The Ceramics Edit by Felicity Aylieff

28th February 2022


Felicity Aylieff is one of the UK’s leading contemporary ceramicists with works in public institutions worldwide including the V&A Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Auckland Museum, New Zealand. She is also a QEST Skills Assessor and for this showcase she has selected five QEST Scholars & ceramicists whose work has caught her eye.

Flare Up by Sam Bakewell

For me Sam Bakewell’s work displays extraordinary humanity and integrity. It is both serious and playful in its self-reflection, using metaphor and abstraction in the translation of idea into object.

The last 20 years has seen him build a practice that is fuelled by an insatiable curiosity, questioning what it is to be a maker and what clay means to him as an expressive material. Explorations have taken him in many directions and his technical research is expansive allowing him to react and create with an intuitive sensitivity. He has found a new language in clay that communicates his emotional states of mind, with the work essentially autobiographical.

Recent wall pieces shown at the Corvi Mori Gallery in London, use Parian (a self-glazing porcelain) as a thick slip, formed by hand using wide metal scrapers and daubed with coloured marks; three dimensional paintings with a surface sheen that brings them alive.

Seascape Vessels by Celia Dowson

Celia Dowson moves between ceramic and glass as her chosen materials to reflect her preoccupation with landscape, to capture the essence of the natural world, tell her stories and record her observations. Working with the architype forms of the bowl, platter, vase and drinking vessel, as her canvas, she creates horizons that stretch to infinity, that record the changing qualities of light,  weather and the atmosphere of place.

There is a simplicity and clarity in concept, and a sensitivity in production. In the glass works so much is said through her use of translucency and fading colour, contrasting areas of high polish, and the fine bubbles that capture a moment in time. In her porcelain bowls she creates both the wild and the serene, using swirls of black porcelain against a crisp white ground. 

I enjoy the visual economy of this work that allows for moments of quiet contemplation, and time to reflect.

Tile designs by Frances Priest

It is interesting to observe how tentative steps can become confident statements. With Frances Priest it is exciting to see how her language of pattern and colour has developed and in recent years, flourished. Increasingly she spans the world of individual exhibition pieces through to collaborations with industry that enable her to respond to public commissions. Here I am thinking of her QEST award to collaborate with Craven Dunnill Jackfield in order to incorporate heritage manufacturing skills within her ceramic work. Her keen interest in ‘ornament’ has led to a unique approach to its translation from 2D to 3D, from drawing to encaustic and tile moulding techniques; a perfect fit of idea, material and process . I really enjoy the breadth and vibrancy of her work and very much admire how she has managed her career to make work that reaches a diversity of audience.

Windsor Wood by Alice Walton. Photo credit Mark Robson.

I am drawn to the unconventional forms of Alice Walton‘s work, bold, enigmatic, and always intriguing. They are made even more arresting by the intensity of the tactile surface created by a lamination of clay strips, rich in tonal colour with heightened textural qualities. There is an interesting ambiguity to the work which sometimes takes on an urban feel or hints of her former travels in India. With her move to a studio in the countryside I see translations of the natural world coming through, and a recent residency with Wedgwood will undoubtedly provide her with further opportunities for invention,  drawing on this rich seam of ceramic history as a spur for future creativity.

It is brilliant when you see the career of a recipient of QEST funding go from strength to strength. Alice is actively exhibiting her work with top galleries – Ting Ying and Make Hauser and Wirth being the most recent.

Interstitial Spaces by Chloe Monks

I am intrigued by Chloe Monks’s work. Innovation is her driving force; she does not follow conventions in making, and techniques are pushed to their limits. Glaze, traditionally used to clothe a form, becomes the bonding agent, the glue out of which emerge slices of pure white porcelain. Her sculptures fascinate, appearing to balance precariously on protrusions of clay and glaze.  I am reminded of the salvage from the Ca Mau shipwreck of 1725 displayed in the V&A collection, where a fire on board a Chinese junk fused together a mass of porcelain ware into what has become known as the ‘Sea sculpture’.

It is early days for Chloe, a recent graduate from the RCA but she is already showing work at the British Ceramic Biennale and is well on her way to expanding the category of ceramics, taking it in new directions.

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