Friday, 17 February 2012


Flora, V&A Museum, 2010 (c) Sylvain Deleu. 
Jerwood Space
Formed Thoughts 

First, don't go to see  Cummings' work without visiting  Jerwood's cafe.  You can be al fresco in the courtyard and garden, or undercover in The Glasshouse.There are art magazines to browse and staff who are a plesure to meeet.  It's a place for a family or group to meet, but also good for those times when you're alone. Time Out says of it 'Café One Seven One manages to be both minimalist and comforting, spacey and buzzing; but best of all, it manages to combine good value for money with excellent cooking'.

When artists are potters we expect their work to be studio-based and the result to be something precious and lasting. But Phoebe Cummings  explores the possibilities of clay as a raw material and contructs her pieces on site - in this case the Jerwood Space - where the work will be left to disintegrate or be broken down over the course of the exhibition. Some fragments will be preserved, some recycled, but often her pieces continue to exist only as a photograph or a memory.

Why would anyone do that? Because she wants to challenge us by collapsing familiar categories: space, material, time. When she works does the Jerwood Space itself  become an installation? Can unfired clay be temporarily lifted into an artwork before returning to be just mud? If something vanishes without trace so quickly, can it be art? The curator Claire Twomey has the interesting idea that Cumming and the two other artists in the show - Tracey Rowledge and Glithero - engage with their materials 'as co authors.’

In 2011 Cummings  was selected as artist-in-residence at the V&A , where she  researched the way landscape and nature have been represented historically through ceramic objects - in particular 19th century transfer printed tableware.There nature was idealised to satisfy those with an appetite for the picturesque and exotic. During the final week, photographer Sylvain Deleu came to the studio to document Cummings' work. One of his prints is the picture at the top.

The importance of Cummings' work was recognised the same year when she received the prestigious Spode Award, worth £10,000, during the British Ceramics Biennial at Stoke-on-Trent.

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