10.00 to 17.45 daily
10.00 to 22.00 Fridays
OW: Well, for me Alison is one of the key people in the British scene, and she's what I think I call a long term player, in that her importance is not something that comes with one particular batch of work or one piece or something, but it's been about the progress of her work from those early, very attractive and in a sense easy to get into jugs with animal decoration and flower decoration, to much more challenging and demanding things of this kind. I have said this in print too, I don't find her work easy, and I wish I had longer to live with pieces of it. I have got one or two pieces at home and again I have a very different relationship with those when I am able to spend longer and seeing them and looking round them. Because I think they're very demanding things and I think there's all kinds of things going on in them.
[video clip starts] One of the things I like is the issue of time that is involved in these things. For me there are all kinds of dimensions of time that are encapsulated in this pot. A simple one is actually about how it's made, that they have a kind of look as though they've been slapped together very quickly, but actually when you see her working practice it's a very meticulous, not laborious, but it's not a speedy activity. But she has flat sheets of clay that she paints and puts the clays and slips and colours on, and then those designs that she's laid out suggest the form. Then she starts building the form and then she will put more colours on over the top, and sometimes they go through several different firings to get the right balance, and I like that tension. [video clip ends]
That's the tension in time, [and] there's another tension, which is about confidence. They're very in your face things. They're not shy, retiring, tasteful things. And yet I see in them quite a lot of self-questioning, of almost tentativeness in the work. I like the fact that they're... this one is for a late piece is quite ???. It's a jug, it's got a handle on the back and jugs were a theme, but a lot of the pieces have given up that element of functionality. But they're always still pots, they've still got tops, they've still got some of their formal qualities like that. [There's a] very great deal of attention paid to the rim, taut tense rims from which the pots seem to hang.
And they're beautifully made. Throwing on the wheel is not the only way of making beautiful pots, in fact over the ages the most beautiful pots haven't been made on the wheel, but - and this again is something you can't get unless you own one or you're very lucky - these things in their weight, the way they're but together, the tautness and so on, it's got a very good ring to it. And that's for me part of their appeal. What are they about? In this broken disrupting of what you expect in terms of volume and space and form and design. And I don't always know. It takes me a long time to get through, but the thing that I do feel is that you know they are good, [a] very important pair and they've got a lot in them. Doesn't reveal itself quickly, necessarily.
MP: Who do you think are the audience for this sort of pot, and maybe the sort of things we've been looking at today?
OW: Well, for me this is purely, this is the realm of Fine Art. In some ways this shouldn't be in the V&A and maybe we're doing her a disservice by showing it here, because it's automatically aligning it with craft and history of pots and so forth. And actually for me this just operates in a way that Fine Art operates. It happens to be a pot, it happens to be made of clay, it happens to be in three dimensions, but it is a work of art. If you're interested in those issues of autonomous objects, the space they claim, what they're saying, that's something for you. And you know the sort of the fascism of certain parts of the studio pottery movement saying, 'A pot is this and it's got to be like this, and these are the values that you'll find in pots,' which is nonsense. All kinds of values can be found in pots. There is no one right answer. It's just whether things like this speak to you, engage you in a way that you find interesting, take you a little further in dealing with the world.
MP: It's difficult also to think of anywhere else in a public museum or gallery that would display this other than an applied arts/decorative arts museum.
OW: Yes, well there's a very big whole subject there about [this], there's a very powerful world of Fine Art which defends its boundaries very fiercely. But the quality that you get in here in terms of artistic expression or intellectual interest of all kinds of things is now the equal of anything you can get in a Fine Art practice. And yet, because she's a potter and comes through the Crafts Council and so forth, she doesn't have the critical acclaim, she's not reviewed in the way that she might be. She's not shown in the places she might be. And those people out there who might be interested are missing a real trick because you can buy yourself a real good bit of art for only a couple of grand and you can't buy a tenth rate painting for that amount of money.