CoCA, York

Lovely day in York with Micaela and Sue.  Even the weather smiled on us.  The main purpose for our visit was to visit CoCA – 2 rooms of ceramic arts on the first floor within York Art Gallery, over-arched by an impressive roof which floods the space with natural light. The first room has the Ceramic Rainbow along one wall, about 1000 works of mixed age, function and style, arranged by colour.  I found it difficult to read at first, but subsequent viewings brought some clarity.

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CoCA Ceramic Rainbow

On the other side of the room is collector, Anthony Shaw’s loan to the museum.  What an extraordinary man!  His most recent acquisitions are displayed in a domestic setting to show ‘how personal collections can continually transform our homes’.  It was a pleasure to view works in this setting, seeing them in the round and up close.

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CoCA, Anthony Shaw Collection

The second room, A History of British Studio Ceramics, has cases displaying works by individual ceramicists, such at Michael Cardew, Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, Alison Britton, with a central display works including Manifest: 10,000 Hours, a tower of 1000 bowls by Clare Twomey (and helpers).

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CoCA

Gordon Baldwin was well represented in all areas, from his painterly bowl to his serene abstract vessels:

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I love his black and white forms, and the beautiful cut and scratched surfaces.  The Dark Vessel seemed to be cobalt with a white dry glaze brushed on leaving brushstokes – the cobalt was black where there is no glaze and bluish where there is glaze.

Felicity Aylieeff uses a similar transformative technique in ‘Hua De Tu An Flower Pictures II’, where pools of transparent glaze change the flowers from black to blue:

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Felicity Aylieff  Hua De Tu An Flower Picture II

Ewen Henderson is featured in room 1, and is a favourite of Anthony Shaw.  I hadn’t thought his work remarkable from pictures, but I loved them in real life – the loose forms, the colours and volcanic textures. Who’d have thought he was a student of Lucie Rie and Hans Coper?

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There was a ‘Hands On’ session in the second room, run by a volunteer, where we could handle a small Henderson bowl.  Also a small Merete Rasmussen coil.

Merete Rasmussen’s Yellow Open Form 2010 is included in the Ceramic Rainbow, but it doesn’t sit well with the other exhibits.  It’s amazing to think she coils her work – they look machined they are so precise.

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Merete Rasmussen

Nao Matsunaga  was new to me.  He lives in London and works in ceramic, wood and paper.  He says of his practice: ‘I am conscious of the repetitive action in my making, of not knowing what I am trying to achieve, teaching my muscles to move in a certain way, breathing and not breathing, but working and responding to the reality of what is happening in front of me. This is how my pieces emerge into being.’ Certain pieces didn’t speak to me, but here are some that chatted away:

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It was edifying to see Baldwin, Henderson and Matsunaga displayed in a group.  They worked beautifully together:

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Gordon Baldwin [rear], Ewen Henderson [left], Nao Matsunaga [right]

And here are a few more things I  liked or found interesting:

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The gallery shop had some interesting pieces.  Claire Twomey designed white tea services – complete with printed signature on the box.  Not quite having product made under license a la Claire Norcross, but not bad.  Also some lovely urban inspired sculptures by Rebecca Appleby.  (I’ve since discovered that she will be assisting James Oughtibridge on one of his 5 day courses in the summer).  The surface decoration is multi-layered, reminiscent of peeling paint and urban art.

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