Michael Cardew, A Winchcombe Pottery Earthenware Bowl, the interior slip-trailed with the river pattern, c. 1930's   
JACK BRINDLEY, CLIVE BOWEN, JANE BUSTIN, MICHAEL CARDEW, EDWIN BEER FISHLEY, THE GRANCHESTER POTTERY, JESSICA JACKSON HUTCHINS, BERNARD LEACH, JANET LEACH, KATE NEWBY, CHRIS PRINDL, GIDEON RUBIN, NICOLA TASSIE, JESSE WINE, MIZUYO YAMASHITA...

ROKEBY‘s inaugural exhibition in its new gallery space looks to the history of British studio ceramics and the Modernist rhetoric used by figures associated with the movement. Including work by a selection of British Studio Potters alongside contemporary artists working across media, the exhibition investigates a current interest in process, materiality and truthfulness to medium.

Despite a recent tendency to see ceramics and the modern British art movement as separate disciplines the two are closely interwoven. The approaches of artists working in clay such as Bernard Leach, considered the father of the British studio pottery, and Michael Cardew (1) mirrored the Modernist ideas gaining currency in Britain in the early 1920’s in both painting and sculpture. Post war art in Britain drew upon - amongst other things - the tradition of the handmade. This is especially true in St Ives where Bernard Leach chose to set up his first pottery. Leach united the classical pottery traditions of Asia (2) including their taste for imperfections with those of English slipware potters to define the modernist vernacular revival.
 
The exhibition brings together a group of cross-generational artists all of whom are experimental in their approach. When Leach and Cardew looked to the history of slipware in Britain they were never nostalgic (3). Rather they combined pre-industrial techniques with a Modernist spirit; combining raw materials with the performative act of making and inherited forms with a simpler more direct language.

No straightforward link is suggested in bringing the artists together in this exhibition, but an inheritance of concerns and a shared interest in the handling of material and unpredictable processes can be perceived, regardless of their chosen medium. It is the principles and values of heterogeneity, destabilization and irrationality that interest them all, a questioning of the distinctions between art and craft and a concern for the physical - and especially the human body - in the making and viewing the work.

Click through to a brief history of British studio ceramics as outlined in the exhibition


(1) Cardew was a pupil of Leach’s in St Ives from 1923-26.
(2) Leach was born in Hong Kong but spent his first years in Japan. He attended the Slade, London and in 1909 arrived in Japan for a second time.
(3) The earliest work in the exhibition is an earthenware slipware mug by Edwin Beer Fishley from Michael Cardew's private collection. Cardew had a particular affinity for Edwin Beer Fishley and counted the rural potter as one of his most important influences.

With thanks to David Bowie for loaning work to the exhibition and Simon Jones for providing exhibition furniture.