Strange Clay: Ceramics in Contemporary Art
Strange Clay: Ceramics in Contemporary Art at The Hayward Gallery explores the expansive potential of clay through a variety of playful as well as socially-engaged artwork.
There is no denying the massive surge of interest in ceramics in the last decade. Designers, artists and architects have been applying the ancient clay medium in all sorts of ways – from furniture to ethereal objects to wall surfaces and unique artworks. So-called ‘ugly ceramics’, lumpy, squishy, awkwardly coloured or exceptionally earthy are highly-sought after objects now, perhaps a reflection of an increasingly chaotic lifestyle or our need to love something seemingly unusual and absolutely not perfect. And beyond the professional world, amateur ceramicists, from age 3 to 100, are getting their hands muddy in ceramic studios and the satisfying/frustrating/ therapeutic qualities are undeniably beloved.
To celebrate all this love for ceramics, the Hayward Gallery in London presents an engaging new exhibition that presents Strange Clay: Ceramics in Contemporary Art, featuring ceramic works by 23 multi-generational and international artists. It is the first large-scale group exhibition in the UK to explore how contemporary artists in particular, have been using clay as a medium in inventive ways.
The exhibition is curated by Dr. Cliff Lauson and brings together a diverse selection of work from immersive installations, domestic objects, totem like sculptures, oversized vessels and fantastical figures and environments. Clay is the medium, but each artist approaches it differently and manipulates it to very specific and personal vision. There is nothing clean or neat about this show, rather the work is funky, surprising, and thought provoking and underscores the medium’s innate versatility, tactility and imperfect beauty. Legendary ceramic artists such as Betty Woodman, Edmund de Waal and Ken Price are in dialogue with mid-career artists as well as with a younger generation of artists such as Aaron Angell, Woody de Othello and Lindsey Mendick, who was invited to do a site-specific installation for the exhibition. In Till Death Do Us Part (2022), Mendick pushes forward ideas of domestic conflict and uncertainty in an installation that features ceramic cockroaches and other vermin invading various domestic interiors.
Other highlights include Klara Kristolova’s Far From Here, a large-scale installation of fantasy-like landscapes with ceramic figures- both animal and human and often both, and Jonathan Baldock’s tall, cylindrical totem figures with colourful and textural surfaces.
Lauson says, “Strange Clay brings together some of the most exciting artists working in ceramics in recent years. Using innovative methods and techniques, they push the medium to its physical and conceptual limits, producing imaginative artworks that surprise and provoke in equal measure.”
Strange Clay: Ceramics in Contemporary Art is on view at The Hayward Gallery at Southbank Centre through January 8, 2023.