Sunday, September 22, 2019
OJMCHE Auditorium

PART 1: LECTURE, 2-3pm

Dr Helen Walsh, Curator of Ceramics, York Art Gallery, UK

LESS MEANS MORE includes extensive representation of Hans Coper’s work from York Art Gallery’s collection which stems from a large gift in 2001 of 3,600 works of British studio ceramics from W. A. Ismay, the first collector of Coper’s work. Ismay was a public librarian who spent his earnings on buying British ceramics over 46 years and maintaining correspondence with many of the artists. His house was filled with pots and he had an obsessive and rigorous routine by which people could visit and view his collection. An artist was deemed highly significant if Ismay had collected 30 or more of their works. One was Hans Coper; another Lucie Rie. Walsh, who was doing her PhD and thesis at the time of cataloguing Ismay’s collection, will treat her subject “W.A.” as the protagonist of a story or a play that could well be fictional, if it weren’t indeed true and biographical. Ismay might be said to be the British equivalent of collectors, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, the New York couple, one of whom was a postal clerk and the other a librarian, who over 45 years collected over 4,000 works of minimal and conceptual art which filled their one-bedroom New York apartment, later donated to the National Gallery of Art.

Walsh’s talk will also focus on a selection of seminal British ceramic artists who were predecessors, peers or students of Coper. These figures and their work define some of the key aesthetic philosophies in the evolution of British studio pottery and its relationship to design and fine art. Walsh will highlight William Staite Murray (b. 1891) whose philosophy of ceramics was that of a pure art that connected painting and sculpture; Michael Cardew (b. 1901), acknowledged as Bernard Leach’s protégé, was very dismissive of Coper’s work (Leach eschewed Coper and Rie); Lucie Rie (1902) , a life-long friend and mentor who distinguished her work as a "potter" from Coper's as an "artist; Ruth Duckworth (b. 1919), like Coper, was Jewish and left Germany for Britain, and later became a leading figure of American ceramics teaching at the University of Chicago; Gordon Baldwin (b. 1932) embodied the dichotomy between the ‘vessel’ and ‘sculpture’ and had an interest in Surrealism and the music of Cage and Stockhausen; Elizabeth Fritsch (b. 1940) was a student of Coper’s at the Royal College of Art whose main interest was music; and Jan Godfrey, Ewan Henderson, and John Ward (students of Coper and Rie at Camberwell School of Art) who, at the end of the 20th century, represented the newer, post-Coper and Rie generation.

Dr Helen Walsh is the Curator of Ceramics at York Art Gallery UK where she established the Center for Ceramic Arts (CoCA) in 2015 and is in charge of contemporary British studio ceramics and the historical ceramics collection. She received her PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University and is currently working on a book and exhibition based on her research on collector W.A. Ismay and the post-war British studio pottery movement.


CLAY FEVER, 2018. (42 mins.)
Produced by York Theatre Royal in collaboration with York Art Gallery

“Clay Fever’s” protagonists are a collector and an artist brought together in a performance based in the world of British studio pottery, which explores the long-lasting friendship and entertaining correspondence between collector W. A. Ismay and potter Michael Cardew. This theatrical production was commissioned by the York Art Gallery and produced by York Royal Theatre for the two-day international ceramics conference “Restating Clay” which was organized by the York Art Gallery in March 2018. The play was performed live for the conference audience and then later filmed being performed without an audience. “Clay Fever” portrays Michael Cardew and Ismay over the course of their 25-year friendship. The script was written by playwright Bridget Foreman and uses revealing and insightful dialogue from actual letters and conversations between Ismay and Cardew. Directed by Paul Burbridge, the actor Robert Pickavance takes the emotional role of potter Michael Cardew and actor Robin Simpson dons the beret and magnifying glass of collector Ismay. Starring alongside the actors are an array of pots from CoCA’s collection.
Dr Helen Walsh
Dr Helen Walsh
"Clay Fever"(film still), (41
"Clay Fever"(film still), (41'39"), 2018. Courtesy York Art Gallery, UK