CoCA : Centre of Ceramic Art, York

Last week was a very arty/gallery week for me what with the Whitworth on Tuesday and a re-visit to York City Art Gallery on Thursday. Back in April I first visited the recently re-opened Art Gallery in York with the local Art Fund.

Centre of Ceramic Art, CoCA.
York City Art Gallery
11am, Friday 1st April 2016
York’s wondrously refurbished Art Gallery is now host to the new Centre of Ceramic Art, a splendid addition to the Museum’s collection. On show are the collections of three major 20th century collectors of contemporary pottery in a display which rivals the works themselves. Helen Walsh, Curator of Ceramics, will talk about the bringing together of the collection before showing us round. In addition, a guided session on handling pots will give you a chance to learn much more about the making processes and understand the unique appeal of the items in the York collection.
This display of ceramics is a real eye-opener. 
Own transport starting in foyer at 11 am
Light Refreshments are available in the café of the gallery but space is limited. There are
numerous cafes adjacent to the gallery.

Continue reading


Matthew Darbyshire and The W.A. Ismay Collection at The Hepworth, Wakefield


The Hepworth Gallery by the River Calder in Wakefield

On Thursday I revisited The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield. I went back specifically to see the Matthew Darbyshire installation of pots juxtaposed with modern white goods in Gallery 10. Unfortunately this exhibition closes today but the pots, which belong to the York Art Gallery collection, will be back in a special new gallery to be created at York when the museum reopens in 2015.

With my new-found appreciation of studio pottery I was looking forward to seeing this exhibition. I was not disappointed.

Hepworth poster

This fascinating project brings together one of Britain’s most exciting contemporary artists, Matthew Darbyshire, with one of the world’s most significant assemblages of post-war studio pottery, the W.A. Ismay Collection.

Ismay 2

Librarian and collector William Alfred Ismay (1910-2001) lived in Wakefield his whole life. From 1955 he began to collect pieces by some of the most renowned makers of studio pottery from Hans Coper and Shoji Hamada to works by local Yorkshire potters, Barbara Cass and Joan Hotchin, alongside lesser known ceramicists.

His extraordinary collection of 3,600 items, by 500 makers, covered all the available surfaces of his small terraced house in Wakefield. This extraordinary collection offers an insight into the compulsive and systematic habits and protocols of a unique and unusual collector.” [Introduction from The Hepworth website]

Ismay and TV

Contemporary installation artist Matthew Darbyshire assembled the display based on the floor plan and the furniture or kind of furniture that Ismay would have owned in his Wakefield terraced home; he added modern streamlined household white goods as a contrast to the handmade ceramics and he used just 700 of the total of 3,600 pots from Ismay’s collection. In addition a flat screen TV shows a loop of original motion picture clips that Darbyshire has put together on the themes of man and machines and dance including hip-hop and other natural human movement contrasting the manmade with machines and technology.

And here is my selection of pots (mostly teapots) :

With Coloseum

Includes a Roman Colosseum ‘pot’

Teapots 1

Teapots 2

Teapots 3

Teapots 4

Teapots 5

Teapots 6

Teapots 7

Teapots 8

Teapots 9

Nice pot

Viewing the pots made you really want to pick them up so luckily there was a small selection of pots that you were allowed to feel and examine and another TV loop of potters talking about their first meetings with Bill Ismay.


You may pick up these pots

See how Matthew Darbyshire put it all together here :

And here is Down By The Dougie’s view of “Lots of Pots” and more photos.

Art and Life 1920-1931: Studio Pottery

Until yesterday I thought a pot was a pot. What a difference a knowledgable speaker makes to the appreciation of art! In this case I’m talking about studio pottery and the pots on display at the Art and Life, 1920-1931 exhibition currently showing at Leeds City Art Gallery (but only until Sunday 12 January). The exhibition will then head down to Kettles Yard in Cambridge and thence to The Dulwich Picture Gallery in south London.

Art and Life 1

On some Thursdays throughout the year Leeds Art Gallery presents 30 minute free lunchtime talks. Yesterday the lunchtime talk was extended to 50 minutes and the visiting speaker, Dinah Winch from Gallery Oldham, told our small assembled group about the pots displayed in Art and Life. They were all made by William Staite Murray.

Art and Life 2

These pots, which I would have given barely a glance to before, I now look at quite differently. A stripey vase and a rough brown dish became works of art before my very eyes. The pots matched with the paintings and many appear in Winifred Nicholson’s paintings demonstrating the ideal light in which to view them – natural sunlight through the window – not the artificial light from above the glass cases in the gallery.

Polyanthus and Cineraria

Nicholson’s Polyanthus and Cineraria [source]

The stripey vase entitled The Bather was very tall and striking. Photography was not allowed and I have been unable to find a suitable picture to reproduce here. Most of the pots (including The Bather) came from York City Art Gallery (which is undergoing a big refurbishment over the next couple of years) and a couple from Kettles Yard. I visited Kettles Yard in 2011. It is a lovely homely gallery full of art and craft of the Art and Life era.

In Kettles Yard

Inside Kettles Yard (Ben Nicholson’s Bertha (No.2) on the right)

Here is what the Exhibition Guide says about Murray and his pots :

William Staite Murray was one of the leading artists of his time. Murray eschewed any functionality for pots and viewed pottery as a fundamental abstract art lying between painting and sculpture. Inspired by the Chinese Sung dynasty pots that had begun to appear in London, his pots are emotionally expressive with imaginative titles, all of which appealed to the Nicholsons with whom he was friends and exhibited widely. Ben Nicholson keenly distributed pictures by Alfred Wallis amongst his friends, and sent one to Murray, noting that it reminded him of one of Murray’s pots. We can only muse as to the exact link as it is not known which picture by Wallis Ben sent. Winifred gives us an idea for she wrote of one of Murray’s pots as having “the elemental depth of the sea.” When Ben Nicholson saw Murray’s solo exhibition at the Lefevre Gallery in London in 1931 he wrote “one big brown pot is one of the finest things I have ever seen.” Persian Garden was exhibited in the Lefevre exhibition, and widely seen as one of Murray’s masterpieces, it is probable this was the pot referred to by Nicholson. By the late 1920s remarkably Murray had a higher reputation than the Nicholsons. Arguably as good a potter as Bernard Leach, subsequently Murray’s reputation has suffered, perhaps partly because in 1939 he left England and with the outbreak of war settled abroad. Sadly he did not pot again.

I hope this brief introduction and excellent lecture will set me up for my visit later this month to the Matthew Darbyshire installation using the pottery collection of W.A.Ismay at The Hepworth in Wakefield.

Other bloggers have written about this wonderful exhibition here and here.