Some people are born with a story to tell and a sense of the gift they posses that will help them to share that story; whilst others’ stories and gifts are more deeply buried. Through a project resulting in an exhibition in the Gallery at Arts at the the Old Fire Station, artist Georgie Manly has helped to access hidden stories…
Vessels is the new exhibition in the Gallery at the brilliant Arts at the Old Fire Station (sanwiched between George Street, the bus station and Gloucester Green) in Oxford that was conceived by artist Georgie Manly, and has been created in collaboration with Crisis (the national charity for single homeless people) and the Pitt Rivers Museum.
The University of Oxford Pitt Rivers Museum houses archeological and anthropological objects – collection upon collection of quotidian objects spanning time and cultures with several similar types of objects running through many of those collections. Enter, the vessel! The essential object that transcends time, class and culture. Used for eating from, drinking from, cooking with, containing, and occasionally as an objet d’art in itself – a vessel’s uses are limitless; which is why, when one doesn’t have a lot, one ensures one has a decent vessel.
Crisis clients have completed a 12-week course working with artist Georgie Manly to create a series of vessels made from earthenware clay that will be displayed at the OFS alongside Georgie’s own ceramic sculptural pieces that have been inspired by the Pitt Rivers’ collection of early 20th century African animal traps .
All just a little bit of history repeating… Georgie has been passing down the art of simple hand-building clay sculpting techniques (see the images below) and teaching how to mix glazes, the likes of which the group has been admiring and studying on the various preparatory visits they have made to Pitt Rivers.
Developing their own ideas around the theme of ‘vessels’, exploring material, process and concept, the group of Crisis clients have produced their own collection of individual and meaningful works in clay that relate to their own culture, needs, and experiences resulting in a highly original and personal installation of works.
Having recently taken up pottery myself, I can vouch for the absorbing meditative, primeval feeling of clay handling. It’s a process that really roots the artist in his work and on the earth – yet it’s so primeval that the process doesn’t feel like art, it feels like nature. Simply doing what you were put on this earth to do, what you need to do to survive. Whilst that’s clearly not true in this day and age, clay handling, much like digging earth with a spade, generates a curiously satisfying grounding sensation. I imagine that participating in a project such as this, studying similar vessels in the Pitt Rivers would also underline man’s basic needs and evoke feelings that we are not far removed from our ancestors, or brothers and sisters around the globe.
Like all exhibitions at the OFS, Vessels is free to view and opens on Friday 1 May and continues Saturday 20 June 2015.
Meet Georgie Manly… On May 2, there will be the opportunity for the public to create their own works in clay, in response to the exhibition, with Georgie at Gloucester Green Market, from 10am to 4pm. This special event is aptly named Clay for All, and this entire project really does underline that clay really is for all.