Claire Curneen’s sculptures are poignant reflections on the nature of humanity and our precarious place within it. Universal themes of loss, suffering and sacrifice underlie her intricate, porcelain figures, their translucent and fragile qualities offering potent metaphors through which to consider the human condition. Her ceramic figures have an imposing presence, which tap into our desires, fears and mysteries. They are highly visceral, referencing Catholic imagery from the early Italian Renaissance.
Porcelain, terracotta and black stoneware create an exquisite textural finish to these works, with dribbles of glaze and flashes of gold to accentuate their rich qualities. These figures bear bold narratives of human experiences and explore themes around death, rebirth and the sublime.
‘Curneen’s work offers us a precious liminal space of contemplation, like an altar or an icon but crucially, if there is devotion here, it is to humanity and creativity’
Teleri Lloyd Jones for the exhibition catalogue ‘to this I put my name’.
Amsterdam 1972, Deirdre McLoughlin discovered clay as a medium in which to express. Her main learning experience was with the artists in Kyoto 1982–85 where she set up studio and presented her first solo show. En-route home she travelled through China for three months visiting ceramic communities and sites of historical cultural significance.
Deirdre: ‘The work itself is my main teacher, my life’s adventure and my heartbeat. The drive is to find a form I don’t know or refine a form I’ve met before as I search for some sense of the sublime. Everything I know is there. I don’t always understand what I know.’
Twice winner of Ceramics of Europe Westerwald Prize, for vessel forms, she was also awarded a Diploma of Honour in the 4th World Ceramic Biennale Korea. The Ulster Museum and the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland have curated and toured her solo exhibitions. She was selected for the Irish millennium exhibition ‘An Artists’ Century 2000’ and for the ‘Organic Abstraction’ exhibition curated by Garth Clark in New York.
Deirdre: ‘My forms are built around and into space and are sometimes termed biomorphic. They are coiled with a building and breaking action, fast and slow, concentrated and chaotic by turn. I work until I sense something true, the form feels right, feels alive. Then I begin the finishing process of smoothing, grinding and polishing through multiple firings.’
Frances studied Education at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin and taught art at second level for several years. In 1996, she became a founder member of Bridge Street Studios in Dundalk and began making sculptural ceramics. She currently works in a studio at her home in County Louth, Ireland.
Frances creates sculptural work that is rooted in the natural world and the place where she lives on the east coast. Simple curved and undulating forms have detailed patterned surfaces. Her work explores landscape forms as well as growth patterns found in plants and animals, combining the macro with the micro.
Lambe’s abiding interest in the sea underscores her work and is informed by her interest in scuba diving. The coast where sea and land meet is a place of constant change. Angular surfaces are gradually rendered curved and smooth. Beach rolled stones ‘document’ this interaction and this process of attrition informs Frances’ practice.
Henry Pim studied Ceramics at Camberwell School of Arts & Crafts, London, and at The Rietveldt Academie in Amsterdam. From 1990, until his retirement in 2011, he was Lecturer in Ceramics at The National College of Art and Design in Dublin. He is now a freelance Ceramist based in London, with a studio at Vanguard Court in Peckham. He exhibits regularly in The UK and elsewhere.
His work can be found in over twenty-five public collections, including the ICCC, the National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks, the Irish Arts Council Collection, the Museum of Northern Ireland, Belfast, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Western Australia, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Since 2011, Henry has explored the idea of grid forms. The work refers to maps, plans, or graphs, which are all ways to sort and present information. As three-dimensional forms, the sculptures enclose and define space.
The pieces are made from panels of extruded paper clay, using a technique that continually mutates, revealing more possibilities. As more kinds of structure become possible, new ideas and interpretations come into focus.
Jack went to the Ulster College of Art & Design intending to become a painter before a visit to Lucie Rie’s studio changed his mind. The completeness of her way of life appealed and he decided to make pots for a living. Graduating in 1971, he worked in Kilkenny Design Workshops before establishing his studio first in Co. Armagh and then Herefordshire before moving to Cornwall where he is now based. His involvement with the Craft Potters Association has been extensive, as Chairman, as a founder of Ceramic Art London and with Ceramic Review.
Jack describes himself as being interested in the usefulness of things. His work is concerned with function but not necessarily about utility or usefulness. His porcelain soda-fired vessels are embedded with ancient stories and contemporary narratives.
