Finally, I want to share with you my love of the work of Jennifer Lee. I encountered her work first of all at an exhibition in 2013 at Erskine Hall and Co. I was mesmerised by the simplicity of her burnished forms. I love the way that her vessels seem to hardly touch the surface on which they sit. They almost float and yet the colours and the treatment of the clay implies a kind of fragile solidity which I love. She features in a book which I reach for frequently when I am looking for inspiration: Modern British Potters and Their Studios by David Whiting and whenever I turn to her page the first thing that springs to mind – a bit like a head rush – is ‘That’s what I am aiming for!
This week I decided that it was high time I got outside and had a look to see what is going on. It seems ages since I took in any exhibitions and I have been so shut up in my own little world that it was about time to open my eyes!
I went to see the exhibition of Gordon Baldwin’s work at Eskine Hall and Co just off Piccadilly, London. This is a lovely, light gallery which specialises in contemporary and 20th century ceramics to which I have enjoyed a number of visits over the last few years.
I didn’t realise, until after I got home and looked Gordon Baldwin up in David Whiting’s book on Modern British Potters, that Baldwin has an interest in the coast and the sea. His work reflects his exploration of space and the elements. Maybe that is why it appealed so strongly to me. The exhibition contains some fabulous, sculptural pieces.
I think my absolute favourites have to be Baldwin’s Paintings in the Form of Bowls. I love the rounded shapes and the idea of a three dimensional canvas on which his mark making is understated and minimalist with a limited pallet on a dry, white background. Whiting describes his work: ‘at their quietest and most concentrated these objects are often most akin to the shapes and textures of stones, washed and worn by the sea’. It certainly resonated strongly with someone who always has a pebble from the beach in my pocket, for no other reason than to be able to feel and touch the coast at all times where ever I happen to be land locked.
I know now that Baldwin is renowned for not becoming embroiled in ceramic debate but, whilst I was in the gallery looking at his work I could not help feeling that my experience might have been enhanced by knowing more about the man and his work. I was certainly not going to gain any deeper understanding from the exhibition catalogue which is extremely economical on word count! I suppose the counter to this would be that it serves me right for not looking him up before I went. But I am not in the habit of looking the artist up before I go. I never have been. On the one hand this could be put down to idleness however, the question which I am constantly up against is this; would knowing more have enhanced my experience or was it better to go and view the work with little knowledge of the man or his work and then to investigate him more deeply afterwards? Now that I have a mildly better understanding I suspect that this was the right order to do things in, this time at least. It made me look more carefully than I might have done if I had already discovered that Whiting considers Baldwin’s pieces ‘difficult to know’. That might have scared me away!