Ruthin Craft Centre
The Centre for the Applied Arts


Gallery 3

Surface Matters

8 July – 24 September 2023

Peter Bodenham / Miche Follano / Carolyn Genders / Sarah Jenkins / Hilary Mayo / Barry Stedman / Emily Stubbs / Craig Underhill / Rachel Wood

Surface when it is a clay body can be many things; earthenware, stoneware, porcelain, ball clay, china clay; then there are slips, oxides, glazes, decals, textures…the list is long. The surface of a ceramic object can convey many different messages and thus induce varying responses from us as the viewer. Unlike a painting it is usually three dimensional in form and can include deep mark making. As with sculpture, each turn reveals a different perspective that can be complex and alluring.

However, surface can also employ the peace and calm of a minimal approach, a questioning examination of textural glaze, or the arresting of senses and joy in an exuberant explosion of colour. Surfaces can consume and retain a colour through their porosity, and conversely let them shine in a glass-like glaze. There are many ways for a potter or ceramist to express their thoughts and inspirations.

In this exhibition we see the work of nine ceramicists for whom the surface becomes in effect their canvas. In most, but not all cases, a three-dimensional form that combines their mastery of making, and subsequent glazing and decoration to stunning decorative effect. There is something about the way things work on the surface of ceramic that it somehow doesn’t on a canvas. There is a directness and life to the decoration that has nuances hard to achieve on a more traditional painters’ surface. Some of the artist-makers here also use a two-dimensional surface to explore their ideas, and examples can be seen alongside their ceramic work – it’s a fascinating juxtaposition.

In essence Surface Matters explores a painterly approach to decorating a ceramic form; essentially using, mainly but not exclusively, a vessel as a three-dimensional canvas. Unlike a painting the imagery flows around the piece and reconnects with itself in a harmonious whole.

Gregory Parsons, Curator