Saturday, 22 December 2012


 175 years of the
 Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore 
until Jan 3rd

An exhibition consisting of  work by students who have attended the Royal College of Art during the past 175 years is bound to be riveting. And it needs time...

...but suddenly there is Monumental by Felicity Aylieff, who has been teaching Ceramics & Glass at the Royal College of Art for the past decade. The scale of the piece can best be demonstrated by the picture below showing the artist in her studio. Is she working on a 'ceramic' or a 'sculpture'?

It's the stuff of fairy tales. Ali Baba (and his men?) could hide in it . It might be brimming over with gold coins and sapphires. Water could be turned into wine in such a vessel. It could stand guard at the foot of a magnificent flight of stairs leadnig up to the stars. The meaning of life could be written on a scroll curled up inside it. Or it could be a coffin, or the resting place of a tranquil mummy. It's a piece so surprising and  overwhelmingly beautiful that it is a show-stopper.

Porcelain in various shapes and sizes - crenelated, asymmetric, tapered, tubular, the list is endless - we have met and loved before.Their colours can drench the eye, they can be seraphic , but they mostly know their place. But here is a piece which defies humility.

And how is it made? In 2007 Felicity Aylieff took up residence at the Pottery Workshop Experimental Factory in the historic 'porcelain city' of Jingdezhen, China, while on sabbatical from her work as Professor of Ceramics at Bath Spa University. In China she began working with the family business specialising in making enormous traditionally-formed and decorated porcelain vases.The surfaces of these pots explore contemporary translations of traditionally used techniques.

She shares  a studio in Bath with the   potter Takeshi Yasuda. and recently co-founded the Red House Design Studio with Yasuda.

Unlike many  other works of art, ceramics cry out to be touched and held and appreciated close up. The artist's own website incudes some glorious images of her work which is the next best thing to standing beside them.

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