John Clare’s May poem in his Shepherds Calendar evokes the delights of this lovely month, and here I’ve set a fragment of text around the flared rim of a salad bowl, garnished with may blossom, flowering rosemary, dill and early lavender. This bowl is part of our dinner service, which has a plate or bowl for every month, and I’m starting each month’s post this year with the appropriate piece. Everything seems to have come early this year, including May itself, and we will be ‘mingling in the warmth of May’ in Holland Park, as my new exhibition Watermark opens on 7th and closes on 22nd May, presented in association with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
The Ice House gallery is a beautiful space, a one room house built in beautiful brick with a cone-shaped tiled roof. Planning the exhibition for the space has seemed to me like working within a great pot.
Here is the catalogue text, with images of some of the work:
WATERMARK by LIZ MATHEWS
THE ICE HOUSE IN HOLLAND PARK
Kensington High Street, London W8
7 – 22 MAY 2011 daily 11am – 7pm
Here, in a house of clay made for ice, beside the pond in this green space, we have an awareness of the pattern of water drawn on the world, of the sap in the trees and our bodies, the falling rain, the great river flowing through the city, the surrounding seas. Watermark looks at the patterns floating on the surface and dowses for the undercurrents.
I work with clay, driftwood and handmade paper, all materials full of this water – or the marks it has left – seeking to reveal both the character of the material and the transformative process: the clay’s original wet soft malleable state and the action of the fire, or the dried paper’s light-filtering qualities and the once-wet ink’s determination.
The earth/clay/body link is fundamental in my work: our place within the landscape, the elements, the seasons, time, the flow of the water. I like to examine how the light shows through.
Text is of the essence. I use lettering as an architectural framework, mapping, enclosing and entering the volume contained.
Marks on the surface lead the eye to the inner space – not only within the vessel form but also inside the planes of wall panels or the layers of paperworks – circling towards the heart of the matter.
Containment, the relation between the outer surface and the inner volume, is expressed through an engagement of text and image, finding the letters in the grain, catching the words in the current, floating them on the surface of the deep.
I liken this process to that of setting poetry to music, with the same implication of translation, and the same integration of words and form. Setting a text or poem in this way gives both an immediate visual apprehension, and a slower, more contemplative reading which can lead to an enhanced awareness of the text and its relation to the form. Also, for me there’s always an element of performing the text in the making process.
I work with white stoneware, natural found materials (such as driftwood from the Thames) and re-purposed materials (copper pipes, hemp sash-cord) with related qualities. I also work with handmade recycled cotton rag paper (khadi) making artist’s books and paperworks, again with structural concerns related to my claywork, particularly in a flowing or circling sequence of pages.
I welcome chance contributions from the process or the quirks of found materials, the changes and patina added by time, and I like themes to surface in a sequence of related works, rather than prescribe too much.
(unexpectedly, I found a whole flock of kingfishers, for example)
I paint freehand onto the raw dried clay with a brush, in underglaze metal oxides; then some surfaces – perhaps only inside – are glazed; on some pots I use 9ct gold lustre.
On paper I paint in watercolour, acrylics and inks, as well as natural pigments and raw materials – charcoal, beeswax, salt, sand – and I use random mark-making tools – wooden peg, clay shard, slate fragment, flint, feather, and only now and then a brush.
My favourite lettering pen is a small driftwood stick, picked up on the Thames beach by the Southbank.
Liz Mathews Potters’ Yard 2011
For more information about Watermark or any of my work, please leave me a note in the comments box below or click on contact details for other ways to get in touch.
As always, please don’t use any of these images without permission.