Get on your bike or Lime scooter, or your own feet if necessary and zap along to Anna Miles’ Gallery in Upper Queen Street. Do not pass go and do not collect 200. Just get there and view, in the large old vitrine, some of the finest vessels you are likely to see this year.
Peter Hawkesby has been in evidence recently as he has tried ‘riding the bike again’, as he puts it. Active many years ago, his work was pilloried by some, viewed incomprehensibly by many but admired and enjoyed by others possessed of a different eye and way of assessing worth in a lump of fired clay. Life intervened and Hawkesby had little to do with ceramics for many years. However, with time passed, the call to ride again along with fewer work demands has meant he is back on that bike. And going for it!
There was an initial show of his assemblages at Anna Miles. Consisting various components, some of which had lain awaiting notice for many years beneath a compost heap, while others were freshly minted and still evidencing effects from their recent passage through fire. They stood, leaned or lay supine in disparate postures narrating a variety of possibilities around the exhibition’s heading of Scratch a Cenotaph. Distinctly votive in ambiance the works nevertheless successfully held any hovering reverence pretty much at bay; instead the elements rallied together for an insouciant muster underscored by Hawkesby’s signature big fat ticks – orange peeled, glossily dribbled and dripped or starkly desiccated of surface, contributing their own positivity to the confluence while signifying enjoyment in the process.
There was an intermediate appearance of his work when he exhibited further assemblages as guest artist for the ASP’s annual event at Pah Homestead (still on – go see), but it is the current display, as part of Anna Miles end-of-year group show, The Ocelot Dominion, where the next manifestation of his bike riding skills become evident.
His Blunted Devil Cups have a utilitarian objective although not in any conventional sense. They offer a sober spontaneity that makes a virtue of their uncontrived blips, runs, blow-outs and piercings which sparsely interrupt an otherwise austere, ashen, soda’d surface more akin to a heaving reflective sea or soft stone than skin of an orange. Mounted upon variously surfaced elements that inform around their passage through fire, the layered base forms suggest altars and underscore the symbolic and ritual roles of their labelling. There are few indications of the exuberance so apparent in the earlier assemblages but a casually draped decorative strip cloaking a lip or a spiky addition on a rim, suggestive of a horn, reassure that the adornments of his title are still within grasp. Here be magic that can embellish and colour the rituals of living with a restrained elegance while linking with the very origins of fired clay.
There is also a splendid Edo-ish two-part vase, its sections secured with macaroni elbows at the juncture and surfaced with splotches of deep blue and slashes and scratches that catch and contain rivulets of soda, plus a hand-built teapot of similar ilk that expresses the surface of the clay in ways that relate to the immediacy of pre-industrial wares. These pieces are more than decorative and demonstrate that function can be both explicit and implied.
While at Anna Miles Gallery you will find a range of work by Richard Stratton – very different in their precision assemblies and adherence to historical methods long buried in out-of-date technical tomes and as he looks at ceramics’ inheritances he’s also reconfiguring how a vessel should, or can, simply be. In this case – referencing structuralist architecture.
Both these artist’s work revel in some of the rich potential of their chosen medium; in its subtleties and malleability in riposte to spontaneity or its responses to lengthy, painstaking and well-researched process and subversive cognition. Both are worth spending time with and that’s possible until the gallery closes on December 22nd.
The vitrine with Devil Cups.
Blunted Devil Cup II
Blunted Devil Cup I
Blunted Devil Cup
Vase approx 31cmH.