Contemporary ceramic making from the Middle East

Produced as part of Contemporary Ceramic Art from the Middle East

On now until Sunday, 17 October 2021

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In these films, four contemporary artists, originating in Iran, Morocco and Egypt, discuss the meanings and inspiration of their work, and showcase the processes of making them.

Each of these artists engages in a different way with the ceramic traditions of their countries of origin. They respond to historic production techniques or design approaches, but reinterpret them in contemporary ways. The works convey personal and political messages. Golkar's large-scale, interactive ceramic work offers a space to vent frustrations, while Akbari's lustre tiles comment on the human threat to the natural environment. Hanna's installation is a heartfelt tribute to the young people who sparked the Egyptian Revolution in 2011 and Ouhaddou develops her collaborative projects out of a desire to keep Moroccan craft traditions alive.

These films were made during the lockdowns imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and we have relied on footage, photography and interviews supplied by the artists themselves.

'Scream Pot' by Babak Golkar

Babak Golkar (born 1977) is a contemporary artist of Iranian origin, who lives and works in Vancouver, Canada. His work emerges from his interest in the relationship between space and human conditions in the contemporary world. This film discusses one of his large-scale ceramic works, the Scream Pot, a person-sized, two-metre long, wheel-thrown unglazed terracotta pot. The Scream Pot is intended to be an interactive work, offering a safe place where visitors can scream out their frustrations in public.

Tiles from the series 'Kashi and Kashan' by Abbas Akbari

Abbas Akbari (born 1971) is an Iranian artist and teacher of ceramics, based between Tehran and Kashan, the main production centre for Iranian lustreware in the medieval period. Akbari has consulted historical recipes to rediscover the technique of decorating in lustre, an overglaze technique using metallic oxides that give the finished product a distinctive sheen. In this film he talks about his series Kashi and Kashan (2019), a group of tiles which evoke the form and appearance of tiles made in large numbers in Iran in the late 13th century. But the scenes on these tiles have been updated, with representations of polluting vehicles or the weapons used in hunting – scenes which comment on modern life and on mankind's ill-treatment of the natural world.

'Shararah' by Ashraf Hanna

Ashraf Hanna (born 1967) is an Egyptian ceramic artist who has lived in the UK since 1986. This film describes a new project he has developed in response to late 19th-century burnished ceramics in the V&A collection, which were made in Asyut, close to where he comes from in Upper Egypt. The project took him back to Egypt for the first time in 11 years, to research pottery-making in Asyut today and to seek materials to use in the work. The installation became a tribute to the youth who sparked the Egyptian revolution in 2011 – it is called Shararah, 'Spark'. The 25 vessels represent the date of 25 January 2011 when the first protests took place in Tahrir Square. It is the first time Hanna has explicitly engaged with his Egyptian identity through his work.

'Impression//Impression #1' by Sara Ouhaddou

Sara Ouhaddou (born 1986) is an artist who lives between France and Morocco. She works collaboratively with communities of craftspeople across Morocco, and has developed projects on jewellery, carpets, embroidery, as well as ceramics. She aims to bring a contemporary approach to traditional crafts, to give them a new lease of life and help artisans to find new markets. This film describes one of her first projects, initiated in 2013. She worked with ceramic artisans in Marrakesh to develop a range of handmade tiles whose designs are based on the Islamic geometry seen in traditional Moroccan architecture. Ouhaddou describes the inspiration behind the project and the process of making the tiles.