Our 2 day trip to the Harley Gallery and Studios, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Centre of Ceramic Art within York Art Gallery.
An immerse and deep exploration of British Studio Pottery: from meeting practitioners, to the curators, collectors and archivers.
With over 5 500 ceramic artefact, CoCA is a waste collection and resource of ceramic practice in the UK. Its important work is to tell the stories of significant artists, potters and/or makers working with clay, and their collectors.
It’s to the generosity of The Very Reverend Dean Eric Milner-White, W.A. Ismay, Henry Rothschild and Anthony Shaw that this public collection can showcase the most complete story of British studio ceramics.
1) As we live in wold of big data, there is so much information in our world, so many products, ideas, concepts and data created every day, we can’t possibly see and experience most of them.
Growing in importance, it is curator’s job to digest, choose, present and restrict the flow of information, same as collectors who’s collections are exhibited and studied, they can direct our tastes and presences.
But as we discovered, not all creators has to have money or influential position to exert this kind of power. It’s more about dedication, passion, and confidence in own decision.
But they must bee influenced too, in the never ending network of constant selecting and rejecting.
Curators’ job is more to select and digest already existing collections, within a public institution with public collections, or as with CoCA, private collections donated for public use.
I was very delighted by the refreshing connections of classical fine art paintings and contemporary ceramic art/craft. …
“Like other forms of art, its [curation’s] function is not the restoration of context of origin but rather the creation of a new context.” (S. Stewart, Objects of Desire)
2) As to the extensive network of people guiding and presenting what we see, David Clarke tries to understand material culture as a system with subsystems.
David describes 5 main subsystems:
- Social subsystem: the hierarchical network of inferred personal relationships, including kinship and rank stats.
- Religious subsystem: the structure of mutually adjusted beliefs relating tot he supernatural.
- Psychological subsystem: the integrated system of supra-personal subconscious beliefs induced upon the individual in a society by their culture, their environment and their language.
- Economic subsystem
- Material culture subsystem
“These five subsystems headings are transparently based on the prejudices of current opinion, underlining their arbitrary nature,”
“A static and schematic model of the dynamic equilibrium between the subsystem networks of a single sociocultural system and its total environment system”.
As all the 4 private collectors basically knew each other and hugely influenced one-another , their collection can’t be called vast and comprehensive.
3) A carefully curated domestic space, exhibited within a public gallery space was rather exciting to see, comparing that most collections are displayed in museum settings behind glass. It showed individual’s taste in it’s most natural state. Such display inspired new ways of curating our own spaces, as well as giving more attention to the aesthetics of the ceramic objects.
Anthony Shaw as the latest contributor with his collection of contemporary ceramics that still grows, actually did bring new direction and feel within the overall collection.
I liked his opinion, and it was rather motivating, that makers should predominantly work true to themselves, rather than try to adapt to the market and try to figure out what people want.
But then the curators and influential collectors should guide people’s taste better, for more progressive and supportive directions, beneficial for the makers.
4) Psychology of collecting, as an addition to functional and decorative
Although I feel CoCa’s collection is rather biased and mostly showing similar single direction and aesthetics of ceramic practice, I’m happy that there’s the curational discussion and openness to innovate. With the domestic display of Anthony Shaw’s collection, or pairing object from rather dissimilar practices and timeframes to stimulate new ways of looking and discussing, there’s an interesting progression for innovation.
Interpreting Objects and Collections; Susan M. Pearce; 1994
Photographs, Museums, Collections Between Art and Information; E. Edwards and C. Morton; 2015
Centre of Ceramic Art an introduction; Helen Walsh; York Museum Trust
The Anthony Shaw Collection