‘Of Brush and Clay – Painter Potters of the mid 20th Century’
The current exhibition at the Ken Stradling Collection, 48 Park Row, Bristol. On until 9 December.An exhibition of ceramics by Bill Newland, Margaret Hine and Nicholas Vergette together with Sam Haile celebrating an interesting group of mid-century artists whose interest in contemporary art and in painting set them apart. The show combines pieces from the Ken Stradling Collection with around 30 examples of Newland and Hine’s work on loan from their family. Newland, Hine and Vergette were members of a group of artists working with clay whose interests lay away from the orientalist concerns of those lead by Bernard Leach. For them painting drawing and modelling were as important as pottery/vessel concerns. They were interested in contemporary find art and the work of artists like Picasso and took inspiration from British, European and Mediterranean ceramics, mythologies and folk cultures. Bernard Leach was dismissive of them and regarded their work as derivative and fashion-driven. In addition to these pieces are a group of works by Sam Haile who belongs to an earlier generation working in the late 30s and 40s but whose work shares similar concerns with the relationship between image and object and an interest in Picasso. Haile’s background as a surrealist painter is very evident in his work especially in the tiled panel made the 1940s whilst in the USA. Other pieces such as the bowl below demonstrate his interest in mythologies and folk myths. The classical and symbolic references are a constant which pervade the work of the others too and act as a linking factor between them all alongside the painterly. Margaret Hine’s harlequin riders have a strangeness which sits well alongside Haile’s enigmatic figures with their scythe and pitchfork.
Newland and Hine’s work has suffered over the years because so much of it was made as part of commissions for commercial interiors, subsequently demolished and replaced. They and their friends were particularly known for their work on the new fashionable coffee bars of the 1950s. Tile panels, large modelled pieces and wall mounted bowls were a feature of these. All these interiors are long lost and exist mainly as black and white photographs with a few exceptional pieces rescued along the way. The two dishes below may well have been made with this use in mind. The fish dish in particular has a loudness that demands a bigger space than the present display allows. The photo below from the V&A archive shows the Moka Ris coffee bar – one of the earliest in London – using just this kind of dish set in the wall with lights behind.This show provides a rare opportunity to see such a variety of pieces by these artists and is well worth the trouble to visit. The Ken Stradling Collection is open on Wednesdays and some Saturdays in Park Row, Bristol or by appointment. Of Brush and Clay is on until 9 December. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org / www.stradlingcollection.org for more information.