Where else but in a Maiolica exhibition would one see Frida Kahlo, Isabella Blow, cats making faces and crustaceans all at the same time? Spending time with these guys has been so much fun for the last three weeks that it is a shame we have to say goodbye to them and send them to their new homes. There is, however, still time to pop in to see them before they go.
I recently met a milliner who knew Isabella Blow and talked of how fun she was. The image of Isabella in the green feathery hat has to be one of my favourite images. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Frida Kahlo, although her story is familiar to most of us. Frida's creative influence, the manner in which she used her own body as the subject matter in her art, has clearly influenced modern day female photographers such as Cindy Sherman and Polly Penrose to name a few.
Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant used tin glaze pottery in the 1930s when designing and painting for the Omega Workshops. In 1932, the art historian and museum director Kenneth Clark commissioned Bell and Grant to hand paint 50 dinner plates in Maiolica of famous women. This dinner service celebrated women throughout history, with the last two plates depicting Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant (the only man in the series). More information of the Famous Women Dinner Service can be found on the Charleston House website here.
Agalis Manessi's portrait plates are of the tradition of the The Famous Women Dinner Service collection. I am not sure whether Agalis has made such a connection, these are just my musings. Regardless, she has made the collection of portraits her own, her subject matter is generally derived from portraits, figures and animal studies in museum collections or drawn directly from life; a fusion of the observed and imagined.
The Catamorphic vessels are an ongoing series of simplified hand built forms painted with patterns derived from looking at historical examples in ceramics, textiles and paintings. The faces of the cats add a playfulness to the geometric forms.
How about the Octopus and Quince? Andrew Hazelden and Nicola Werner both were trained under Alan Caiger-Smith at Aldermaston Pottery in Berkshire. In the orchard of the pottery there was a quince tree. So beautiful and enchanted was this tree that long after leaving and setting up on his own, Andrew is still remembers 'the shape of the tree, the colour, texture and smell of the fruit. Not to mention the delicious taste and colour of membrillo and the memories of late summer fruit picking with Alan Caiger-Smith' All this has stayed with Andrew and is the inspiration behind the Quince Fruit design. And the Octopus has always been a favourite subject of Andrew's, ever since seeing the 1500 BC Minoan Vases in the Ashmolean Museum.
Nicola Werner's strawberries and grapes are reminiscent of summers spent in the orchard. They bring a cheer to the dark days of winter, with a promise of brighter days ahead. Dreaming of Mediterranean summers but rooted in a very British interpretation of Maiolica.
I look forward to seeing you soon.