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Soane and ceramics, what are the connections?

James Pallister explores architecture’s influence on contemporary ceramics

One of the exhibits in last year’s Royal Academy Summer Show – now accepting entries for 2013, by the way – was a model taken from Eric Parry’s recent collaboration with artist Richard Deacon. For the St James’ Gateway project, Deacon created a series of cross-sections of cornices in clay, finished in an oxide glaze. The brightly coloured, modulated cornice can now be seen in Piccadilly.

Parry is one of the contributors to the forthcoming Marking the Line, an exhibition and symposium to be held at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in central London. The accompanying catalogue has a series of essays, interspersed with a beguiling set of photographs from Hélène Binet. The shots place contemporary ceramics within the preserved interiors of three houses; the Soane Museum, Soane’s country villa, Pitzhanger Manor in Ealing, and Port Eliot in Cornwall, a house he remodelled in the early 1800s.

In her introduction, curator Joanna Bird explains that the show and symposium arose out of an intention to ‘build a bridge between cermaics and architecture’. Site-specific installations, she writes, can very much complement and enhance the substance of a building and as an example she cites the Signs and Wonders installation of a suspended ring filled with porcelain at the V&A by Edmund de Waal, the ceramicist and author known for his published family history, The Hare with the Amber Eyes. But documenting such site specific installations is just the start of exploring a relationship. She writes: ‘Many ceramic artists would have liked to have been architects, and some architects, conversely, artists manqués … Both pursuits are primarily occupied with the use of space, scale, volume, and just as importantly, with materials … how and where do ceramics fit in?’ You can join the discussion on 28 March, or see the touring show over the next few months.

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