loud with delight, and asked if I could take her photograph.

a closer look - wonderful

Gemma Gowland:

Such a pleasant surprise, the first time I saw Gowland's work! Her sculptures are beautiful but also political. Such a wonderful combination and a rare one.

Gowland first trained for a BSc in Engineering product Design and worked in the fields of industrial design, production and architectural model making before becoming a teacher of Design and Technology. With experience in making and using a very broad range of materials for a wide range of purposes, ceramics became an abiding interest with its unique versatility and surface possibilities. She studied ceramic skills and specialisms on a number of courses, before completing the Ceramic Diploma at City Lit, as well as life sculpture and figurative studies. 

Being a mother and daughter as well as a woman working in a male field, has led to an examination of the role of women and how societal norms still shape the way children are raised. Gowland's recent work explores the way girls are constrained from birth to conform to an appearance and code of behaviour to present a perfect face and maintain the expectations of others. The disrupted surfaces describe the vulnerability beneath.

Sharon Griffin:

An other artist whose work I really like and admire. 

Her work is inspired by the woodland where she often explores places in which to 'breathe'. The textures, the smells, the secret spaces all provide a kind of 'awakening'. She uses the human figure to help communicate a sense of deeper meaning within humankind and of her own experience of being a woman. The sculptures represent a state of being; internal struggles of love, loss, displacement, vulnerability and strength.

'I wish to evoke 'feeling' and mirror 'gesture' through the use of fast marks, quick making techniques and 'sketches'. My work sometimes has an unfinished quality which adds to the idea that the figure is a suggestion of a living being rather than a still ornamental object. It's important to me that my figures have an identity and are able to connect with an audience in a non physical sense.

I use clay as a sculptural medium which is used as a 3D canvas. I do sometimes sketch or draw beforehand from life, however I also do enjoy being part of the creation directly, as the sculpture reveals itself as I work. My ideas are directly conveyed into the clay using the minimum of tools while the feel of the clay in my hands as I push it around is almost part of me. It's a kind of conversation with clay'. 

Alison Cooten:

When I approached Cooten's stall, the work looked familiar, but I could not place it at all. I asked her 'where have I seen your work?' and she replied 'the Stratford gallery, one piece, but it was white'. And then I remembered.

I find her sculptures intriguing and am drawn to them. Every time I visited her stall, and I did lots of times, the work appealed to me more.

She hand builds in stoneware, coiling and sculpting. Each piece has several layers of slip and glaze with areas left bare, creating pits and surface texture. Indian ink is then used to define the crackle. Her recent work includes the use of glass eyes, blown or hand painted, often intended for taxidermy.

Coaten is fascinated by the human desire to make sense of existence through religion, myth and folklore and the use of art to create concrete images of worship, in the form of icons and idols. Her use of this imagery helps to create a sense of familiarity within her work and this imagery is reworked using secular and personal iconography.

Her more recent work explores our relationship with animals and plays with the idea of the Madonna and Child, with images found in Flemish art and the Reserve heads of ancient Egypt. The Medieval and Renaissance periods are another influence.



I loved this one as I've always been fascinated by the story of Pope Joan. 

Pope Joan, 855-857 was, according to popular legend, a woman who reigned as Pope for a few years during the Middle Ages. Her story first appeared in chronicles in the 13th century and subsequently spread throughout Europe.

Most versions of her story describe her as a talented and learned woman who disguised herself as a man and due to her abilities rose through the church hierarchy and was eventually elected pope. Her sex was revealed when she gave birth during a procession, and she died shortly after, either through murder or natural causes. The accounts state that later church processions avoided this spot and that the Vatican removed the female Pope from its official lists and crafted a ritual to ensure that future Popes were male. In the 16th century, Sienna cathedral featured a bust of Joan among other pontiffs'  - this was removed after protests in 1600.

Peter Hayes:

In this post I have included Hayes' figurative pieces which I find stunning. More of his work in the next post.

'I have always been interested in the history of ceramics - why and how 'things' are made of clay. This interest was extended after I spent several years travelling through Africa working with various tribes and village potters and being intrigued how, with limited technology and basic tools, they were able to get such exquisite, beautiful surfaces. I found the same inherent skills in India, Nepal, Japan and New Mexico. I tried to adopt the ideas picked up from my travels in my own work. By building up layers of textured clay combined with burnishing and polishing of surfaces, I try to achieve opposites of rough and smooth'.

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