Sunday, 9 March 2008

Ceramic Art London, Feb 29 - March 2nd 2008

Ceramic Art London, website here is a big posh pottery fair that takes place in the Dinosaur Paddock at the back of the Natural History Museum, in what was once another of the C word’s temples: the Royal Palace of Applied Yawns. It’s an iffy looking 70s building between Kensington Bore and the Consorting Princes, nuzzling up to Prince Albert and the Royal Organ. You can look at the A-Z and see for yourself. Well, imagine my surprise, to find, once again, the White Rabbit lurking in the undergrowth, looking much more sprightly this time though and no sooner had I spotted him, than I heard the Giant Dormouse was shortly, ok tally, to be expected - you know a girl can start to feel stuck in an action replay glitch at these events after a while.

Back at the fair however, the worker bees were at their many splendoured stalls. CAL is pretty much either domestic scale pots, or domestic scale figures. There are a couple of exceptions, - I’m coming to them, - but in the main it’s pots and figures. There is something weirdly interesting about ceramic figures, as long as they’re not trying to be – well – arty. It’s the unapologetically ceramicy ones that seem to work. I mean like china figurines, a bit camp. I’m thinking of Craig Mitchell’s shiney shiney pottery characters, website here and Carole Windham’s trophy-like ‘ornaments’, website here both of which are satires, I suppose, and self consciously refer to mantelpiece figures. I certainly prefer them to the earnest ‘truth to materials’ brigade – ‘female’ figures with no bosoms – I’m sorry I just can’t be doing with that sort of thing. Happily, neither could the selectors at CAL, it seems, at any rate they weren’t there – hooray! Or maybe they’ve just gone out of fashion. Even bigger Hooray.
This posting is going to celebrate inconsistency, because the ‘earnest truth to materials’ pots were out in force and I loved them. Gareth Mason’s giant placenta and toothpaste blobs oozed – I think he’s finding his feminine self, or the pot’s feminine self, and Richard Phethean’s big earthenware gestural jugs - um – thrusted – yep, masculine, but in the most cheerful sort of way. (Pictures on CAL website, more links to be added.)
The post-modern strand was admirably represented by Philomena Pretsell – welcome back- whose stall sported a fine collection of her pastry-folded domestic table-ware/ display-ware with lots of gold and drawings on so you’re not in any doubt at all about its desire to decorate- with brass knobs on. It’s aggressively feminine – HOORAY x 100 – with anxious moments, sort of flickering. Quite menopausal really, which is probably why I liked it so much. It’s those purple patches that do it, and a fiercely counter-intuitive smudge on the rim of a yellow cup where she’s brushed something on that’s come out brownish, and you know it’s a really bad lipstick moment. LOVE IT. (Pictures on CAL website and above)
It’s difficult to avoid a beauty parade with this kind of gig, because in many ways that’s exactly what it is, Ceramics’s annual fashion show. It’s not representative, it doesn’t show installation or architectural work, or any of the mixed media or cross-disciplinary work, so it’s a glimpse of some of what goes on in contemporary ceramics, rather than a survey, but no worse for that. The CPA, - there goes another C word, this is the Craft Potters Association – awards a prize, which went to a very sleek selection by Carina Ciscato, so, not to be left out, The C Word will award some prizes too.
Drum Roll:
The winner of this year’s, inaugural, Golden Fanny plus rosette for Best in Show 2008 goes to Aneta Regel Deleu,
website here for her truly fabulous blistered, pitted, festering, glorious mint green, yellow and red confections, neither pot nor figure , which lied about the materials, and established a different set of truths. GORGEOUS.
Highly Commended Golden Fanny rosettes go to Gareth Mason and to Philomena Pretsell, who celebrated the feminine from opposite ends of the ceramic spectrum.

Now all I have to do is persuade the Temple of the Applied Arts – that’s the one NEXT to the Natural History Museum to host the award ceremony sometime. This ambition will have to wait though, because The C Word has other matters to attend to.

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