The Fifth British Ceramics Biennial (BCB)
Stoke On Trent 2017
Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a huge pottery and ceramics fan, in fact so much so I have run out of space to house what I already have never mind adding more, which I continue to do!. Well for pottery and ceramic lovers like myself this is the must visit/see event of the year every two years, if you know what I mean, and not to be missed, given that it’s only on every second year, biennial right! Myself and Oliver had visited the event for the first time in 2015 and liked it so much had planned a full weekend around this year’s visit. Sadly Oliver’s Dad passed away requiring Oliver’s return to Malaysia so this visit was solo and this post is dedicated to the memory of Oliver’s Dad, may he rest in peace.
The event is staged across nine venues in and around Stoke-On-Trent including the fabulous Wedgwood museum which offers free entry to the museum during the biennial. In fact the event offers free entry to all venues making it an attractive draw for all. There is also lots of interactive events aimed at families with kids. A great way to introduce the next and coming generations to the wonderful world of ceramics and pottery. The main exhibition hub is located in the China Spode Factory dating from 1770 a fabulous location, if a little on the chilly side, or at least at this time of the year (October).
Eusebio Sanchez won this biennials Fresh award with his quirky colorful and molten figures, and although they may not be to everyone’s taste I loved them.
Spode China Hall
What I particularly love about the Festival Hall (Spode China Factory) is the sheer amount of space on offer to the artists allowing their work to breath and display effortlessly, reminds me a bit of the Turbine hall at Tate modern in London. The organisers are to be credited in not trying to cram too much in, but instead allowing a very comfortable amount of space to each exhibit, a boon for both artist and viewer.
Best fun and one of the pieces I most covet would have to be “My Inner Beasts” by Malene Hartman Rasmussen fabulously quirky and colourful it explores the nature of the inner bests within each of us and is described by the artist as follows;
“Everyone has their own inner beasts.
Most people are good at keeping them locked inside.. but not me.
Often they come out when I least expect them to and getting them back inside again to the safety of the darkness can be a difficult task.
I have confronted these anguish beings, removed them from their natural habitat to study and examine how they react in the light.
Trapped inside they grow ragingly huge, but outside their sadness and melancholia shows and they become small enough to put on a shelf.
Maybe if I am lucky, they will stay there for good.”
Probably my absolute favorite of the exhibition would have to be Place and Practices and instillation in two parts by Juree Kim with one housed at the main festival hall Spode China Hall and the other at the Wedgwood museum. Title Evanescent Landscape: Terraced Houses it is astonishing in both originality of form within its social context along with the intricacy of its detail. Cannot help but think of 2 Jags Prescott’s and the number of perfectly good Victorian tenements he was responsible for destroying with his misguided regeneration policies.
The British ceramics biennial brings together potters and ceramicist from across the globe with over 100 artists contributing to this year’s event and this time involves a collaboration with ceramic artist from Korea, Juree Kim.
When visiting the China Hall be sure to head to the back of the building and visit the Spode museum. We missed this place last time and I only stumbled upon it by chance this time. It does have its own car park but it’s very small. I will post a link to its address at the bottom of the post. It’s well worth a visit and is currently trying to get funding to revamp the space in order to display the full historical Spode collection which I am told is full and complete and on the same scale as the Wedgwood collection. They also have a very interesting exhibition on at the moment of contemporary local ceramic artists. You may even get to see the Beatles. There is also a worthwhile instillation titled Salon De Refuses comprising of works by local ceramicists displayed in gallery One One Six located inside the Spode museum. With works by Andy Edwards (Beatles Statue) , Nick Marsh and Philip Hardaker. My personal favourite would have to be the work of Nick Marsh. I love the very earthy rustic rusty but refined tones and shapes of his vases in particular, in fact I want one!!
Piece by Nick Marsh
Even the Beatles make an appearance here! Work by Andy Edwards
The Wedgwood Museum
I’ve heard of pimping your ride but imagine having your pram pimped by Wedgwood, how cool is that!!
The second part of the instillation by Korean artist Juree Kim
The Wedgwood tearooms inside the museum are very grand indeed.
Fount exhibition at Airspace Gallery comprises two proposals for public space water features that are currently being discussed by Stoke Council and offer a radically different approach than the usual identikit public realm features one tends to find both all over the UK & Europe and increasingly the world. This offers a vision with o more unique quality and localised take on what is possible. It remains to be seen whether the council will have the vision and foresight to both engage with them and take them up on their ideas, there’s always hope! I particularly like the Dog drinking font water feature.
Part of the Mark Malerko instillation.
I also liked the Katharine Morling displayed at the Potteries Museum and art gallery inspired by the Hoard find in Staffordshire, wonderful mythical creation that would not look out of place in any number of Sci Fi movies
Another of my likes is the works of Emma Bailey spotted in the Spode Museum shop she was the last free hand painter to work at the Wedgwood factory before it sadly went bust. In fact I liked her work so much a bought a piece.
An interview with Emma along with her work feature in the you tube clip which you can find by clicking this link This is a fascinating short film on the history of pottery in Longton, Stoke on Trent, well worth a watch.
A few links to featured artists and further information of the British Ceramics Biennial.
Stoke Sculpture trail click this link for info
For more info on Malene Hartmann Rasmussen click this link
For more info on Juree Kim click this link
For more info on Andy Edwards click this link
For more info on Katharine Morling click this link
For more info on Nicholas Marsh click this link
For more info on Philip Hardaker click this link
For more info on Mark Malerko click this link
For more info on Elena Gileva click this link
To find out more about the Airspace gallery click this link
For more info on the British Ceramic’s Biennial click this link
This list is by no means definitive or complete but is merely a set of links to artists whose work I particularly liked and feature in my picture gallery.
If you are planning on visiting the next time round I would recommend at the very least an e overnight stay and possibly two as there really is so much to see. I opted for an apartment in Leek booked through Air B&B. I can highly recommend Leek particularly if driving as its a short drive from Stoke and is a charming historic English market town. There is also a very good antiques market on every Sunday in the town square and well worth a browse.
For info on the Air B&B apartment click this link. This is a great apartment centrally located in the old town and a very nice host. Can highly recommend it.
I’m already looking forward to the next one in 2019.