The New British Clay Movement

Messums Wiltshire
Wiltshire, UK
Until 1 May

A major exhibition celebrating the use of clay in contemporary art opened on 10 March at Messums Wiltshire. Featuring work by leading British artists, Material: Earth is the first in a series of three shows exploring the art of making and use of natural materials in contemporary art. Subsequent exhibitions will focus on contemporary artists using wood and light. Messums Wiltshire is a new visual arts centre situated in a 13th century monastic barn in Tisbury that has welcomed more than 4,500 visitors since it opened last September. This exhibition will explore how clay, that most elemental and ancient of materials is increasingly shaping a new aesthetic. It shows how artists have created new forms of art through a complex and fluent merging of past idioms, styles and format.

The exhibition aims to illustrate how since the 1970’s there has been a quiet but steady progression in the use of ceramics away from studio pottery towards the challenging and immersive arena of contemporary art. Featured in the exhibition are a number of key artists including Felicity Aylieff, Edmund de Waal, Hans Coper, Gillian Lowndes, Grayson Perry, Gordon Baldwin, Sam Bakewell, Sandy Brown, Philip Eglin, Alison Britton, Michael Eden, Bouke de Vries, Christie Brown, Stephanie Buttle, Malene Hartmann Rasmussen and Kaori Tatebayashi.

Two rare early works by Grayson Perry made by the artist in 1984 entitled The Death of Grayson, featuring one of the earliest known self-portraits form one of the highlights of the show. In addition to the exhibition will be a collaboration between well-known makers and volunteers to create a coral reef installation out of clay. Buried deep in the earth surrounding the barn is a geological seabed with a unique fossilised coral reef.

As the gallery seeks to make the diverse languages of the visual arts accessible and inclusive to the broadest possible range of audiences, the exhibition will be supported by a series of talks and workshops and an educational programme open to schools and young people, culminating in a Makers Festival on 29 and 30 April comprising talks on craft education, collecting ceramics and the value of making as well as extensive events for the public to engage with the making process.