The eighth British Ceramics Biennial launched in Stoke-on-Trent on Saturday 23 September and will run to 5 November. Exhibitions held over six weeks at four venues around the city will feature work from leading ceramic artists working in the UK and elsewhere alongside that of fresh talent.
The main exhibition will take place in All Saints, Hanley, a Gothic Revival-style church designed by Gerald Horsley and built between 1910 and 1913, described as being “built by the potters for the potters”.
The main exhibition
All Saints church hosts the main exhibition and showcases different aspects of contemporary ceramics, divided into sections.
Award features works by ten artists commissioned to be shown at the 2023 biennial, all of whom use clay in “thought provoking” ways to explore a range of themes. These include Outage in which Rebecca Griffiths imagines a “future landscape in which remnants of the nuclear power industry have been dredged from the North Sea”, and Mad in Stoke by Carrie Reichardt exploring the city’s role in the development of rave culture.
Fresh showcases work by 25 ‘early career’ artists from the UK and Ireland exploring themes including identity, the environment and mythology.
Awarded sees Stephen Dixon use his work Istoriato: culture and conflict to examine the connection between culture and conflict.
In Fresh Talent Dorcas Casey, Nico Conti and Leora Honeyman present work created during residencies awarded to them following the 2021 biennial that showcases the ongoing development of their artistic practice.
Other venues’ offerings
Airspace gallery plays host to Social Substance, a mixture of video, sculpture, and performance by William Cobbing in which the clay is “a character, an equal player rather than a passive subject to the creative process”.
In Obsolescence and Renewal at the Brampton museum, Neil Brownsword extends his “examination of marginalised histories associated with the origins of British ceramic manufacture”. Limited edition tiles based on his work will be for sale during the festival.
Embodiments of Memory at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery by Osman Yousefzada examines the “universality of mortality” through a series of sculptural works drawing on his Pakistani-Afghani heritage, seeking to create a “healing space for contemplation, memorial, and ritual”.
Sounding Line by Mella Shaw, on show at All Saints church, has already emerged as an audience favourite. The piece uses sculptures representing whales’ ear bones cast from clay, incorporating elements of material taken from carcasses washed up on the shore of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides.
A film of one of the sculptures being returned to the sea aims to highlight the damage done to sea life by shipping. A point further is made by giving viewers the opportunity to hold one of several red ropes hung from scaffolding that vibrate at the same frequency as the marine sonar that disrupts the whale’s navigation systems.
Also worth seeing at the same venue are Sequenced Ceramics by the Copper Sounds collective. A collection of pots, beaters and scaffolding poles are hooked up to some clever technology so that it looks like it was made by Heath Robinson’s cool great-grandkids and produces sounds reminiscent of Brian Eno in his pomp.
Boundary by Nichola Tassie examines ideas around physical and social boundaries, and Looking North, a series of ceramic forms by Dan Kelly, is informed by his intimate relationship with London and the tall buildings dominating its skyline.
The British Ceramic Biennial takes place between 23 September – 5 November.
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