Strange Clay: Ceramics in Contemporary Art, Hayward Gallery
Ceramics is all the rage. In the last few years, pottery has gone from the fringes of the design world to the centre, and – judging by the boom in the number of studios offering courses – we all want to have a go. So, news of an exhibition at the Hayward that explores the use of clay as an artistic medium by 23 contemporary, international, multi-generational artists is welcome, timely and exciting.
First thing to say, ‘Strange Clay’ is not quite the display of pots you might have in mind. There are some well-known names (such as, Grayson Perry, Magdalene Odundo and Edmund de Waal) and there are some pieces that resemble pots. But then there are many more less familiar names and loads of creations which really should be classified as sculptures. Striking is the huge variation – every artist is allowed a voice and it makes for a kaleidoscope of original talent that pushes the boundaries of ceramic creations.
Jonathan Baldock’s totem poles (Facecrime) are decorated with casts of his own ears and fist-bumping hands and slightly creepy groans, whistles and chuckles accompany his theatrical piece stemming from his fascination with myth and folklore. It’s not the only time a range of our senses will be involved in this exhibition: the vegetation smell in the room where Klara Kristalova’s installation of 18 stoneware figures in a hilly landscape (Far from Here) is pungent. And although one absolutely must not touch, it is so hard to resist putting your fingers in the sticky gloop (corn starch and squid ink) that pools around David Zink Yi’s giant (five-metre-long) squid. It is unbelievable that the rubbery flesh is made of clay.
Lindsey Mendick has been given a whole room for her skin-crawling installation, Till Death Do Us Part, in which a domestic setting is a battleground for warring ceramic vermin (slugs, mice, moths and cockroaches). There is so much going on, such extraordinary detail, that I only spotted the little world of in the back of the sofa on my second visit to Mendick’s room.
Tactile, creepy, grizzly, beautiful, humorous, and absurd. Who knew that basic old clay could transform itself in so many directions? Fun for all ages.
26 October 2022 to 8 Jan 2023
Anya Waddington 26 October 2022