Creating Ceramic Illusions At Glynn Vivian Art Gallery

By Anna Jefferson | 30 July 2002
Crofton Row, Barnaby Barford and Lee Critchlow

Left: Crofton Row, Barnaby Barford and Lee Critchlow.

Barnaby Barford and Lee Critchlow have smashed into the art world with their collection of unusual ceramics entitled 'Can I help you love?' showing at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, until September 29.

The pair, who have both recently graduated from the ceramics course at the Royal College of Art in London, get their inspiration from visits to tile factories.

"I used to design tiles in a factory in Italy," said Barnaby, "I couldn't believe how much waste was generated. Lee encountered the same thing in Stoke, so we just picked up a load of old plates and cups and started playing around with them."

Lee grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, a city with an economy mainly generated through pottery. With most of his family working for the ceramics factories, he was exposed from an early age to the mass surplus of pottery.

Hollow ware, Barnaby Barford and Lee Critchlow

Right: Hollow ware, Barnaby Barford and Lee Critchlow.

"When I met Barney we both had the same idea," clarified Lee, "how can we recycle all this waste and give it a new subversive meaning."

The inventive recycling method culminated in a series of teatime objects with a difference.

One of the exhibits, 'Crofton Row', consists of seven classic style blue and white plates depicting the typical English scene, moulded into one long, warped plate.

"These kind of plates portray the picture perfect image of England, life isn't really like that. The images show rural life, but you never see the housing estates and the rougher parts. We're just trying to break down the chocolate box image," explained Barnaby.

Five Teas Please, Barnaby Barford and Lee Critchlow.

Left: Five Teas Please, Barnaby Barford and Lee Critchlow.

"By repeating the image of the Cotswold cottage, we then created a row of terrace houses instead," added Lee.

The ceramicists play with the idea of changing the value of products. Something as inclusive as a cheap jug can become exclusive when it is transformed into an art object.

Although some of the objects are politically motivated, the majority of the exhibits are light humoured in content.

Barnaby has also submitted a solo installation entitled 'Conversation Piece.' The work is made up of a table with white plates carefully placed on top of it. The Chinese Willow Pattern is projected onto one of the plates, and the romantically harrowing narrative onto the other. At first glance the picture appears to be static, but on closer inspection subtle animation; making the trees quiver in the wind, the doves flutter in the sky, can be viewed.

"The idea is that people experience hors d'oeuvres, a main course and a sweet through watching the installation," Barnaby enthused, "one spectator has to read the text while the other watches the image, and then they swap over, until the meal has finished."

The two cracking artists' work is soon to go on tour, taking some of their exhibits to Japan. Lets hope the Japanese show the enthusiasm of a bull in a China shop when experiencing Critchlow and Barford's creations.

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