Saturday, 10 March 2012

Coming up exhibition: John Pollex 28 March - 21 April 2012

John Pollex

New Ceramics

Exhibition dedicated to the memory of Colin Pearson

John Pollex talks about his work:

'Since helping to revive an interest in traditional slipware in the early seventies, I felt the need to bring colour to the surface of my work. The result of this is that I have been increasingly influenced by the paintings of several abstract artists. It is not a long list but a relevant one, if one is to understand how the surface marks on my pots have evolved.

The first is Sir Howard Hodgkin, whose work I saw in the summer of 1985 at the Whitechapel Gallery. Sir Howard was showing 40 paintings from 1973 – 84. One painting in particular impressed me. It was a large round work almost four foot across entitled ‘Valentine’. As soon as I saw it, I thought how wonderful something like that would look on a large plate. I was already using coloured slips at the time, producing a range of repetition pots. I was becoming dissatisfied with repeating patterns and wanted to make each pot different and more individual. So, seeing the Hodgkin Exhibition spurred me on to look at other artists and to give up repeating designs on my work.

What followed were the influences of British artists Patrick Heron and Ben Nicholson, as well as American painters Hans Hofmann, Mark Rothko and Robert Natkin. Hofmann was a very influential art teacher and developed a method he calls his ‘push pull’ effect. By placing certain colours next to one another, the illusion of shapes receding and coming forward is produced and I often incorporate this effect in my work. Ben Nicholson’s line drawings of pots have influenced the use of ‘pot’ shapes on my work. Diane Nevitt is an artist here in Plymouth, whose use of colour and form I’ve also found to be very inspiring.

During the last year I’ve started to hand build teabowls, mugs and bottle shapes. I really enjoy the break from throwing and the way the various shapes come together. Although I’m not as meticulous as some hand builders, I like the freedom that comes with the way I put the shapes together. Shoji Hamada’s well known remark that the best pots are ‘born and not made’ has always been one of my favourite quotes. Hodgkin also makes a similar comment when he says ‘the painting must tell you what it wants’.

All the colours are added with sponges, brushes and plastic spatulas, and some scgraffito work is often included to emphasize a shape or mark. I never have an idea of how the finished image will appear on the pot, as the whole process is an improvisation. I begin by covering the pot in a black slip and then introduce the background colours, before allowing various shapes to appear. These could be improvised pot shapes or just blocks of colour. Depending on what type of pot I’m painting, the process of building up the final image can be quite time-consuming. I often need to take short breaks to give my eyes a rest and reflect on how the colours and shapes are working together. This slow and methodical way of working means that I don’t have great output of pots these days. A typical week’s work might be six teapots or five large jugs!

If there is a message in what I do now, it is simply the enjoyment of working in the present moment.'

Still to see: 'Man and Beast' - figurative ceramics (until 24th of March).

Yorkshire born, Penny studied stage design at Birmingham and the Slade and was a costume and dress designer before turning to clay. Initially working in a loose English Delftware style, she took the Ceramics Diploma course at the City Lit in London and her work gravitated to this current synthesis of figures placed in a context in which to perform, characters in a drama.
The framework of platforms, plinths, ledges and spheres gives her an opportunity to treat the surface and figure in different ways and provides more material for telling the story using many historical references in a cocktail of ceramic techniques.

She lay on the beast

Psyche and the abominable beast

Pastoral Scene

Never trust a tiger whilst taking tea

‘My work is based around the figure and the human head. I try to bring across a sense of identity in each piece I do. The clay is stoneware clay containing flax and fine grog, which I paint with velvet underglazes and oxides. My firing temperature is 1040°C at bisque and 1140-50°C for glaze firing’.




‘My ceramic animals are creatures that inhabit other, imaginary worlds. Each animal is inspired and informed by my perceptions of what that world might be like. During making I’m engaged in a dialogue with the work; I need it to lead me and surprise me. I sketch out a wire framework, onto which pieces of patterned porcelain paper clay are added. It’s impossible to prevent the thin wire meandering this way and that; elements of chance like this and the shrinkage of the clay around the framework during firing are allowed to help dictate the final posture of the animal’.

Fox (detail)



Group of birds

Group of birds

Marie’s work is about the human and animal form, with an interest in the narrative of the magic of transformation, an expression of the desire for mischief, passion, and wild magic, with snippets of everyday life thrown in. Her work has been described as ‘sensual and gently mischievous’. She says of her work, ‘It is my constant aim to create an infusion of energy, movement, colour, and humour in each piece, to inspire curiosity and to make people smile.’ In December 2010 Marie opened the Singing Soul Gallery, a contemporary art and craft gallery, showing work from many leading artists and craftspeople.

Acrobats on Zebra

‘Recently, a number of new directions have opened up with my figurative sculptures. These include a large series of small individual sculptures of birds and trees where I find the high level of decorative painterly detail highly absorbing. I have also begun a series of large statuesque horses decorated with glazes. I find the challenge of working with a full range of scales invigorating. The latest pieces have moved my figures into a group of night-time scenes, where humans and wild creatures interact in hidden glades. This doesn’t mean that I have abandoned any of my previous narrative approaches, which continue to flourish’.

Couple enjoying the moonlight in a forest glade

Couple coming across a monolith in the forest

Woman pretending to be a sculpture in a moonlit glade

Satyr and woman dancing in a silvery glade