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Alter – Ceramic Exhibition, Fitzrovia Chapel, November 2019

Cavaliero Finn is pleased to announce news of its next ceramic exhibition which will take place in London in November this year.

“Alter” will be an examination of the transformative qualities of clay and the belief in the transformative power of material thinking through innovation and experimentation

Featuring the work of ceramic artists; Matthew Chambers, Ashraf Hanna, Akiko Hirai, Leah Jensen, Nicholas Lees, Frances Priest, Hannah Tounsend and Annie Turner

Fitzrovia Chapel, 2 Pearson Square, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3BF

Open to the public daily from Wednesday, November 27th, 2019 – Sunday, December 1st, 2019 – 11am – 4pm

Leah Jensen, Work, Porcelain, 2018
Featuring new work at this Cavaliero Finn ceramic exhibition
Leah Jensen, Work, Porcelain, 2018

“Alter” is an exhibition of the work of eight UK based ceramic artists who, as vanguards of their field, are forging the way forward for a more defined cultural positioning of ceramic art. Using a combination of exceptionally honed technical skills, innate understanding of the material and boundless creativity, each artist produces work which glances back at the history of ceramics and forwards to the unending conceivable outcomes of its future.

The ceramic exhibition will be set in the beautifully ornate, Fitzrovia Chapel, once the chapel for patients, staff and visitors of the former Middlesex Hospital, a building steeped in history, nestled in a quiet corner of Pearson Square amongst new buildings. In the same way old and new architecture merges on the outside, inside, these chosen artists merge their skills, both contemporary in aesthetic yet old school in their traditional approach. Each artist has evolved time-honoured processes to new and wondrous shapeshifting results.

Leah Jensen, Work, Porcelain, 2018 (an insight into the making process)
Leah Jensen, Work, Porcelain, 2018 (an insight into the making process)

New to the Cavaliero Finn portfolio, we are delighted to be working with Leah Jensen for this ceramic exhibition. Using renaissance paintings as her starting point, Leah deconstructs these paintings to their fundamental elements, unearthing hidden geometric structures that reside beneath the surface of the painting – a technique that the artist developed after learning about the maths and planning some of the great masters used when considering their composition. Leah maps out these patterns and forms and translates these by applying images of the painting using pins and paper on to a hand-built, unfired clay vessel, using the clay as a canvas. She then carves out these precise yet abstract patterns, creating a unique, meticulously planned contemporary object very much influenced by the past. Once the vessel is complete the narrative is hidden, just as the geometric structure of the painting before it. Leah often combines materials to produce the highest possible contrast in colour and texture: clean, smooth, white porcelain against the dark, burnt wood; grogged clay partially covered by a glassy shell, working with these juxtapositions to instil a subtle feeling of discomfort in the viewer and encourage further assessment of the vessel.

Annie Turner, Net, red grogged clay, lithium glaze, yellow iron oxide, 2019 Sculpture
Annie Turner, Net, red grogged clay, lithium glaze, yellow iron oxide, 2019

One of this year’s Loewe Craft Prize finalists, artist Annie Turner’s ceramic sculptures can be seen as an external testimony to her connection with the River Deben and its surrounding marshlands where her family has lived for several generations. Her work is literally imbued with the debris from the River Deben bed, giving the appearance it has been around for centuries, aged and eroded over time. Through control of the kiln temperature, the work is altered and Annie can influence the bend and collapse that have become so recognisable in her delicate ceramic sculptural forms.

“Through trial and error I have understood how to in build the weaknesses and strengths of the form so I can promote a lot of movement or very little”.

Annie Turner
Hannah Tounsend, paid of Hybrid sculptural Vessels, White earthenware with slip and underglaze decoration.
Hannah Tounsend, paid of Hybrid Vessels, White earthenware with slip and underglaze decoration.

Award-winning artist, Hannah Tounsend, creates sculptural vessels using a unique hybrid making technique of slip-casting and throwing. Within an open plaster mould Hannah builds layers of printed, poured and painted casting slips, overlaying colours on the porous surface. Using a throwing wheel, the top section is added to the still-moulded cast and fully thrown out. The presence of the mould allows the formation of a flange of clay that accentuates the join and breaks away in pleasingly irregular fragments as the piece shrinks and pulls inwards. Hannah is one of this year’s 10 finalists for the prestigious British Ceramics Biennial prize ‘AWARD’, a prize that celebrates innovative ceramic artists. The winner will be announced in the Autumn 2019.

Ashraf Hanna, series of black and cream cut and altered vessels, ceramic, 2019
Ashraf Hanna, series of cut and altered vessels, ceramic, 2019

The pinch pot is a simple form of hand-made pottery produced from ancient times to the present. This traditional pinching method is the starting point for Ashraf Hanna’s sculptural vessels. In this ceramic exhibition, Ashraf will present a large installation of cut and altered vessels which are concerned with exploring line volume and space. Ashraf incorporates strong lines and curves in his sculptural forms built using a combination of pinch pot and slab building techniques.

Ashraf has recently added the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and The Art Centre at Aberystwyth University to his increasingly long list of public institutions that have acquired his work.

Frances Priest, Gathering Places - Collage #3, sculpture, Incised ceramic with oxide wash, vitreous slip & glaze, 19 x 41.9 cm.
Frances Priest, Gathering Places – Collage #3, Incised ceramic with oxide wash, vitreous slip & glaze, 19 x 41.9 cm.

Frances Priest creates intricate and colourful objects that celebrate her fascination for ornament and pattern. Like Leah Jensen she references art history in her work finding inspiration from a long line of cultural patterns, producing a body of work reflecting on and reinterpreting chapters from the pattern book, ‘The Grammar of Ornament’ by Victorian architect and designer Owen Jones.