He says ‘the ceramic pieces that I love are the most fundamental of forms, and most of my recent work is based on just two. Vessels to drink from are surely among the most intimate objects that we use. Bowls are elemental, forms for sharing, which at their best are open and generous. They can be tiny and fragile or rugged and monumental in scale.’ Believing that focusing on a simple process can produce work of complexity and depth, his making has been pared down to the essentials. He uses just one clay, one colouring material, and a single firing.
Sara Flynn trained in ceramic design at the Crawford College of Art and Design, Cork, Ireland.
Her work concentrates on the challenges of thrown forms, which are then altered and changed at varying stages of the drying process, producing Sculptural Decorative Vessels.
The major concerns within her work are a love of the qualities of thrown and fired clay, and a fascination with the theme of the vessel in both literal and abstracted interpretations.
Having begun her career producing small-scale functional pots, she now produces one-off vessels, which are entirely sculptural in their intent.
The main elements which feed the development of the work are Process and Finish, coupled with constant exploration and understanding of Form and Volume.
Her making-environment offers the solitude of a private, quiet studio that provides a space for great focus; this allows for risk-taking, which is fundamental to her practice.
Flynn’s work is held in many major collections including The Duke of Devonshire’s Collection at Chatsworth House, England; The Gardiner Museum, Toronto, Canada; The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England, U.K. and The Art Institute of Chicago, U.S.A.
Cormac worked as an exploration geologist before settling outside Allihies on the Beara Peninsular in 1972. Following a time as a meditation instructor, he has worked as a full time artist since 1983. Aside from a childhood surrounded by the ceramics of the pioneer Irish ceramicists Grattan Freyer and John ffrench and the inspiration of his school art teacher Oisín Kelly, he is self-taught.
He values greatly the connection to his surroundings of mountain, sea, weather and wild things. In his work, he is interested mostly in the mental space of the creative process and the ability of a work of art to communicate this space.
As for the materials that he chooses, he loves clay for its tactile and hands-on quality, the uses of minerals to form and to colour glazes to mimic earth processes, and the unpredictability of the transformations that occur in great heat of the ceramic furnace.
The subject of the ceramics in the Hunt Museum is the childhood of Oisín, son of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, who was raised in the forest by his mother in the form of a deer. It is part of a series made during 2016 exploring ‘what is Irishness?’
Katherine West moved to Dalkey, Co, Dublin in 1967 and grew up between the East and West Coasts of Ireland. She studied Ceramics at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin and the School of Decorative Arts, Strasbourg, France. In 1988, she travelled to New York State as a Fulbright Scholar where she completed her MFA Degree at Alfred University in 1990. She lectures in Ceramics at the Centre for Creative Arts and Media at Galway Mayo Institute of Technology and makes work from her studio in Roscahill, Co. Galway. Katharine is a member of the International Academy of Ceramics.
Central to Katherine’s work are phenomena associated with nature: landscape, seascape and the human body. Our collective past and memory is exploited in her work through archetypal form and its connection with artefact, object, process, function and material. Her work is made in series. Each series continues to exploit established concerns in the work such as the resonance of the object, its matter, its fluidity and the tension between its internal space and external form, within the context of the malleability of the material itself; clay. The objects play with space, light, form and illusion. They contain air and question the solidity of the object itself.
The notion of the ‘Lacuna’ as an internal space, void or suspended link is played with through a series of pieces called ‘Earthed’ ‘Suspended’ and ‘Extended Matter’. ‘Extended Matter’ explores the concept of the folds or pleats of matter and how they relate to the void, suspending and stretching the clay to connect with physical possibilities which become almost geological in nature.
Ingrid was born and educated in Cork and has lived and worked in the UK since 1990. She is a practicing ceramic artist and educator, with work exhibited and published internationally. Having worked in Art and Design education for over 20 years, Ingrid was Head of Ceramics at Cardiff Metropolitan University from 2007 – 2013. Influenced by her own research, in 2011 she developed a new course, Artist Designer: Maker, which she led until 2016. Maker focuses on fusing traditional craft skills with new and emerging processes in digital design and fabrication. She is currently Academic Lead for Transition and Boundaries at Cardiff School of Art & Design, working with the integration of research and enterprise across the schools learning and teaching curricula.
In her series of Staffordshire flat-backs, Ingrid uses QR codes to link the modified historical object to customized online content, creating an interesting dialogue between real objects and the virtual world.
The work attempts to provide the viewer with a different experience of the familiar. Reclaiming objects enables her to plunder ceramic history to make new and interesting contemporary narratives that also speak of traditional craft values.
