Marking the Line: Ceramics and Architecture at Sir John Soane's Museum

By Ben Miller | 13 March 2013

Exhibition preview: Marking the Line: Ceramics and Architecture, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, until April 27 2013

A photo of a sculpture of two upright yellow works in front of a bouquet of flowers
Nicholas Rena's Kiss will appear at Port Eliot as part of the Marking the Line tour© Hélène Binet
The dynamic between historic buildings and contemporary art always sparks. Putting four of the best modern ceramicists inside Sir John Soane’s domestic backdrops  reveals an admirable ambition to create parallel universes.

“Nothing like this has ever been attempted at a museum before,” says co-curator Joanna Bird who oversees everything from pre-Columbian pottery and Brazilian-made ceramic vessels to a piece consisting of 1,000 golden bowls containing messages that reflect the legacy a man wishes to leave to the world.

“It will challenge cultural norms and position art and architecture as something to be enjoyed across social boundaries.

“The juxtaposition of classical and modern works of art in a domestic setting will highlight the impact of contemporary ceramics, illustrating the breadth and depth of the practice which has developed over the past 30 years.”

The artists include Nicholas Rena – much-vaunted and collected for his sense of poetry in motion and Christie Brown, a symbolist in clay who was Artist in Residence at Denmark’s International Centre for Ceramic Research.

Claire Twomey, known for large-scale installations at Tate, the V&A, the Eden Project and a menagerie of 3,000 black ceramic butterflies at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion, also contributes.

The South American contingent is Sao Paulo’s Carina Ciscato, a finalist in the British Ceramic Biennale’s awards in 2011.

“Soane’s installations were, in his own words, studies for his own minds,” observes Dr Jerzy Kierkuc-Bielinski, the co curator alongside Bird.

“They were also an attempt to physically and visually evoke the lost world of classical architecture and art.

“Whole vanished buildings, as well as other great works of art, are represented in the museum.”

The question, he says, is how visitors will relate them to the hallowed triumvirate of places they are appearing at, including the 16th century estate of Port Eliot, a Grade I-listed country house in Saltash.

“It could produce tangible artistic rewards for the makers involved, the local community and to the venues,” believes Bird.

“Marking the Line has the potential to provide the next step in exploring ceramic art installations within a museum context.”

  • Open 10am-5pm (6pm-9pm first Tuesday of each month, closed Sunday, Monday and Bank Holidays). Admission free. Continues to Port Eliot, Cornwall (May 22 – July 15) and Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing (July 26 – September 8). Follow the museum on Twitter @SoaneMuseum.

More pictures:

A photo of a large black bust on top of a gold column within a country mansion room
Christie Brown, A Thwarted Dynasty: Fanny the Dog, Port Eliot© Hélène Binet
A photo of a dark brown wooden cabinet with circular white vessels on top of it
Clare Twomey, Everyman's Dream, Port Eliot© Hélène Binet
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