Frances uses hand building and press moulding techniques to make her sculptural forms, refining them back to very smooth, pristine surfaces. The patterns are then inscribed into the clay using a combination of scalpel and hand-formed aluminium stamps, along with paper stencils and graph paper used for plotting out designs. She usually works on paper first to develop the pattern designs before moving onto clay test tiles to work out how to translate these designs into clay. Later these tiles become useful for glaze testing. She likes the patterns to have a life of their own so there is an element of chance in how the final designs are drawn out, almost like a controlled doodle.

Depending on the scale of the work, the drawing can take up to a month to complete. The work is then left to dry slowly and evenly before a high bisque firing. Once fired, she uses oxide washes to highlight the inscribed lines and a combination of hand-painted glaze and vitreous slips to add the surface colour. The combination of gloss glaze and matt slip adds another level of interest to the finished surfaces and she also likes to incorporate the clay body into the finished designs.

Also, like ceramic artist Leah Jensen, she sees the works as drawings in clay and she treats the surface much like a sheet of paper, with the scalpel as a pen and the glaze and slips like gouache paint. The entirety of the piece is enveloped in the surface design so the works appear to be wrapped in or constructed out of the pattern.

Frances’ work was recently purchased by The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and The National Museum of Scotland.

Akiko Hirai, Moon Jar, stoneware, porcelain, wood ash, white feldspatic glaze, 2018
Akiko Hirai, Moon Jar, stoneware, porcelain, wood ash, white feldspatic glaze, 2018

Another finalist of this year’s Loewe Craft Prize showing at this ceramic exhibition is Akiko Hirai, who is interested in the planned outcome of imperfection. The biggest things come from random altering acts inside the wood-fired kiln. Through a combination of hand building, coiling, using the wheel, as well as several glazing techniques, the process of experimentation is key to her philosophy of working with nature and the idea of “beauty in imperfection”.

To me, a balanced form is something imperfect. Of course, not all imperfect forms are balanced. If the form has no trace or imprint of its surrounding events or it is forced to form on its own, it becomes off-balanced. Wet and/unfired clay is an undetermined condition. It absorbs all the information from its surrounding environment. It absorbed all the information such as heat, motions and even my emotions. What I am trying to look at in my work is this balance.”

Akiko Hirai
Matthew Chambers, Blue Fade Pair of sculptures, handthrown using stoneware and oxides,  2018
Matthew Chambers, Blue Fade Pair, stoneware, oxides, 2018

Matthew Chambers studied ceramics at Bath Spa University under the tutelage of fellow exhibitor and lecturer, Nicholas Lees, and completed his MA at the RCA. Here he combined newly learnt techniques with the accomplished traditional throwing techniques honed from years working in studio pottery with Philip Wood in Nunney, Somerset. These merged skills create incredibly intricate sculptures that appear to have infinite depth. His circular concentric sculptures never fail to astound and amaze viewers all intrigued to learn his process which he keps firmly to himself, preferring to maintain the element of mystery in his work. This year Matthew Chambers’ work was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum to add to their permanent contemporary ceramic collection. We are excited to see what Matthew creates for this ceramic exhibition.

Nicholas Lees, Angled Vessels, Porcelain sculptures
Nicholas Lees, Angled Vessels, Porcelain

Nicholas Lees produces sculptural work in porcelain which originated in looking at effects of light and shade and trying to manifest these in ceramic.

“I now think of light and space as equivalent material elements in my making to porcelain. I have always been interested in boundaries in the landscape and interfaces between different forms and states and have come to think about these more and more. Examples are the cutting lines in hedges, trees growing around hard forms and the intertidal zone at the coast. The work is about perception over time – looking and looking again reveals the ephemerality of perception. The use of fins on hard-edged forms means that as light conditions change and the viewpoint alters, the boundary between presence and absence of the object shifts.”

Nicholas Lees

Nicholas primarily uses Parian – a porcelainous clay body first developed in the 19th century to imitate creamy white Greek marble. He doesn’t glaze his work as Parian porcelain his a vitrified surface finish. The pieces originate on the wheel, where they are made as deliberately thick-walled vessels with tapering width to the walls. He dries the pieces slowly, continually wrapping and unwrapping them over a period of weeks, in order to achieve an even dryish leather hard state which must be consistent through the thickness of the clay. When ready, a piece is mounted on the lathe and fitted onto a specially turned plaster chuck. The turning is largely done by eye using specially made tools – it can take up to 6 hours for an individual piece. The pieces are then fired once. After firing Nicholas then uses a diamond abrasive to grind angles and bases on to the pieces. Some pieces are assembled from multiple parts ground to fit precisely and glued together.

Cavaliero Finn’s artists are currently working on their Alter ceramic exhibition pieces. Images shown in this post in most cases are examples of each artist’s work only. You can keep up to date with the artists’ work on our instagram feed

Fitzrovia Chapel was designed by the Gothic Revivalist architect, John Loughborough Pearson and after his death in 1897 was completed by his son Frank Pearson in 1929.

From outside, the chapel is simple red brickwork, with no hint of the beauty that lies inside. Once through the door, however, the chapel literally glows. Practically, every inch of the inside is decorated with coloured marbles or mosaics: azure domed arcs and arches, typical of Pearson’s ecclesiastic architectural designs, echo the sky outside. Inspired by San Marco in Venice, Frank Pearson employed Italian craftsmen and imported the finest materials including seventeen different kinds of marble.

We look forward to seeing you at the exhibition.


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