Anne Butler graduated from the University of Ulster in 1985. She then lived, worked and travelled abroad in South America, Africa, Indonesia and Japan before returning to complete her MA in ceramics in University of Wales, Cardiff in 2000. Anne is now based in Belfast, Northern Ireland and is a member of CAA, Contemporary Applied Arts, London and RBSS, Royal British Society of Sculptors, London, Selected maker DCCoI, Design and Craft Council of Ireland, Portfolio : Critical Selection 2017/18 and received the Rosie James Memorial Trust Award 2017 ACNI
Anne’s interest in archaeological and geology is often referenced in her work. Her creative process is intrinsically connected to the act of making, experimenting and challenging material process. The employment of a diverse range of transformational processes, such as casting and layering is manifested, evidenced and recorded in the work. The final piece is often witness to its own history, engaging the viewer into a process of enquiry of association with material and process, much as an archaeologist excavates and reveals objects that connect the present and the past.
Christy Keeney studied ceramics at the Royal College of Art in London. Commissioned by the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi to work on a portrait of Richard Rodgers, for an exhibition at the National portrait gallery in London 1988.
His figurative ceramics is an investigation into the human condition, and his forms are stretched to the point where sculpture and drawing overlap.
After spending 17 years in London Christy Keeney returned to his native Donegal where he now lives and works. His Sculpted slab built heads and figures demonstrate a wonderful sense of draughtmanship as details are drawn into the wet clay surface.
“I visited a retrospective exhibition of Picasso, at the Tate gallery, in the early 80s when I was at college, and many of my influences came from seeing that work. Especially a collection of small card-board cutout and folded, figurative sculptures. These simple two dimensional pieces opened a world of possibilities on how I would approach my own work.”
Marcus O’Mahony was born in London in 1952. I first started making ceramics at Limerick School of Art (LSAD) in 1972. His interest and commitment has lasted until this day. On graduating from LSAD he spent the next 12 years in Dublin teaching art and pottery in prison education.
The big move to becoming a professional ceramicist came when his wife Joan, two young sons and I left Dublin in 1993 to set up a pottery in Co. Waterford. He was inspired by his visits to Phil Rogers Pottery and student workshops in Rhayader, Wales.
Marcus launched his salt-glaze work in 1996 and periods of work as visiting tutor at LSAD and NCAD (National College of Art and Design) followed. He became a selected member of CPA (Craft Potters Association, UK) in 2006 and was elected as a fellow of CPA in 2012.
Since 2006 Marcus has been creatively engaged with wood-firing work. He moved house to an adjacent site and in 2012 we built a new studio and kiln here. His latest kiln is an Anagama single chamber kiln connected to a sprung arch kiln. In effect two kilns that can be fired in unison or separately. This is also known as a Naborigama.
Susan O’Byrne believes that our childhoods are filled with animal images, their many names, shapes, colours and patterns fuel our early imaginations. Throughout history, animals have also been used in storytelling, legend and folklore to simplify the complexities of adult life. Her fascination in childhood with collecting and categorising collected animals has evolved into making ceramic animal sculptures of her imagination. She aims to give her animals a certain awkward vulnerability, layering printed and patterned pieces of porcelain paper clay over a wireframe. The natural twists and kinks of the wireframe and the shrinkage of the clay around it during firing are allowed to dictate the posture of the finished animal. The element of chance in these processes are central to her work.
Originally from Cork, Susan O’Byrne works from a collective studio in Glasgow.
Derek Wilson’s work is a twenty-first century hybridization of studio potter and conceptual artist, focusing on using the potter’s wheel as a tool to produce abstract sculptural forms. Wilson uses the vessel as a means of artistic expression by exploring free and geometric abstraction. Habitually, the importance of object placement is foremost with his work and a further dimensionality lies within how it is viewed. Inviting movement in the observer, the work asks them to contemplate the significance of subtle tonalities in surface quality and the distribution of light and shadow. The process of dis-assembling elements associated with archetypal vessels that are reconstructed into complex abstract structures is at the core of his practice.
An unapologetic thrower, Wilson consistently challenges his discipline. Focusing on his approach to making, he combines his minimal aesthetic with craftmanship, a wealth of material knowledge and a propensity to propel modern ceramics through reinterpretation of its form. A search for simplicity of form draws inspiration through a diverse range of sources, including mid-century painters, the modernist movement, British and Russian constructivism and the history of the ceramic industry in Europe and Asia.
Derek Wilson works from his studio in Belfast.