2 - 30 June 2004

To interpret the term ‘still life’ too narrowly when considering Gwyn Hanssen Pigott’s work can be misleading. True, some of the same compositional devices are there, but these assorted groupings – intermixtures of porcelain bottles, cups bowls and beakers – seem to be on the move, as some recent titles imply, ‘Caravan’, ‘Parade’, ‘Travellers’ and so on. They are not static. The delineation is one of spatial pauses and intervals in the flow. Certainly these alignments focus on some of the fundamentals of ceramic aesthetics – of profile, contour and volume, of luminous glazes, of shapes that are hard in body but visually soft – radiating and reflecting light and casting shadows. But this interplay of form and space draws on what pots, after all, do about the house – everyday objects gathered in crowds and smaller sequences, in the cupboard and on the table, journeyman pots added to and subtracted through habitual use.

Hanssen Piggott’s well established debt to Morandi implies a meditative approach, but while these pots are essentially contemplative, her configurations also distil and abstract the rhythmic motion of household things – careful placements that suggest studied randomness as well as quiet poise. Some congregate as they might on a kitchen surface. As Karen Wilkin has written of the hybrid nature of Morandi’s own workspace: “there is nothing remarkable about any of it. Quite the contrary, as attested by the sheer multiplicity of the stacks of crockery, the rows of bottles, the clusters of generic vases and all the seemingly uncountable objects that covered the shelves and tables of [the] overpoweringly cluttered monastic studio”. Hanssen Pigott, like Morandi, selects from this kind of multitude, gives it an order. She plays with numerous combinations of form and glaze (varied white, ochres, blues) and with vertical or longer, more horizontal formations. Some are of ambitious length and complexity, others far simpler, like the smaller groups in this exhibition, a glowing translucency illuminated by windows.

They are pots of different but interconnected shape and function, which can be taken out and enjoyed at any time – kindred objects defined by their intimate domesticity and by their power to touch us, to give visual and tactile pleasure. With these understated, sensuous and conversant ceramics, their surfaces moulded and infused by the transforming light, we see the familiar with fresh eyes. Out of the stillness, the energy is palpable.

David Whiting

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