A major exhibition of international contemporary sculpture at Messums Wiltshire will highlight a new school of European artists using clay to comment on contemporary issues from pollution to war. The astonishing range of techniques used to create the works are powerful reminders of the enduring importance of the handmade in art as well as the stories that underpin European identity. From Odysseus to Odin, ancient myths and folk tales have always been a prompt for artists’ imagination and now, as Europe dissembles, interest in them amongst artists of all genres – but particularly those using clay – is proliferating.
From Bertozzi and Casoni’s exquisitely wrought sculpted heads made of fruits and flowers to Kim Simonsson’s Moss People wandering the forests without a home, the show is a visual feast as well as important commentary on our times.
The exhibition which will move to Messums Wiltshire from the Koç Foundation in Istanbul where it has attracted over 40,000 visitors is one of the biggest exhibitions of contemporary ceramics to have been mounted in the last decade in Europe.
It will show how Homeric, German and Norse mythology continues to inspire some of the best figurative sculpture in the world.
The exhibition features works by fourteen artists from nine countries including: Sam Bakewell, Giampaolo Bertozzi and Stefano Dal Monte Casoni, Claire Curneen, Christie Brown, Phoebe Cummings, Bouke de Vries, Kim Simonsson, Jørgen Haugen Sørensen, Carolein Smit, Malene Hartmann Rasmussen and Vivian van Blerk.
‘This show demonstrates the enduring potency of historic narratives manifested in the material of clay – the oldest and most universal artistic material around’ said Johnny Messum, director of Messums Wiltshire. ‘It focuses on how clay, often used simply to manufacture vessels and other utilitarian objects, holds the potential of being one of the most delicately wrought and yet powerful in the hands of artists who have exceptional skill and vision, expressing human emotion with the greatest degree of subtlety.’
He added: ‘Ancient myths have echoed down the generations and the human characteristics and archetypes they feature have inspired an exciting new wave of artists.’
In the catalogue are essays by Glen Brown, Professor of Fine Art at Kansas University; Paul Greenhalgh, Director of the Sainsbury Centre and Catherine Milner, Curatorial Director of Messums are featured in a full colour 300-page catalogue featuring photographs by Sylvain Deleu.