Historically the world of craft and ceramics was deemed a fusty pastime, inferior to the mediums of paintings and sculpture, but after arriving to London as an émigré in 1938, Lucie Rie turned clay into a modernist art form that would sit in the most avant-garde homes. Rie combined an acute knowledge of the modernist aesthetic, with the superb technical skill creating works with sublime lines and forms, sgraffito decoration and colourful glazes as with the sublime pink sgraffito and jade green bowls in this edition, that had not been seen in British pottery up to this moment in time.
In his own way Grayson Perry also subverted the narrative of what had come before him with his satirical viewpoint and sardonic humour Perry’s ceramic art works parody and disentangle many art historical reference points, as with the current work. This piece, takes on many of the elements synonymous with Perry’s work, with its blending of techniques such as slip trailing and photographic transfer, and in transforming pottery into a space for personal expression and satire. As with many of his unique ceramic works, the medium provided Perry with a safe space to explore his alter-ego Claire who takes centre stage in the current work, and is depicted in full Victorian mourning dress with one of his infamous pots in the background. This work becomes a place for self-reflection, as well as transforming the utilitarian nature of the medium into a statement of rebellion and satire. As Perry points out ‘My pots always carry with them the intellectual baggage of the history of ceramics, its archaeology, geography and value system. But up close, the content of my work can confound all that’ (Grayson Perry cited in Jacky Klein, Grayson Perry, London 2009, p. 242).
In contrast Akiko Hirai is more interested in creating ‘imperfect’ and asymmetrical organic forms contrary to the work Rie was creating in the previous generation. In particular her large moon jars, modern versions of centuries old Korean vessels, made of grogged stoneware with rugged and cracked porcelain deposits over layered slips beneath running ash glazes, displays the full rawness of the material against the purity of the white glaze, with the aim of revealing beauty in the ‘unpolished’ work.
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