Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Christy Keeney

Christy Keeney at the Bevere Gallery, Worcester.

One of my favourite ceramicists. Such pleasure being able to see so much of his work in one go.

Christy Keeney started his career at art school in Donegal. Although drawn more towards fine art, he was encouraged to continue working in clay. Whilst developing his throwing skills, he became more interested in sculpture.

Keeney studied ceramics at The Royal College of Art and graduated in 1988 and then started working from studios in London. His work developed from portrait sculpture to a freer, more two-dimensional form of modelling, inspired by human faces and expressions. He was commissioned by the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi to work on a portrait of Richard Rodgers, for an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 1988.

In the early 1980s when he was at college, Keeney visited a retrospective Picasso exhibition at the Tate Gallery and many of his influences came from seeing that work. He sees his work as three dimensional painting. The form is built up and flattened like a canvas ready to take the drawing. When he works he tries to let the moment dictate his progress, and the themes that he is dealing with are not as important to him as the overall form they inhabit. His figurative ceramics are an investigation into the human condition and his forms are stretched to the point where sculpture and drawing overlap. His sculpted slab built heads and figures demonstrate a wonderful sense of draughtsmanship as details are drawn into the wet clay surface.

After spending 17 years in London Keeney returned to his native Donegal, where he now lives and works. 

Flat Head

Flat Head

 Tall Head


Horse and Rider

Tall Head 

Blue Guitar Flying Lady

looking closer

Seated Guitar Player 

Bass Player

a selection of brooches

Heads on sticks

Heads on sticks

Monday, 19 March 2018

The family in disorder - Cinthia Marcelle

This is what we first encountered when we entered the first gallery of the exhibition The Family in Disorder, by Cinthia Marcella at Modern Art, Oxford.

After this first glimpse of total chaos 

we concentrated on specific areas in the space, trying to unravel the chaos into small chunks that we could make sense of.

This site-specific installation by Brazilian artist Cinthia Marcelle is 'an experimental proposition to reinvent, relearn and reorganise'.

Shoelaces, matchboxes, smoke grenades, cotton bolts, black plastic sheeting, brown paper, bricks, masking tape, hook and loop fastener tape, chalk, stone, metal barrels, topsoil, gaffer tape, notebooks, chicken feathers, poplar wood batten, carpet, have all been used to create this installation.

The background to The Family in Disorder could be understood as the global crises of late capitalism and the current instability in Brazil, dating from the 2016 impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Members of Congress often cloaked their justification for Rousseff's impeachment in rhetoric citing the supposed 'protection of the family' from liberal values. The artist posed a series of open-ended questions in conceiving her work: 'what is a family? Can we talk about a family of materials, a family of the institution?

The installation also questions territory and occupation. The work resonates with the land occupation movement in Brazil, which has been led by the homeless, the disenfranchised and those pushed out by rising housing costs in large urban areas. Severe housing crises, manifesting in drastically different ways, are being experienced across the world from Sao Paolo to Oxford. This global concern regarding ownership and access led Marcelle to consider: 'to whom does the land belong? Who is this space for? Who owns or has access to these public art spaces?'

'An uprising takes place when people start to gather and move and appear and act in ways that seek to dismantle the regime or the power responsible for their subjugation'. Judith Butler.

The Family in Disorder is the result of dialogue and confrontation. Marcelle chose to hand over this half of the installation (the other half follows on) to a group of six artists and technicians and invited them 'to occupy the space' with its materials. This decision, entirely new to her practice, destabilises the expectation of individual creative authorship in favour of collective decision making.

A set of group rules was agreed prior to any action, including a ban on using external tools to work with the materials. The work is grounded in contemporary progressive political efforts to move beyond patriarchal and colonial structures within public society and discourse. By building, dismantling and re-building new structures within The Family in Disorder, the processes of the work are informed by the collective action of various protest movements and uprisings.

By disrupting the conventions of a solo exhibition, Marcelle and her six artist-participants have instigated what she calls 'a collective force, which proposes new forms of living, and creates new ways of learning'. Embracing chaos, The Family in Disorder is an exercise in letting go of traditional notions of creativity and narrative.

Having looked at, walked around and embraced chaos we moved on to the second part of the installation, in a different gallery where order reigned. We thus have a mirror image of chaos and order.

In this gallery, the unbranded materials are neatly stacked in regimented rows of distinct categories, presented in bulk quantities. Here, this structure seems to operate as a barrier, an ordered but impassable frontier.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Masters of Studio Pottery

Masters of Studio Pottery: Post-War to Present, at the Oxford Ceramics Gallery.

Most prominent figures of British pottery making are represented in this exhibition, from the pioneering pots of Shoji Hamada, Bernard Leach and Bernard Leach's early students Michael Cardew and Pleydell-Bouverie, to the monumental forms of Julian Stair and Nicholas Rena today. Gareth Mason and Akiko Hirai, two of the younger artists in the exhibition, take us full circle with their heavily encrusted jars - objects which look as if they have been chipped and excavated from the kiln.

Michael Cardew, Early Jug, 1930

Jim Partridge, Small Angular Vessel with Gold, 2018

Walter Keeler

Walter Keeler

Akiko Hirai, Moon Jar

John Ward, Black and white vessel, 1980s

John Ward, Striped Vessel, 1990

Nicholas Rena, I'll Rise to You

Michael Cardew, 2 Bean Plates, 1970

Michael Cardew, Large Footed Bowl, 1970s

Akiko Hirai, Medium Moon Jar

Akiko Hirai, Moon Jar

Akiko Hirai, Moon Jar

Philip Eglin, Seated Nude, 2006

Gordon Baldwin, Water Vessel III, 2010

Emmanuel Cooper, White Frost Bowl, 1997

Edmund de Waal, Tall Cargo Jar, 2002

Rupert Spira, Early Charger

Julian Stair, Cup, 2017

Julian Stair, Cup, 2017

Julian Stair, Cup, 2017

Julian Stair, Cup, 2017

Walter Keeler, Large Dark Jug and Large Yellow Jug, 2015